Disc Jam

Disc Jam Review: Chasing The Rocket And Falling Short

  • 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.

DISC WARS

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.

Disc Jam
A character sans personality.

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

Ian Fisher
A Chicago native, I'm a six year veteran of the game press industry with a deep passion for smaller indie games and all things Sony.

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7 thoughts on “Disc Jam Review: Chasing The Rocket And Falling Short

  1. You’re crazy man – I know it’s just your opinion, but I’ve been playing lightly for the last two days (since it was officially released) and I’ve got to say whoever compared this game to Rocket League is mistaken it is a easy to pick-up game with go-to gameplay mechanics and like mentioned in your review it hard to master. That’s what makes it fun and is really the only comparison to Rocket League I can make and that and both games you have to score “X” into a goal. Anyways this is just my two cents and I think you will definitely come to enjoy it more as they improve.

  2. Hello!
    Overall I do agree with most of your review, but it seems harsh considering how new the game is. Yes there are a lot of improvements (really need replays etc) but I feel like the game is fun and has a great concept that the developers can improve. With that being said your point about having some pre game lobby to check out opponents, as well as replays would really improve some sort of social interaction(where the game really lacks).

    1. Hey Garrett,

      Thanks for checking out the review and leaving a comment. Apologies on my end if I wasn’t too clear, but personally I don’t think Disc Jam is a horrendous game. As I stated, I just think there are some fundamentals which need to be improved upon to really propel the property towards the vast mainstream appeal that Rocket League has gotten with game players. If things are tweaked, adjusted, and evolved upon I do think Disc Jam can be a great title for a wider array of players and not just those who are ready to dedicate the time to becoming pro level/style players. I think Disc Jam will make a good first impression among some players, but the steep learning curve and other elements may not encourage players to stick with it in the long run, at least at the product is now.

      Hopefully High Horse can address these issues, such as the lack of social interaction and a more prominent presentation, in future updates or even a complete refresh via Disc Jam 2.

  3. It’s a good game and a good take on and old concept but it’s really more of a beta than a game as it lacks so much.

    There’s no… well anything apart from a bare 1v1 or 2v2 multiplayer game.

    No career mode, hell not even a single player vs AI mode. There’s no stats or leaderboards so even in the MP it gets boring as you’re just jumping from game to game (when it decides to connect, connectivity issues are rife on PS4 for Europe) against random people with nothing to show for it win or lose.

    There’s unlocks but as the review said they’re random and worse still it actually shows you what the rewards are before you unlock them on the customisation screen instead of hiding them so the element of intrigue is gone straight away. And only 4 characters, that’s abysmal.

    Then there’s the arena, there’s only 1 and it bores you to death looking at it and I’m sure there’s only two tunes in the game, one for the menu and one for the game.

    Like it said, Disc Jam is a glorified beta test, High Horse should have held back 6 months or so and delivered a proper game because sadly people won’t be giving a shit about Disc Jam in 6 months now as there;s nothing there to keep people hooked on it.

  4. It’s made by two people, it’s their first game. It’s pretty much fueled off of giant bomb who loves wind jammers. The inspiration from rocket league is obvious, but this isn’t rocket league in pretty much any way. It doesn’t have a ranking system which in the end will be the thing that kills it. The core game is perfectly fine, if a bit shallow. Without extra depth of some sort it will end because the meta will get stale. Still very impressive for two people, and much more of a game than most games today. Likely deserves more attention than it will get, but competition is heavy in the game industry.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for reading the review and dropping by to comment. It is valiant that High Horse is a two-person team, and released a product such as Disc Jam. That said, I still think the game should’ve been held off for a few more months on the PS4. It would’ve made more sense to perhaps officially release on Steam first via early access, examine further user feedback, and then implement that into the eventual console release so they could have a fully rounded-out product.

      As it stands now, Disc Jam has some interesting elements but feels a bit too shallow and undercooked; essentially coming across as a WIP beta. It’s cool that folks have gone on to enjoy the game and more power to them, but for me it just had too many apparent issues, especially for people to consider buying. And as you said the industry has heavy competition, so it’s a shame that High Horse perhaps didn’t wait until later to release they game once they managed to tweak things and add more content such as additional stages, ranking, a career mode, and things of that nature.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Cheers,

      Ian

  5. I consider myself to be one of the more experienced player, and I do so the huge gap in skill levels. (I kept track yesterday and beat 15 singles opponents in a row without so much as a sweat.) It would be nice if they had a better way of explaining everything for new players. I mean, it’s fun annihilating people but I feel bad because I dont want them to stop playing. I do realize it’s only 2 people that made the game, and they have done a wonderful job. But the updates for ranked servers and on the surface statistics tracking needs to happen soon. The only progression is based on the “prize machine” (which by the way loves giving duplicates) and fails at providing gratification.

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