Whether you’re versing friends offline or testing your prowess against the world, “Disc Jam,” developer High Horse Entertainment’s frantic-paced sports game, is a blast of wildly competitive eSports action.
“Disc Jam” is a sort of modern-day “Pong,” redolent of tennis, air hockey and frisbee. Your objective is to throw a glowing disc past your opponent(s). And while it sounds simple on the surface — hell, it kind of is — once you add power-ups, special character traits, bonuses for well-timed throws, and maybe a little smack-talk, it becomes an intense game of nonstop pressure … and F-bombs.
Each match comprises best-of-three sets; the first team to score 50 or more points in a set wins. Scoring depends on how long players can hold a volley. Beginning at five, the score counter increases by one with each returned throw, with an exception of 10 points for an aced serve. Some of the fiercer matches might be just one or two volleys where the rewarding score might take you well past the 50-point target.
Players can curve throws, angle shots using the side walls, or even lob the disc for an often unexpected (but slow) drop. Perfectly timed throws are rewarded with a speed boost and a purrty purple glow, and consecutive perfect throws get an additional boost — three’s the magic number to max out your juice.
There are four characters to choose from, each with different strengths. We’ll start with boring old Gator, the typical balanced type. We’ve seen him kick some ass online, so don’t knock him until you try him, but there’s not much to say. Unfortunately, the rest of the gang, though more interesting, isn’t all that, either. Haruka is the fast, ninja-like character who’s perfect for quick and almost impossible saves; Makenna’s got a mean curve; and of course, there has to be a tank, and that role goes to Stanton, a slow-moving, colossal beast with a hella-powerful toss.
While each character receives distinctive traits, there’s no exclusivity when it comes to the three super throws: the Pythagoras, Spiral and Zed. The Pythagoras turns at regular 90-degree intervals; the Spiral, well, spirals around while heading toward the opposing goal; and the Zed launches down the court in a zigzag formation. You earn super throws by either standing long enough under a lobbed throw or catching a throw with your shield-thing up (which severely hinders movement). But fair warning: catching and returning a super throw can be even deadlier.
It would be nice to see High Horse add more characters and courts in the future. Currently, there’s just the one court, which changes in size depending on whether you’re playing singles or doubles, but that’s it. Variety is a key component for longevity. And if “Disc Jam” wants to be taken seriously and cement itself in the world of eSports, it’ll need to reel in a lasting audience through heavy content drops.
With that said, there is a surprising amount of customization options. Points unlock as you play, and these points can be spent on the prize machine found on the main menu. Tags, outfits and even new discs are unlocked through the prize machine; however, it’s randomized and a little frustrating for someone looking only to customize his or her favorite character.
The Good: It’s a competitive and invigorating action-sports game, offering split-screen play for both on and offline matches. The balanced scoring system means one great volley is worth multiple good ones. The pressure’s always on.
The Bad: A severe lack of variety can and likely will diminish the appeal for players wanting to switch things up (something that can be fixed with DLC).
Final Thoughts: “Disc Jam” may currently lack the ingredients necessary to endure the test of time, but it’s still so damn good, and it certainly has the potential to be great. There hasn’t been an indie eSports game this much fun since “Rocket League.”