Disc Jam Switch Review
I’d say, strange as it sounds, that Disc Jam is closer to a fighting game than anything else. It’s all about mastering the mechanics and outwitting opponents in head-on battles. Drilling the timing and execution of inputs in imperative if one hopes to do well online and climb through the ranks, again much like a fighter. However, there’s no need to memorise and practice combos over and over here – it’s all about the fast-paced back and forth simplicity that makes the game so incredibly easy to pick and and so difficult to put down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much else in the way of content though – there’s no Story mode or challenges etc (outside of the tutorials) and the aesthetic unlocks come in the form of a dreaded ‘gacha’ machine. There’s also not a way to play casually, unless it’s local or privately hosted. Even playing offline against pre-downloaded AIs (that cleverly reconstruct players from around the world using their game data) has a ranking system. The player’s rating is always on the line and that can be exhausting.
The game works by having each player or two-player team on either side of what is essentially a tennis court surrounded by walls. Scoring is done by throwing the disc and having it hit either the opponents back wall or floor whilst they run and slide around trying to catch it. The trick is knowing what types of throw to respond with – a simple straight throw, a confusing wall bounce, or perhaps a sneaky lob to punish players out of position, and so forth. With each successful catch from either player the amount of points scored to the winner of the rally increases by one (starting at five). Although, if a player misses the first shot in a new rally they have ten scored against them instead, keeping both players on their toes and making every throw important. Each game is a best-of-three first-to-fifty. It’s very, very simple. Where it becomes interesting is in the fact that it’s a head-to-head game meant to be played against a human opponent. Once again, much like a fighting game, it’s about reading them and playing on their weaknesses whilst protecting one’s own and nothing gets the adrenaline rushing more.
It’s been said before but basically the game is a revamped Windjammers and that is far from an insult. It does look different, however, thanks to the 3D design and new Third Person camera that makes control of both the character and the disc much more accurate and intuitive. Playing from behind the controlled character gives a better view of the playing field and a solid grasp on wall bounces as the movement of the disc can be predicted quickly, even from the trickiest of curve shots with enough practice. The game plays smoothly and the online issues I encountered during the PC version last year, both during the beta and after release, seem to have been worked on. In fact, though the lag was horrendous for the entire game, I’ve only had one online match with any significant delay at all. Although, I must admit I much preferred playing the PC version with an XBox One controller over the clunkier Joycon but the portability is once again the crowning jewel of the Switch and having Disc Jam on the go is amazing. Even if playing two-player on one console requires binoculars, due to the necessity for split-screen, it’s a lot of fun.
Still, as mentioned, it is a little sad to see the lack of any other interesting modes (even just the silly addition of motion controls for throwing the disc) or engaging system for unlocking things, such as Arms for example. Be that as it may, comparing the current meagre asking price of £13.49 against a full price first-party game is hardly fair. Disc Jam does what it does well and, besides the unfortunate addition of a fairly underwhelming loot-box system and two characters each locked behind a decent amount of in-game currency, it’s reasonably priced. It’s certainly not for everyone and personally I think the overly-serious graphical design holds it back from being a common party game, which is where Windjammers still reigns victorious. Nevertheless, the game is seriously addicting thanks to the gratifying mechanics and simple, fun premise that it’s built on. I can see myself jumping online almost daily to claw my way through the ranks but I do worry that the long wait times for matches will only get worse if High Horse Entertainment don’t manage to pull in some more players. I wish them all the best and hope to see Disc Jam continue to be supported by them for the foreseeable future.