Console yourself: How the PS4 Spring Fever indies stack up
Cheap and cheerful games for seasonal shenanigans
Quite why you'd want to venture into a bullet hell is anyone's guess, but that's just what Final Form would have you do to save a far-flung colony on Mars.
What follows is familiar "shmup" fodder as you dodge, weave and blast your way through wave-after-wave of enemies. The game’s visuals are even purposefully designed to rekindle the best blasters of the 16/32-bit era of gaming through its retro-styled sprites and backdrops.
As with all the best shoot-em-ups by the likes of Cave and Treasure, Jamestown+ is also in possession of a difficulty curve as steep as K2. Persevere, though, and the ebb-and-flow of enemy flight paths, and the patterns of the various gigantic bosses, almost takes on a language of its own.
When the going gets especially tough you can also collect gold, in order to "vaunt" – a power that will bolster your shields and let you chain attacks together to score ever more points. This is where shoot-em-up addicts will really get their fix, while everyone else might also appreciate the four-player local co-op.
While far from Earth-shattering, Jamestown+ offers a well-realised take on the bullet hell genre. It's not quite up to the standards of an Ikaruga or Sin and Punishment, but it does offer a slightly kinder way into the way of the shmup for anyone looking to find out what all the fuss is about.
Developer Final Form Games
Like all the best homages, Shovel Knight is reverential to the great side-scrolling platformers of the NES era without resorting to outright plagiarism.
The caricature villains of Mega Man are paid tribute, so too Scrooge McDuck's pogo-stick and the world map of Super Mario World 3. But all are blended together to create something more than the sum of these iconic parts.
Central to this success is the titular hero himself. Shovel Knight proves as amiable a hero as you'd care to meet and is also blessed with the kind of precision movement that's inherent in all the most memorable leads.
His method of attack – a swipe of his shovel, as if you hadn't guessed – is also satisfyingly measured and precise when it comes to tackling monsters. There's even a hint of Metroidvania in the extra tools he'll uncover along the way, such as a trusty fishing rod and War Horn.
His world, consisting of gaming's most traditional landscapes, from Arctic tundra to thickened forest, also adds much to his adventure. There's enough variety and secrets to find amid Shovel Knight’s world to make exploring its every nook and cranny a constant delight.
Then there are his fellow knights – the many stage bosses in the employ of the villainess of the piece, the Enchantress. From Plague Knight to Mole Knight, each has his own personal theme, with appearance and attacks suitably derived from the same. It'd be almost charming if not for the fact that they're all out for your blood; while this PS4 version even finds time to include an 8-bit Kratos for good measure.
Beyond some hair-raising platform sections there will be scant sections that keep your progress at bay for long. But that's not really what Shovel Knight is about. It's designed to not only invoke feelings of our gaming youth, but also deliver a superb, modern spin on past classics to show us how entertaining video games should be.
Developer Yacht Club Games
Platforms PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, 3DS, PC