Thursday, June 14, 2018

Disc Jam (NSW) Review

Last week, we stepped on the baseball diamond for the first review of June 2018 with Super Mega Baseball 2. Now, we go from a traditional sport to a wholly atypical one with the half-tennis, half-air hockey hybrid of Disc Jam, specifically the Nintendo Switch version, with SuperPhillip Central's review.

Shut up and slam, and welcome to the jam.


Combining sports together has seen fantastic results already on the Nintendo Switch. We've seen Rocket League reach amazing popularity with its combination of soccer and racing. Now, High Horse Entertainment looks to capitalize on the success with a mashup of sports of its own: tennis and air hockey. The result is Disc Jam, a game highly reminiscent of Windjammers, but offers enough freshness and novelty of its own to keep it distinguishable. 

Disc Jam has a basic simplicity to it at first glance. You toss the disc, and hope to have your opponent miss catching it, allowing you to score points in the process. How long your "rally" of sorts goes on determines how many points you earn from getting the disc in your opponent's goal. 

The complexity and depth in Disc Jam comes from performing a wide variety of throws by maneuvering the left analog stick prior to a throw. This brings up a series of results like a fast throw with lots of curvature to it, a straight toss, a lob, a toss that bounces from wall to wall (potentially tripping up your rival), and much more. The faster you throw the disc upon receiving it, the faster your throw will be. 

This can't be a screen of the Switch version because you can actually consistently slide diagonally here.
Of course, the best offense is a good defense, and you're not going to get anywhere without being able to defend your side of the court. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this, though like many things in Disc Jam, defense takes a fair amount of practice to get down. For one, you have to face the disc to catch it, otherwise the disc will hit off you and potentially crash to the ground, awarding your opponent the points for that rally. At the same time, when there's a toss that's out of your way, you can quickly try to gain ground by sliding across the court to catch it. The only downside to sliding is that you won't be able to launch the disc as quickly as you could from your hand if you had just caught it normally.

Herein lies a significant issue with the Nintendo Switch version of Disc Jam that the other versions don't suffer from. The Nintendo Switch JoyCon's analog stick doesn't fully rotate with the precision necessary to consistently play well in Disc Jam. On many occasions I would try to perform a diagonal slide to catch an incoming disc, only to slide up, down, left, or right unintentionally. Trying to throw the disc with any kind of spin is also a challenge. Considering playing online pits you against opponents from the Steam version of the game where those players don't have this described handicap, matches can often feel unfair for Switch players.

Unless he's Stretch Armstrong, it's safe to say this disc is out of reach.
Furthermore, the actual online is flat-lining with a weak pulse. Few players routinely play Disc Jam, so you can find yourself sitting on the "looking for a match" loading screen for ages. The lack of any meaningful single player content--there's no arcade mode, offline tournament mode, nothing besides playing against AI that quickly gets ridiculously tough to play against and a lame "training" mode--only further hurts the overall Disc Jam package.

Each of the six characters has their own strengths and weakness.
The buff dude here can throw hard and slide great distances.
Playing through and completing matches earns you in-game currency that can be used to purchase capsules from a gacha machine. These capsules unlock things like character icons, taunts, alternate colors for characters, among other unlockables. There is an option to use real world money to unlock new characters and goodies on a much faster basis, but considering how lacking the presence of players online is, there really isn't much of a place to show these goods off in, making buying them with real world money pretty much a fool's errand. Fortunately, when playing locally in multiplayer, all unlockables in Disc Jam are unlocked but only for local play. 

Because the game is missing crucial single player content to it, Disc Jam lives or dies by its online community. Unfortunately, this community is quite minuscule, making for long waits to find a match, if you even find a match. The difficulty with the Nintendo Switch version's controls also makes for a challenging game to recommend to anyone who isn't totally devoted to the idea of chucking discs back and forth, missing easy catches due to the controls, and loves a lack of players to play against.

[SPC Says: D+]

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