"Like Tron, But Boring": Disk Jam Review
Disc Jam is in turns disappointingly shallow and maddeningly complex. A bare-bones offering of game modes does little to entice players to stay, and a series of obtuse tutorials do very little to properly teach anything beyond the basics. Disc Jam may find a devout following with a handful of gamers, but as a comprehensive package, the game does little to recommend itself.
Disc Jam plays like a cross between a light disc battle from Tron and a more traditional tennis match. The basics of the gameplay are sound enough: players throw, catch, and block discs, with a few powerful throws included to reward precise timing. Sliding into an opponent’s throw and quickly returning with a curved toss into their endzone is a rewarding feeling, and the game is at its best during intense two-on-two matches where players have to deal with evolving strategies.
That being said, however, the different strategies you can employ aren’t terribly exciting. There are a few basic options for throwing the disc: straight ahead, slightly curved to each side (dictated by which shoulder button you press), or simply lobbing the disc in a high arc. Theoretically, there are more advanced techniques players can use to dominate the competition, but there’s a problem: these advanced techniques are extremely tricky to pull off.
When players catch the disc, they only have a very short window to throw it back before they automatically throw it straight ahead. While this makes sense, and prevents players from hogging the disc, it also means that in the space of a second or two, players have tell whether or not they caught the disc (it can be hard to tell in team games), judge the best way to throw it, and execute. The inputs for special throws are very precise, and in my experience, they were hard enough to pull off against a blank wall in training mode. As such, the easiest option is simply to mash a button at random and hope for the best.
While I will freely admit that players with a higher skill level than me can probably master Disc Jam, nobody I encountered online in my time with the game used these advanced techniques, leading me to believe that I was not alone in my assessment that the timing involved was too demanding to be used reliably.
This issue is only compounded by the fact that there simply isn’t a lot of content to be found in Disc Jam. There are four characters to choose from, each with differences in strength and speed, but as you cannot see who your teammate or opponents have chosen until the match starts, any advantages or disadvantages gained feel less like the result of a tactical choice and more like dumb luck. There are cosmetic unlocks to collect, but the bland visuals left me unable to care if my avatar looked different or not. To top it all off, the game only offers unranked 1v1 and 2v2 online modes, a couple of tutorials, and a blank court to practice on. The developers have said that a mode populated with bots and ranked matches are coming soon, but as it is, Disc Jam feels downright empty.
Disc Jam has a fun premise, but not much else. Tutorials do a poor job of taking players beyond the basics, practice mode is unhelpful without bots to train against, and the two online modes are prone to unreasonably long matchmaking times. 1v1 matches are often dull and one-sided, but the game does come to life during particularly intense 2v2 matches. Disc Jam is free for the month of March for Playstation Plus subscribers. My advice? Download it and give it a try; if the developers continue to add content in the future, Disc Jam might become something special. For now, though, try it while it’s free, because in its current state, Disc Jam probably isn’t worth paying money for.
Final Score: 2/5