When a successful formula is found in the gaming industry there will always be other games trying to copy that success. Rocket League was the perfect storm of success when it launched July 7th, 2015. Launching as a PlayStation Plus free game that month, it had incredible and highly addictive gameplay. During the course of that month, the game gained a lot of momentum. Rocket League continues to be highly successful so it would only make sense that another game went for that success. Disc Jam has a lot of potential to be as successful as Rocket League, but at the moment it doesn’t quite live up to that potential.
Disc Jam is an impressive frisbee tennis game from new developer, High Horse Entertainment. Think Windjammers from a behind the shoulder perspective that is reminiscent of a Mario Tennis game. Seems simple enough right? However, this game has an incredible pace of play and point system that keeps games moving. Each match is broken into a best of 3 games. In order to win a game you must get to 50 points. Starting at five points per rally, the point total keeps climbing with each throw until the rally ends. This ensures your matches don’t last past 10-15 minutes. The game’s mechanics are simple enough to learn, but I would completely 100% recommend playing the tutorial before actually hopping into a match, which the game itself recommends as well. Mechanics include lobs, curves, and straight shots. There are specials shots that can earned by perfectly blocking a frisbee which is very rewarding and almost always ends the current rally. After learning the core mechanics, there is another layer of strategy to pull back and learn to make yourself a better player. Once you begin to peel back that layer that’s when this game can become very addicting, but that’s also where I have my first major gripe with the game at the moment.
There isn’t a ranked mode to compete against players to climb a leaderboard. I wish this existed because there is something to that feeling of progressing up ranking tiers that feels so satisfying in a game like this. The developers have said they plan on adding this mode in the future, but since it’s not here now, I have trouble motivating myself to keep coming back. At the moment, the only way to play is an offline mode or to connect to other players online in a seemingly random fashion. The matchmaking doesn’t seem to bring in skill to the equation. There have been many times where I was either dominated or I have dominated the other opponent. Those games aren’t the best experiences and they seem to occur far too often at the moment.
The ways to play are straightforward. There are singles and doubles and they can be played online or offline. The game offers a split-screen local multiplayer for those wanting to play on the same couch, but the camera in the mode is something to be desired. If you are going to play together locally, I recommend playing doubles on the same team so the screen isn’t split and you can actually see what’s going on. The modes are simple, but there is room to grow and I think we will eventually see more game modes down the road.
There are four different characters that can be used in the game. Each have slight differences in the way they play. Gator is an all-around player, Makenna is a spin master, Haruka is a speedster, and Stanton is a power thrower. It’s worth trying out each one to see which play style you like, but once you find your character it’s very hard to try to switch and feel comfortable right away. Once you pick a character there are different customization options. You can change outfits, taunts, voice lines, and things of that nature. This is another area of potential. There aren’t enough options for me at the moment. The developer has to add more ways to customize. For instance, I really wish I could mix and match tops and pants with Makenna. However, I’m stuck with only being able to select a whole outfit with the same design. I would even like to see more characters too. The game doesn’t have to come up with a new play style for these characters. They could use the existing characteristics but make new character designs and I would be happy with that.
The same can be said about the arena and music. There is only one arena and one track. Each time on you are in the main menu, its the same generic electronic tune and every time you hop into a game, you see the same arena. There needs to be different colors or something in the arena because the same orange and red is getting old. The arenas are definitely needed but I would appreciated some more music added into the game to mix it up some. This all can be improved upon with content updates that I hope will be free.
I think it’s obvious to see the theme for Disc Jam. The game has a strong foundation with a lot of potential to grow. Seeing the potential of what this game could be in another game like Rocket League may be playing with my expectations, but I do really like playing this game once I get into a match. Once this game has a ranked mode, I could see me spending a lot of hours in Disc Jam just like I still spend time with Rocket League about two years later. Until that time comes Disc Jame feels like a shallow experience.