I just can’t help but feel like I’m playing a beta build of an early access, not a fully fleshed out retail release. The developers have promised updates in the future, and maybe they’ll fix the dead on arrival servers and add in some community-building features, but I’m reviewing the game now. As it stands, this game provides a burst of innovation and possibilities, but is quickly discovered to be short of anything challenging or rewarding. It’s enjoyable enough for anyone to play and master in an afternoon, and it’s simply too basic in premise and execution to be taken seriously or enjoyed for longer than a day.
What was a Grand Slam?
+Gameplay quickly alternates between offense and defense.
+Easy to pick up and play.
+Great risk/reward system.
What was a Double Fault?
-You’ll grow bored of this trivial and uninspired game quickly.
-Matchmaking is a nightmare.
-There are only two modes.
Created by a two-man team, Disc Jam is clearly inspired by other high-concept competitive sports; games like Nidhogg and my personal favorite Rocket League. While Disc Jam has that raw competitive spirit you get from a well-balanced multiplayer experience, it doesn’t feature any complexity to keep you playing past the initial rush of excitement.
Story: You play a disc-jockey, slinging out oversized CDs in a dystopian future where people watch dangerous tennis or something. That’s all I got.
Controls: Obviously, not much of a world here, so let’s talk controls. In order to volley, you have to click the X button at the exact moment you touch the frisbee. A little too late, and your throw will be limp wristed. Go to early, and the disc will bounce right out of your hands. Once you hit the button, you rotate the analog stick to sling it into different directions, creating some fantastic spins across the sideboards, or ferocious shots across your defender’s nose. The game plays as it should, although you might sometimes feel cheated by the hit box.
It’s kinda like playing a giant version of air hockey, where you desperately slap the puck in a constant flow of offense and defense. While this provides a fair amount of tension and strategy, the action stays pretty shallow no matter how deep you’re willing to go. Once you get all the moves down, you quickly discover how limited this environment and the gameplay really is. Sure, you can curve your shot, but outside of the three equipable special moves there’s nothing else to really discover or strategize. The missed potential here really tears my chest apart because of all the opportunities they left on the table. Tasteless and lacking any memorable charm, this just feels like an unexceptional reboot of Pong, appealing to the ‘Radical’ demographic. Speaking of hits, one thing I absolutely love about this game is the tire headshots. Not only does it keep you facing forward when on defense, but keeps you from trying to cut-in too close when running back for a shot.
Gameplay: Rinky dink is a nice way to put the amount of actual content in Disc Jam, which consists of singles and doubles mode, online and off. That’s it. No attempt at a season or tournament mode; two modes is not that impressive. The competitiveness of online does bring the best out of this overly simple premise, because as the volleys increase, the points slowly rack up along with the speed. Because everyone has a complete understanding of the mechanics, hard fought battles feel deserved along with your defeats.
That is if you’re willing to wait for a match; average times range between one and three minutes, and you’re booted back to the menu every time anyone leaves the game. You would think a 1v1 match would be easy to sort out, but for some reason it’s the longest I’ve ever had to wait for a game to find anyone. There’s no ranking system either, so you’ll be placed with people who destroy you or someone who doesn’t take the hint after 7 straight losses.
When it comes to actually interacting with your opponents, the game does nothing to help forge any connections. You can only have one taunt at a time, you can’t change your auto-responses, and there doesn’t seem to be any in-game voice or text options. All of this kinda hurts an experience that could’ve had a helpful or at least trash talking community. I literally had people threatening me with the R.I.P. button *show clips of people raging*.
There aren’t even stats! Fuck me- you made me want stats Disc Jam! Win Loss, ace ratios, successful saves- whatever. I’m not trying to brag, but I have a crazy win ratio- easily 75%- so how am I supposed to impress people now?
Graphics: Even the visuals are a lightly-tossed pile of boring. While there are some nice explosions and decent run animations, the rest of it is so clumsy. Four characters may have been passable given some proper performances with some pre-game or replay shots, but instead they fail to possess any kind of relatable personality. All of it feels like it was bought from a discount asset store. They just kinda stand there when they win and are put in a, light ring, thing. Oh look, Gator likes- uh- golf? All the arenas are lifeless locations, void of anything I can use to even attempt describing them. Styrofoam has more of a personality than these locations. I mean, that wall kinda looks like a bank- like a downtown bank- maybe… Oh- they’re hippies from the Occupy movement- HEY, GET A JOB GUYS AND STOP PLAYING DISC GOLF IN THE STREET!
Replayability is low due to previously mentioned technical problems, but also because of the humdrum rewards. Your four doll-like characters have multiple costumes- about ten color variants of the same uniform. UGH. In order to unlock them along with player logos and “clutch phrases,” you need to buy random prizes from a gumball machine. It takes between 3 and 4 matches in order to receive one item, out of what appears to be nearly 100 unlockables. While I can understand the Smash Brothers approach to retaining your audience, you’re not Nintendo, and getting tag lines that read “How Bout Dat” doesn’t really appeal to me. If you do want to catch them all, be aware you can unlock the same items multiple times, meaning you might be waiting for the last one for a long time. However, the coolest unlockables are the weird and unique discs, which does add some originality to the experience, especially with those headshots.
Audio: The sound effects are okay, but the soundtrack is awful. Honestly, I haven’t much more to say than that. There’s only about three tracks, and they’re all very annoying and have this creepy whispering in it. Turn on spotify, turn off the in-game music and enjoy the predictable sounds of a techno wheel bouncing off of murder walls.