Throwing a Frisbee is one of those extremely simple concepts that provides a lot of enjoyment – you head out to the park with some friends, throw a Frisbee around and although the results can often be catastrophic (I’ve managed to get a few unintentional head shots with a few of my worse throws) you’ll always have a good time. Discstorm takes this concept and puts it into an arena based battler; this time around though the headshots aren’t unintentional, but rather how you achieve your grand victory. As good as the concept sounds it’s unfortunate Discstorm doesn’t always manage to hit the target.
Discstorm is an arena based battler from developers XMPT Games, with the neat twist that rather than using your typical assortment weapons you’ll find yourself propelling discs at your opponents. The previously mentioned comparisons to Frisbee aren’t unjust; this is essentially a Frisbee battler. The player is armed with three discs to throw at opponents – the momentum of the throw carrying the discs through the air, ricocheting off obstacles and taking out your many opponents until finally coming to a halt for the player to pick up and launch again. It controls similar to a top down shooter with the direction of the throw controlled with the right stick. The control method is fairly simple and for the most part pretty accurate. The player also has the ability to dash around the map and, if still carrying a disc, deflect any discs heading their way with a well timed button press. You aren’t the only one armed with discs of course, so there’ll be plenty of them heading your way; you’ll need quick reflexes to survive a battle in Discstorm!
Whilst I’ve mentioned a few references to Frisbees there is one similarity the game disappointingly shares – Discstorm isn’t that great when played alone.
It’s clear from the start that the single player campaign was never going to be the selling point for Discstorm, evident with the complete lack of a narrative and the bareboned campaign. The game opens with you in a training dojo with a Ninja Master teaching you how the basics on how to play the game – it’s a bog standard tutorial level. From there on you’ll find yourself battling across nine different stages, each one offering something different from the last but unfortunately never enough to keep the player fully engaged.
Each stage consists of six waves: three battles against standard enemies that don’t pose too much of a threat other than their abilities to overrun you, mini-boss battles and then a finale against the main boss of that stage. The boss battles are actually pretty enjoyable and well designed; the other waves are quite boring though, quickly becoming more of a chore to play through. It’s not that the actual gameplay mechanics aren’t enjoyable – they just don’t lend well to the tiresome wave based progression. While you come across different types of enemies there’s never anything that provides these exciting Frisbee battles that you’d expect; it just seems to be ‘throw, move, collect disc, repeat’. There just seems to be something lacking. You’ll be ranked and given a score at the end of a level; more keen players may be tempted to get the highest possible rank in a level, adding that extra bit of replay value to the experience.
The stages themselves have a bit of life though; each having its own unique, well designed environment that offers up something different every time. It may be destructible environments, environmental hazards or even little shortcuts in a level to avoid your foes – at least the stage designs have the variety that the actual gameplay seems to be lacking.
At the start of the campaign you are given the option to pick which character you want to play as, though this doesn’t really affect gameplay other than offering you a different coloured disc. Each character is well designed though, all of them having their own unique look and personality that is portrayed with the dialogue in between levels. It’s well written, but doesn’t really offer much to the game due to the lack of a story. There’s a few quips which might make you laugh though, the characters injecting some humour in between battles. Completing stages also unlocks extra costumes for each of the characters so the player has something to work for.
I encountered a few odd glitches within the gameplay; at one point one of my discs went off the map making it impossible for me to recover. You’re left at a disadvantage using two discs to complete a level so it was frustrating, something that the developers might hopefully be able to iron out with a patch. There were also odd occasions where I wasn’t able to hurt an enemy. Whilst these glitches weren’t in abundance, they were pretty frustrating – especially since some warranted a restart of the level.
Despite speaking about its weak points with the single player, Discstorm does shine with its multiplayer. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lack of online play though – it is something the developer is bringing to the game but is sadly missing from the game for launch. The sooner it arrives the better; it’ll bring a whole extra dimension of enjoyment to the game, especially since local multiplayer isn’t always as accessible on PC for all players.
Local multiplayer with friends is enjoyable, albeit slightly hectic. You and up to three other friends can partake in battles across the many environments the game offers (although some of these environments don’t lend themselves very well to the hectic gameplay style). I particularly enjoyed the death matches – battling against like minded human opponents is much more enjoyable than the single player experience. You’ll be dashing around like crazy and with the potential for up to twelve discs flying around the map it can really get out of control – in the best way possible. It’s just really good fun and doesn’t get boring.
You have the option to include AI controlled enemies in the multiplayer for those who don’t have friends readily available to play with you. I can’t recommend this; the AI is extremely tough, almost connecting with every shot and making a fool out of you. You’re best off waiting for the upcoming online mode than facing off against these AI foes.
Graphically Discstorm has an 8-bit style that works really well with the simple gameplay mechanics. It’s a basic style which doesn’t do anything too special but does its job. Despite its simple look everything manages to look attractive from the character and enemy designs to the environments themselves.
If you love chiptune beats you’re in for a treat as Discstorm has a fine soundtrack offering a variety of different tunes as you partake in your battles. It fits in perfectly with the gameplay, the fast pumping beats almost synchronizing with the discs flying around everywhere. There wasn’t a track I didn’t enjoy and along with the graphic style it really gives Discstorm a classic, retro vibe.
I really wanted to love Discstorm; it’s a Frisbee battler, what’s there not to like?! Unfortunately quite a lot. That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have it plus points though – the multiplayer is great fun, the graphics have a neat 8-bit style and the music is rocking. The same can’t be said for the single player though. I don’t want to be too harsh on the game for its lacking single player mode – it is a multiplayer focused title after all. However, seeing as it currently lacks an online multiplayer option and local multiplayer isn’t accessible to all it’s very difficult not to be. Single player is bare boned and gets boring fast.
If you have a few friends around and access to enough PC compatible controllers get Discstorm; you will have a blast. If that’s not really an option it’s tough to recommend a purchase at the moment, at least until online play is introduced anyway; for now you may be better off sticking to throwing a Frisbee in the park.
– Fun, hectic multiplayer
– Great music
– Neat 8-bit style
– Boring single player
– Lack of online play
– Frustrating glitches
Format Reviewed: Windows (Alienware Alpha i7)