DiscStorm Review: Murdering Hipsters with Frisbees

By Jason Harper (Hhean)

DiscStorm Review

Ah, the frisbee. Great for messing about in any park, beach or aunt’s house. DiscStorm tries to lever that iconic circular bit of plastic to make a frantic top-down shooter.

I think from just looking at the screenshots you can tell that this isn’t a very serious game.

The controls are easy to pick up. You move about, throw frisbees, deflect frisbees or pick up frisbees in the air. I rather wish that last one was mapped better, as currently the three main buttons are easy to access on a keyboard, but on a controller the “pick up” function is bound to one of your face buttons, which is a real pain as your thumb needs to flick between it and the right analogue with some real speed if you want to catch anything. In addition to this, the controller’s movement and aiming feels slugging compared to the keyboard and mouse, likely due to some kind of odd scaling going on with the analogues sticks.

Usually in a game like this you would want to keep on the move, so the limited directional inputs of the keyboard would be a big hindrance, but accuracy takes a precedent due to the low ammunition count, tight spaces, and either high enemy count (In single player) or very fast moving targets (In multiplayer). It doesn’t matter if you can plod around with precision if the enemy are busy hurling bits of plastic at you from one corner of the level to another.

As a result, the mouse and keyboard becomes a great option, since you can see exactly where your shots are going using the mouse cursor. However, this has two rather annoying downsides. The first is that all the menus are only navigable by keyboard, and don’t accept any mouse input at all, which is a clear hold-over from the intended controller input. I’d say it’s the mark of a poor PC port, but this is a PC exclusive. The second issue is that when playing locally, either you fight over who gets the keyboard and mouse, or you all agree to use the worse input method, greatly diminishing what should be the game’s real strength.

DiscStorm Review

The entire single player captured in one screenshot

Single player is a repetitive load of nonsense. Maps with similar layouts and enemy types are recycled so many times I swear I started to see the wear and tear on the sprites. As an aside, if you are shoehorning zombies as an enemy type into a game that is not explicitly about some kind of zombie apocalypse scenario, you are utterly scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel.

Every level follows the exact same format. You fight a wave of mobs, then a mini-boss, then another wave of mobs, then a tougher version of the same miniboss, then yet more mobs, then the boss. One of the levels even draws attention to this format, and makes a joke about how bad it is. It’s like the designers of the game are trying to pass off poor design by saying “Hey, at least we have a sense of humour over how bad this is.” I’m honestly not sure if I find that endearing or grating.

Some of the boss fights are interesting, while the minibosses swing between entertaining and frustrating. There is an encounter with some sirens where you have to drag a cannon about at a snail’s pace while avoiding a screen-full of projectiles that was more irritating than it was difficult.

Maps are the same size and shape, but do vary in terrain. This is okay in multiplayer, but in the single player it feels rather cheap and samey. Once you have fought in one letterbox shaped area, you kind of feel like you’ve fought in them all. What annoys me the most about this is that the frisbee is pretty much the icon of wide, open spaces, and yet you space the whole game in cramped environments. Giving the player some room to breath would have helped the game incredibly.

DiscStorm Review

You’d best start believing in Faustian stories, Miss Frisbee. You’re in one.

If the controller’s controls didn’t emulate pushing a greased up fat man around a mattress, the local multiplayer would be pretty good.  You fight a series of small bouts on the various different maps, each with a special rule on them. Beyond simple deathmatch you have one hit kills, capture the flag, collecting coins (or discs), king of the hill and a few others besides. These add a good amount of variety to the way each match is played, and give the game longer legs than it would have had otherwise. On the other hand, I do think that these different mode are almost a concession that the core play hasn’t been made to feel as good as it could be, and so is trying to distract the player with some shiny objects.

When not actually in a match though, the game still is stumbling all over itself. As far as I could tell, you can’t pick which levels to play on, or select if you want to enable/disable any game types. So if you really enjoy the factory level, and maybe want to do some high stake one-hit-kill nonsense with your friends, well screw you. You’re doing deathmatch on the pirate boat. The other rather annoying problem is that once a match is done, you get booted straight back to the main menu, so everyone then has to reselect the multiplayer option and get their characters in order before going at it again. A “Replay” button would have helped the flow of things greatly.

The music is the highlight of the game. Hands down. No question. While a few of the tracks loop quickly and feel a bit bland, they seem to be largely confined to the menus. The map specific tunes are a great listen that nail the old SNES days far better than the aesthetics.

I came into DiscStorm happy to get up to some real silly nonsense, but it’s unfortunately just a bit bland. You’re better off playing Towerfall: Ascension or Titan Souls. Both are games that use a similar mechanic where you are using a limited number of projectiles that you often need to go and retrieve, only the idea is better executed. Towerfall even did a similar format to its singleplayer content, with its maps being used for both singleplayer and multiplayer, and dealing with waves of enemies. It manages to handle this to create a great experience that’s best had co-op, while also delivering on some frantic local multiplayer action. This game is really only worth a look if you’ve played both, are tired of them and are looking for something much worse, but still similar enough to scratch an itch.

DiscStorm Review

A rare photo of that time Hitler fought mecha-Sauron while dressed as a lumberjack.

Overall Rating – Poor

It’s worth wasting a few hours on once the game drops below $5 or so. It may be worth the investment once online is added in a few months, since its competition lack that functionality. Only other reason is you really enjoy this kind of thing, and want something cheap.

Graphics: 2/5

It looks like something you’d find on Kongregate. Tries to go for the SNES look, but doesn’t quite get it. The UI doesn’t fit the theme, the larger scale character art doesn’t fit the sprites, and a number of the ‘pixels’ haven’t been scaled properly, so the look of the in game characters and environments don’t often work. Loads of recycled assets in the single player.

Controls: 2/5

The game plays like ass with a controller, and while it’s better on keyboard, you tend to slide around like a drunken ice skater.

Features: 2/5

The single player is short and repetitive. The local multiplayer is good for a few rounds, but lacks the variety of Towerfall. There’s no online at the time of writing, though it will be coming later.

Sound/Music: 4/5

Great music that really nails the best of the SNES era.

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