Game Review: Disc Jam
Disc Jam is a twist on air hockey and tennis, and largely the same game as Windjammers. From concept down to the specific types of super throws, it’s really just Windjammers but up and down instead of left to right. I'm no lawyer, so possible legal implications aside, if the game is fun it’s not necessarily such a bad thing. The question remains: Is it good?
The goal is to win two of three sets of scoring 50 points by throwing a disc past your opponent. You can also score by lobbing the disc so it drops before it is caught, another tactic pulled from Windjammers. Basic controls are simple enough to pull off, but there is a surprising amount of strategy involved if you’re an outsider looking in.
Advanced shots let you hug the wall on your throws, put huge curves on them, or position yourself where a shot is going far enough in advance to charge up a shield. If you can pull that off, you get a free super throw, which makes the disc travel in one of three unrealistic patterns.
I later discovered using L2 and R2 on a super throw will make the disc catch the respective wall and zip all the way to the top. Cheap lobs and blocks at the net are my favorite moves to induce a rage quit. Overall, controls feel very responsive and the peer-to-peer connections have only been a problem in one match that I’ve played out of 75+.
Doubles is the same as singles but more of the court is covered, obviously. The main difference is you can pass to your teammate in an attempt to throw off the opposition’s timing, but it’s not a move I’ve found to be particularly useful.
Playing with a friend is much more enjoyable than solo. I’ve played a number of matches with a friend longtime listeners of Two Petes may remember, the Canadian Stat. We’ve never lost a match and rarely a set. Winning is fun and all we do is win, so that’s great right? Sort of. Matchmaking does not take into account skill whatsoever. It’s only trying to find the best possible connection. That’s OK for the short term if you’re worried about the player base being small, but continuing to create matches of such different skill gaps is going to eventually cause both ends of that spectrum to lose interest. I already feel my interest waning due to a lack of challenge. And if I were the one losing 8 or 9 out of 10 matches I probably would move onto something else. Disc Jam is in dire need of skill based matchmaking. That is planned, but not present today.
If for any reason a match is ended abruptly, like say you’re beating somebody a collective 98-16 for the third game in a row and they just quit, the game seems unable to figure out what to do. It won’t let me connect to matchmaking and I am forced to go to the system menu and close out Disc Jam and start over. There’s also no way to simply find a new match after one ends. You can choose to rematch or leave, but if your opponent leaves the game will never find you a new match. You have to go back to the main menu and start again.
Customization is frivolous, limited to entire body skins that just change the color of the characters clothes, the look of the disc, or a taunt or pose. You can also unlock cutesy titles that go under your name. It’s all unoffensive stuff, but you can only do it by earning in-game credit and pulling the level of the random prize machine. There’s no way of saving up and just spending credit on a customization you want. You might never play the game long enough to get what you want. I’ve only received one skin for the character I use the most, and no victory pose or taunt for her. The customization isn’t entertaining with such a lack of control over available options. Given the current landscape of gaming, I’d have expected these things to be microtransactions, but instead I can’t get what I want even if I were willing to pay for it. Not that I am willing to. I am certainly not willing to.
Finally, there’s just the one mode to play in either singles or doubles. This is kind of like complaining about buying Madden and saying all you can do is play football games, but Disc Jam is a fantasy sport that cannot be replicated in real life. With time I’m sure more modes will be added, but the offerings are barebones as of now.
I’ve lodged a lot of complaints about this one, but the gameplay is a lot of fun. It’s a rare game that I can play that makes me feel like I’m one of the top players, even if that’s just due to the lack of competent matchmaking. While there's isn't much in the way of options, the core gameplay has a lot going for it, so yes, Disc Jam is good. It’s also free on PlayStation Plus through March 2017, however, so even if you’re not sure about it you should download it and give it a shot.
Developer: High Horse Entertainment
Publisher: High Horse Entertainment
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Steam
Played on: PlayStation 4 Pro
Price: $14.99 / Free on PS+ in March 2017
Game Completed: Yes (100% trophies)
Reviewer: David Quigley