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Review

Disc Jam (Switch eShop) Review

by March 5, 2018

The breakout success of Rocket League has seen a wave of indie titles looking to be the next big arcade take on sports with an interesting twist. One of the more prominent titles of the bunch is Disc Jam, a Pong/air hockey/frisbee mashup that attempts to capture that lightning in a bottle for a second time. It can’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration, but there’s some great fun to be had here provided you’ve got some friends to share controllers with.

The game plays out on a tennis-like court with you and your opponent throwing a giant disc back and forward until one player either drops it or fails to prevent it hitting the back of their court. The round ends when a player reaches 50 points, with a different number of points rewarded depending on rally length or if a player wins on their first throw. It’s a simple premise with easy to pick up and play controls but, as with all good arcade titles, a substantial layer of depth lies underneath its colourful exterior. The disc can be thrown straight, curved or lobbed with a timing bonus rewarding you with a nice little power boost for releasing your shot as soon as you receive it.

A shield can also be used to either block throws at the net or be charged to catch a disc and unleash a powerful special throw unique to each character. Throw in a slide dash and the ability to curve or skip shots along the wall with some fighting game inspired half circle stick spins, and you’ll find there’s a satisfying learning curve as you increase the repertoire of shots you can effortlessly slip into your matches. It all leads to an enjoyably frantic time with enough depth to provide exciting high-level play for those willing to invest the time.

Disc Jam sincerely hopes you are willing to invest that time, as the bulk of the experience centres around online play. A strong tournament and competitive presence can be felt as soon as you reach the main menu, informing you of current rankings and ongoing competitions. Online matches are where the game expects you to spend your time but doing so can prove difficult. The online community for the game doesn’t appear to be overly large, even with cross-platform support, so matchmaking can take a considerable amount of time. Even then I was often forced to resort to overseas servers with a poor connection in order to find a match. The lag encountered during these matches was essentially a game breaker as quick reflexes and movements are a must and a poor connection means you’re unlikely to be responsive enough to remain competitive.

If online isn’t working for you, there is the option for a slim selection of offline modes. The main attraction is the Ghost Arcade mode which pits you against AI as you attempt to increase your rank. It’s a no-frills, endless run of exhibition matches intended to hone your skills to take online. But Disc Jam is easily at its best when you gather some friends around TV (or your tabletop Switch) and duke it out in split screen. The core gameplay is a lot of fun and offers exciting, fast-paced action that’s easy to recommend when played with others. The doubles mode ramps up the pace, widens the court and allows for some clever strategy and planning that elevates the game to another level. There’s a variety of characters with different attributes for you and your friends to choose from and thankfully all customisation options are unlocked by default when playing offline.

The generosity doesn’t extend to the online component, however, as you’ll need to spin a prize machine to randomly unlock new characters, skins and emotes. The in-game currency is doled out at a glacial pace by playing Ghost Arcade or online but there is the option to use real money to buff your in-game coffers. Outside of a couple of unlockable characters, the remaining prizes are purely cosmetic so, without much of an online community to show them off to, you’re unlikely to feel compelled to bust out the credit card. It’s a shame there isn’t any unlockable courts or music tracks as there’s just one of each during gameplay and bit more variety would have been appreciated.

The lacking online player base is a shame because there’s an enjoyable experience to be had here. It nails the easy to pick up, hard to master element that defines all great arcade games. The overall package can feel somewhat barebones but if you’ve got the joy-cons to go around this is a great game to introduce to your next game night.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Good

- Accessible but deep
- Great fun with friends

The Bad

- Barebones single player
- Online issues

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The lacking online player base is a shame because there’s an enjoyable experience to be had here. It nails the easy to pick up, hard to master element that defines all great arcade games. The overall package can feel somewhat barebones but if you’ve got the joy-cons to go around this is a great game to introduce to your next game night.

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Andrew Searles

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