Discstorm : Dodgeball with Frisbies

Dodge.

Dive.

Dip.

Duck.

Dodge.

These are the skills every DiscStormer needs to survive in this brave new world of competitive— you know what? Let’s skip the melodrama.

DiscStorm (not to be confused with DiscWorld, which is what I expected when I got my review code) is a loving homage to SNES-era player versus player games.

Those of us bordering on the incredibly ancient will remember the good old days when games were new and Mattel thought they could get their cash in by making PGA Golf for the SNES or a cheapo basketball simulator that had an impressive name on it like Jordan or Shaq.

DiscStorm is… not those games. For one it emulates a game that actually works on a gamepad by stripping out all of the referee driven commentary and using dodgeball instead of something overly complicated like baseball or gridiron.

Here’s the set up. You get 3 discs used to— I assume— maul other people from across a soccer field. You may throw them but there is also a melee attack that stuns and allows you to deflect enemy discs back. That is it. No pomp, no circumstance. Clear, easy to learn rules that have some pretty interesting twists.

For one, discs bounce off of the terrain. You don’t have to go straight shot at the enemy every time. You can choose to bounce your discs off the wall or use the melee attack to damage your opponent with his own disc. You can even choose to go out of discs if there are a lot of hazards in play because that changes your melee to a handy dodge that gets you halfway across the screen in less than a second, allowing you to dodge or grab the powerups in the multiplayer.

So here’s whats awesome. First, its multiplayer. My wife doesn’t do sprite art so I only got to enjoy the version where you got it handed to you by VI. Seriously. maybe its because I only get 3 days to write my review but that VI tore me apart.

Second. Dat artwork. While the art may not on the same level as To the Moon, everything is clear and crisp. Even as the black character I never found my sprite blending into the background. That, and the sprites are pretty big, which is really important in a game as high tension and high stakes as DiscStorm. When you are dealing with plays that require pixel accuracy, any question as to the location of your hitbox could spell the difference between a clutch victory and feeling like the VI is laughing at you.

Third, Dat sound track! As of the date of review there is only one article of DLC. Instead of skins and power ups (which are unlocked by playing the game, I know genius, right?), they chose to release the sound track as DLC and I am really considering buying it! You can really tell the designer did the leg work and researched the old techniques of the 8 and 16 bit heroes like Totaka and Yamamoto. If 16 bit games are your thing and 16 bit music is really your thing, look into DiscStorm.

Now for some issues. Firstly, the difficulty curve in DiscStorm is not so much a curve as a wrought iron spike the game uses to impale you a la Vlad Tepes.

Disc Storm 1
W-wait… did… did I just get flashed by a mummy?

You see, each level has six phases that alternate between trash and boss monsters. Trash pulls are relatively easy with some interesting quirks like enemies you need to step on after you hit them and enemies that can only be hurt from the rear. The bosses on the other hand. well, sub-boss 2 of level 1 fires boomerangs at about 2 shots asecond. Note to the development team, 5 wipes on the second sub-boss is the recipe for a flying remote. That monkey takes up 30% of the space available to the player and moves at mach 13. You should save that kind of torture for level 4 or 5 at the earliest. It’s a great boss and I had fun fighting it but for every Carson out there you will find about 15 people who will get to wipe 5 on board 1 then flame you in the forums.

Gripe number two, the story line missions are woefully unpolished. I am currently stuck on level 4 because enemies keep spawning inside the moving walls. Note to the dev, since you know how close the walls will get on any level, you should set spawn locations that only fall 5 pixels in from the limit of the wall’s motion range (programmer talk, guys, bear with me) and if you can’t get that together by launch you should slash from the story and keep it in the multiplayer where it works like a charm. I know this was made as a PVP title but players will always zero in on your piece’s weakest spot.

Gripe number three. This game is hard! Now, I know this piece’s intended engagement is PVP and I am right with you. However multiplayer versus VI is intended to ease the transition between introductory and high level play, not bash the player’s head in until she ‘works for her fun’. There will always be a Carson out there willing to play your title for 30 hours before making a judgement, but in a world where the average feature game takes 8 hours to reach base competence you can’t expect your player to get laughed at by the VI for 10 or more hours before getting bored because her boyfriend doesn’t have the patience. I’ll never get my wife to try this thing because she will take 2 swings at the vs mode and feel utterly shamed. You can’t team up against the VI because its just so impossibly hard and I can easily see your brilliant piece going entirely ignored after about 10 minutes.

disc storm 2
Shot taken 22 seconds before I got swept.

I know coding VI for different difficulty levels is hard but here are some cheap easy ways you could ease into that challenge curve. You could start by making 3 or 4 settings (Smash Bros uses 9 which is excessive in my mind) and inflate the time between when the VI fires discs. Second, you could take the pathfinding VI and force it to take two, three or 4 (depending on difficulty level) 90-180 degree turns and walking for 400, 300, or 200 ms (depending on difficulty level) before deciding the most efficient route to pick up it’s discs. Third, you could throw a random 20-160 degree turn and a 200 ms walk in there triggered to go off every 3000 ms for difficulties other than maximum.

So there you have it. With a little more polish and a lot more press I could see this game becoming a bonafide e-sport. Save that design document, XMPT Games, haul it back out when you have a bigger following.

Finally, to the players. If you have a bunch of friends to play with in person, or you can meet online once they launch online multiplayer, I strongly recommend you pick up DiscStorm for a weekend or two of hilarity. Otherwise, remember the 5 Ds.

Rating : 4/10. Good start but unpolished.

carsonzxy
Haile Carson is a student of game design from Taunton MA. He is the president and founder of his local game design club and has been a passionate fan of the medium for nearly 30 years.

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