- Developer: High Horse Entertainment
- Publisher: High Horse Entertainment
- Release Date: March 7, 2017
- Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on PS4 Pro), PC
- Playtime: Six Hours
- Acquisition: Copy acquired by reviewer
When a fresh concept takes off, others are quick to formulate a way to capture similar success. In the games industry, this results in straight imitations, or sudden concept retooling in an attempt to capture the current love of audiences. Disc Jam is the latest game to do such a thing, and it’s at a crossroads between being a would-be successor to Rocket League and simply not having the same spark which made Psyonix’s title one of the biggest games of 2016.
For older players, Disc Jam may have a level of familiarity to it since it looks similar to the classic arcade game Windjammers. Featuring 1v1 or 2v2 matches, Disc Jam involves players throwing around a disc as they attempt to net a goal – just like Windjammers. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and with Disc Jam it’s not shameful the game is essentially Windjammers 2017 since arcade sports titles are a rarity these days.
Like Windjammers, Disc Jam features over-the-top action in which players wield and throw a massive disc. Sadly, the arcade personality of Disc Jam doesn’t extend much further than that. Beyond fulfilling certain silhouettes and demographics, the characters, of which there are four, aren’t memorable since they’re a hole of personality. Even the arena lacks a certain energy as it appears too static beyond minor interactions the disc has with the perimeter of the court.
Rocket League found success without the need for talking cars or announcers who constantly talked. With Disc Jam, the action taking place on the court simply doesn’t match everything else. Even the presentation is lacking since replays aren’t present to either show moments of glory or utter shame. Compared to Rocket League, which felt like a sport, Disc Jam just feels hollow and sterile.
More frustrating is the character customization system, which uses in-game currency. As opposed to unlocking content after matches, players will have to spend imaginary money on a machine. The worse part about this feature is how the rewards are randomized content. Personality though is the least of Disc Jam’s problems.
SIMPLICITY IS IN THE DETAILS
There are some differentiating factors between Disc Jam and Rocket League. Obviously, the biggest is the sport which the game enhances, it being tennis/air hockey in Disc Jam as opposed to soccer in Rocket League. Yet ultimately, Disc Jam developer High Horse Entertainment is vying for the same audience. Such a thing makes sense given the popularity of Rocket League and how it went on to generate $110 million in revenue and spawn a toy line. So no shame should rest on High Horse for trying to appease an audience that’s present.
Disc Jam currently falls apart through struggling to be different types of games. The success Psyonix had with Rocket League was courtesy of how accessible the game was. Players could grasp the fundamentals of Rocket League and have fun matches while gradually improving their skills and learning the deeper mechanics such as flying.
From the get-go, Disc Jam forgoes simplicity in favor of a deeper control system. This consists of curve shots, counter-catches requiring perfect timing, utilizing a shield, and special throws. It’s nice the developers provided layers for Disc Jam rather than oversimplifying things. But the controls seem to be at odds with the game and allowing an audience to grow into it. Counter-moves, in particular, require an obscene sense of timing, and the special shots are almost too powerful.
Disc Jam requires players to know all the skills from the start when playing if they wish to succeed. Again, this may not be an overwhelming negative for players who prefer depth in their games. Personality wise, Disc Jam is ultimately more of a sports game rather than an arcade one.
MINOR FUN, CONSTANT FRUSTRATION
The handling of the controls and the moves can easily lead to frustration when first playing. Experienced players clearly have the advantage, and in those instances, there’s not much to do. Playing doubles matches does allow more fun since it’s easier to cover the court and provide assistance in making a save.
Though even in double matches, frustration can get the best of players which lead to rage quitting. One your teammate quits, the match is immediately forfeit. In these instances, annoyance runs high since momentum, and higher points are immediately lost. It would be nice if High Horse could add bot support to rectify rage quitting, or at least put in place a massive penalty for those with little patience.
It’s also frustrating that when in the matchmaking lobby players can’t see who their teammate or opponents are playing as. While the characters in Disc Jam are absent personality, they do have certain attributes. These traits include more powerful throws or faster movement speeds. So when starting a doubles match there’s no way to know who your teammate will be playing as. This makes it difficult to build even a modicum of strategy and seems like a major development oversight.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Besides the deep controls of Disc Jam, which include an advanced tutorial that some players may quit, the game lacks polish. Mechanics such as the dash speed and ease of performing special maneuvers could, and should, be refined. Doing so would go a long way in improving Disc Jam since it feels far from complete, or at least something players would spend countless hours on. Even simple additions like providing different camera views would greatly help the overall polish of the game and fix the many flaws it has.
Currently, the game is only fun if a player is willing to sink the time into it, almost putting a pro like focus in becoming better. Again, this seems at odds with the arcade nature the game is trying to achieve and is a stark contrast to what made Rocket League a juggernaut. Rather than presenting constant fun, Disc Jam simply provides mere morsels of enjoyment amidst a constant array of disappointment.
POTENTIAL TO GROW
Disc Jam has some rough spots which at times outweigh the good that it has. A fresh concept for this generation, Disc Jam can become fun only when all the right elements click together. Having the right teammates, opponents, and luck with the controls results in fun matches with high energy. If those elements aren’t present it’s quick to succumb to frustration over poor teammates or opponents who have mastered the mechanics.
Right now, Disc Jam isn’t quite the successor to Rocket League as it sought out to be, either by the will of the developers or the desires of players. Disc Jam is much like how SARPBC was for Psyonix; a fun but flawed game. The presence of another arcade sports game is nice, though it’s a shame Disc Jam isn’t as well rounded as it could be.
All media in this review was captured by the reviewer