*A review code was provided by the developer for this review.
I enjoy playing frisbee, and I’ve tried to look cool getting that ‘perfect throwing form.’ But you know what’s even cooler than that? A rocket-powered frisbee that explodes if you don’t catch it in time. It’s EXTREME! That’s exactly what Disc Jam is all about: taking a rather simple and calm sport and turning it into a futuristic chaotic fling-fest.
Your objective is to throw the super-frisbee (that’s what I’m calling it from now on) into your opponent’s end zone on the other side of the court. This is achieved by out-maneuvering them. Like a regular frisbee, the super-frisbee can be caught before it reaches the goal. What makes things truly interesting is that this ‘super-frisbee’ moves rather quickly, and can also bounce off the walls that are located at both sides of the court. This makes the whole experience feel like a mixture of volleyball and air hockey. You can pull off some pretty cool maneuvers, which requires you to get a grip with the different inputs. Moving the control stick in specific ways will alter the direction of the super-frisbee, and various buttons will trigger different types of throws, such as a straight throw and auto-curve.
Disc Jam offers a variety of different characters to choose from, six in all. Each of these characters has unique abilities, so it’s up to you to find which one suits your individual play-style. Some are faster, while others have more powerful throws, but overall there doesn’t seem to be any ‘best’ character. It really just depends on your skills. Speaking of skills…boy did I get ‘rekted’ pretty quickly. Just like any sport, your success rate depends on your technique. You’re either a great player, or you’re not. My early matches were rather embarrassing, with the majority of them ending with me having either a low score or no score at all. It’s moments like that which made me rather happy the Switch doesn’t have voice chat because it can get pretty frustrating.
With that said, now would be a good time to mention that Disc Jam is heavily focused on online multiplayer. While there is an offline component, the main experience lies within the online. Of course, that means you’ll likely end up going against players who seem to just be too skillful, which is where the aforementioned frustration comes into play. But even so, it’s still all just a matter of ‘getting good’ and honing your flinging skills. When you get into the groove of it all, the experience can actually be pretty fun. Some matches got so intense that I could feel the rate of my heartbeat increase and a bit of adrenaline kicking in. I was genuinely surprised at how engaging the game is, and seeing that it’s so focused on online multiplayer, each match is fundamentally unique. I did find that the community does seem to be a bit small currently. Despite there being cross-platform functionality with Steam, I regularly found myself going up against the same players during each session. There was even an instance where I played against someone, won the match, and then they quit. After which, I started a new match twice and find that same person again, but they quit yet again each time since they noticed they were going up against me again. This may change in the future, but that ultimately will depend on how many units the game sales and if the community remains active.
Disc Jam feels like a frantic combination of frisbee and air hockey. Skill is everything and it’s pretty fun when you get into the ‘groove’.
Presentation-wise, Disc Jam continues to be a decent experience. It runs at 1080p/60FPS while in docked mode, and 720p/60FPS in handheld mode. Anti-aliasing is also enabled, so the overall image quality looks very smooth and clean, along with sharp textures all around. Seeing that this is an Unreal Engine 4 game, I’m not surprised by any of this since it’s a great engine that has native support for the Switch’s hardware.
Although I must note that the character models look rather ‘plasticy,’ almost as if they’re action figures. The proportions of the models are also a bit out there, but that seems to be more of an artistic choice. Animations are rather stiff, reinforcing that ‘action-figure look’. Another issue is that when playing in doubles matches (2v2), you and the other player on your team can end up playing with the same character with the exact same outfit. As you would imagine, this can get a bit confusing. But, I can almost overlook these issues with the characters since hilarious ragdoll effects (in addition to overly-dramatic screams) appear when a character is near the super-frisbee as it explodes. But despite the visuals looking nice, there isn’t a lot of variation in the courts. There are only two in all: one for 1v1 matches and the other for 2v2 matches. That’s In addition to the lack of different courts; there’s also a very limited number of songs. They have a techno/rock style to it which fits the overall theme of the game, but I just wish there were more as there seems to only be about four songs in all.
So as for the cons, there’s the lack of variation in courts and music, along with the stiff-looking characters, but Disc Jam is still a pretty nice title. The gameplay is very fun and rather addictive, which is what you’d want from any game. But, that does bring one last big issue—lootboxes and microtransactions. There currently aren’t many games in the Switch’s library that include these infamous ‘features,’ but Disc Jam can now be added to that list. The game includes a ‘prize machine’ which requires 1000 units of the in-game currency with each transaction. So, technically it’s not gambling since you do always get a prize, but the real scummy part deals with the in-game currency. While you earn a bit with each match you complete, it’s a pretty slow process unless you intend to grind for hours. If you want to speed up that process, then you can purchase more units with actual money on the eShop, ranging from $2 to a whopping $20. Seeing that the game itself costs $15, I find it a bit surprising that it costs more to get virtual currency.
The one good thing about Disc Jam’s microtransactions is that they grant you access to almost-exclusively only cosmetic items. You get things such as new character skins, and designs for the super-frisbee, among other customization options. Two characters can also be bought, which are the only truly practical things locked behind a paywall. What makes this situation particularly interesting though is that this only applies to the online component of your game. When playing offline, absolutely everything is unlocked: all the characters, skins, frisbee designs—everything. So, buying any of the items minus the two characters would honestly only benefit you from a show-off perspective.
— The Bottom Line —
Disc Jam looks good and plays good, but the microtransactions are a bit of a disappointment.
Microtransactions aside, Disc Jam is still a fun game. The trailers got me pumped to play it, and it’s just as fun in-person as it is on video. But, your fun-factor will be determined by your skill level. But if you’re the determined type or one of those special people who are just instantly good at every new thing they try, then you should be able to just jump right in with no issues.