Frantic Frisbee fun.
XMPT Games seem to have a clear idea in mind of what they are aiming for with their Mastertronic published game Discstorm. An arena-based combat game in which players will be throwing Frisbees at each other, with a retro style that brings waves of nostalgia. Obviously I am not the only one who had plenty of fun as a child throwing Frisbees at younger siblings…
A heads up first – the game clearly states that it is best played with a controller. Whilst playing the game with keyboard and mouse is possible, it does make an already difficult game even more challenging, raising the levels of frustration. A controller is definitely the preferred way to go.
The concept of Discstorm is incredibly simple, throw discs at enemies, block or dodge any incoming discs and stay alive. the player has three discs to play with which, once thrown, will happily bounce off barriers and plow through enemies until they run out of steam. If you are still holding a disc, then you can block incoming discs, otherwise a quick dodge will be required. Players are able to grab their discs out of the air if they are still flying, otherwise they will have to go and pick them up from the ground. As with most great games, the basics are simple, but mastering these basics will take time and patience.
Playing the solo game, the player is presented with almost no story, which is perhaps no bad thing for an arena combat game. Each level has a theme and its own matching enemies along with various repeated enemies. The player will have to fight back waves of enemies along with mini bosses and a final boss before moving onto the next level. Players can choose from a selection of different characters to take into the Frisbee fray, and completing a level will unlock a random outfit for one of the characters. There are no differences between the characters, and the outfits change nothing except the way they look.
The difficulty in the solo game is quite high, and it gets tougher as the player progresses. Much like a lot of the hardcore games released in recent years, players will find themselves dying over and over again as they hone their skills and become better at the game. Fortunately death will only mean starting again from the beginning of the wave at which you failed, so frustration is kept to a minimum in this regard. Despite the thematic changes, there is a lot of repetition playing solo, which is likely bore the player long before frustration sets in.
But it is recommended that Discstorm be played with friends, so multiplayer is where the most fun can be found. With up to four players, either real or AI, a random level is chosen for the match to play on, and a random mode is chosen from the few available, from a simple deathmatch or score chase, through to more exotic modes such as Reaper. It really doesn’t take long for things to become frantic as flying discs start whizzing around the screen, bringing frequent death with them. Perhaps on a big screen console, Discstorm would make for an excellent multiplayer party game.
However, Discstorm does feel like an unfinished game. This is most apparent in the lack of online multiplayer. Squeezing friends around the home PC, and finding controllers for each of them, does not make for a great time. Apparently online multiplayer is coming, but it feels that launching Discstorm without this essential component is a mistake. The AI for multiplayer is disappointing in that they can be both incredibly accurate and amazingly stupid at the same time.
Also, the solo mode does feel like an afterthought, perhaps added on once the developers realised that the online multiplayer wouldn’t be ready in time for launch. It is enjoyable, but the lack of depth and repetitive nature does suggest that the multiplayer was the core focus of the game.
Still, I think that the retro aesthetic in Discstorm is great. The sprites are all quite distinct, both the playable characters and the enemies, and the 8-bit arenas are both well laid out and imaginative. This is all topped off with some great chiptunes to add to the nostalgic feeling which, whilst they may grate on the player after extended play sessions, are really enjoyable to listen to.
Discstorm is a arena combat game packed full of character. The concept is great, who hasn’t dreamed of being a Frisbee-flinging force of destruction. However, the game really does require a controller, and really is better with friends, and the lack of online multiplayer at the moment really does harm that. If you happen to have a PC hooked up to the TV and four controllers, Discstorm will be an absolute barrel of laughs. Otherwise, it is all about practice until the online multiplayer turns up.