Most arena fighters involve players shooting each other or beating each other up with a variety of melee weapons. Generally, frisbees or flying discs (depending upon your region) are not amongst those weapons. As you may have guessed, Discstorm is not your standard premise for an arena fighter, but neither is it a friendly ultimate frisbee match. The premise is simple: kill your opponents with your discs of death or be killed yourself.
Developer XMPT Games aims to provide a game that is reminiscent of titles that were released for consoles 20 years ago. Not only are they hoping that the gameplay provides the unforgiving challenge that experienced gamers will remember, the game’s catchy chiptune soundtrack and pixelated art style will take you straight back to the days of the 8-bit titles. Is this the game to take you back to those days of old, or would you be better off getting your retro fix elsewhere?
DiscStorm: PC [Reviewed], Playstation Vita TBA
Developer: XMPT Games
Release Date: 20th August 2015
Price: £7.19 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
Players are armed with three frisbees that will bounce around the arenas even after they’ve made contact with an enemy. You can either catch your own discs before they hit the floor, or you can wait until the discs run out of energy and fall to the floor. Enemies’ discs can be deflected back at them meaning that each match can turn into complete chaos in the space of a second with many projectiles ricocheting past your head. Quick reflexes are a must. Although the gameplay is easy to learn, it is extremely difficult to master and the learning curve is extremely steep. You’ll either become an expert at this game or, like me, die repeatedly until you finally scrape out a victory.
After a very brief tutorial in the Ninja Master’s dojo, players can opt to head into the single-player campaign or take on their friends in a multiplayer match. This game was made with the intention of providing a great multiplayer experience and it tells with the lack of storyline afforded to the single-player campaign. Players face three waves of enemies, two mini boss rounds and a final boss round in each of the campaign’s nine arenas. Once each arena is conquered, players simply move on to the next. Your reward for conquering an arena is a costume for your character, but these make no difference apart from the character’s appearance. None of the five playable characters have any special skills either; the sole difference lies in the colour of their frisbees.
Each well-designed arena has its own characteristics that add variety, such as the lava bursts in the Volcano Lair or the secret passages in the Haunted Mansion. The arenas have some enemies that are specific to that arena too, but you’ll also face many of the same enemies regardless of which arena you are playing. The campaign’s variety is provided by the game’s bosses. Few clues are offered and players are left to work out the different strategies that are needed to overcome each one.
For a game that has such a strong emphasis on multiplayer, it seems rather bizarre that online multiplayer is not available at launch. Instead, up to four players must crowd together around a single PC with multiple compatible controllers if they want to duke it out over the game’s many multiplayer modes. There is the option to take on CPU opponents if you can’t find any friends, but their difficulty level is set to brutal. They have pinpoint accuracy and an impressive ability to spawn next to the game’s power ups. Unless you’re looking for an exercise in frustration, you’re better off facing AI opponents in the game’s campaign.
The multiplayer modes range from the standard deathmatch and survival to those that task players with controlling an objective. Despite this, the game doesn’t allow you to choose your game mode or arenas; you’re stuck with whatever the game decides to throw at you. It is at this point where you realise that some of the arenas just aren’t cut out for the chaos created by four players and up to 12 projectiles and it becomes extremely difficult to work out what is happening.
The game also isn’t without its bugs. When you’re only limited to three discs, it’s extremely frustrating to watch as one is deflected off screen and is unavailable for the rest of the match. The game also spawns enemies in the wrong place, rendering them invincible or unreachable and forcing a restart of the checkpoint. Then there’s the mini boss that continued to throw projectiles after its death and disappearance from the arena. Finally, whether by accident or intention, the hit boxes are incredibly small for enemies meaning that you will sometimes watch as your disc flies through an enemy without causing damage. On the contrary, your character’s hit box is quite large meaning that you can be damaged by a projectile even if you just get a little too close to it.
In summary, it seems like the developer couldn’t quite make out what they wanted to do with this title. The gameplay itself is easy to pick up, if a little buggy, and the arenas are well-designed. However, as a multiplayer experience, the lack of ability to choose the game mode or arena is puzzling, meaning that you’re left hoping for a satisfying game. Online needs introducing sooner rather than later too. In trying to cater to the single player crowd, the lack of storyline and character progression means that the campaign just feels like a group of practice arenas. You’ll need that practice, though, if you ever dare to take on the brutal CPU characters in multiplayer matches.