Disc Jam is trying really hard to emulate the success of Rocket League. That’s not a flaw as much as it is an unflattering comparison. The key premise of the game is original and remains fun for a while, but ultimately it lacks the polish and replay-value that Rocket League does.
The minute to minute gameplay of the matches is engaging, sometimes challenging and can lead to some exciting moments as rallies build up raising the odds of the game. The scoring system works in that the more exchanges between players the more a certain point is worth – this can lead to some massive swings in the game off of a single point. For instance I was losing 10-24 in one game, but a huge sequence of hits between my opponent and I allowed me to burst into a 34-24 lead, this felt like a valuable pay-off for the point. However, there is a downside to this scoring technique. Whenever there is a gulf in skill between players (and there often is) games move slowly, often with one side building up a steady lead 6 points at a time. This process feels painfully slow in an otherwise fast-paced sports game. As someone who constantly complains about the time taken between goals, intervals and whatever interruption arises on games like FIFA and Rocket League, the near seamless gap between points scored or sets won was a welcome break from the norm.
The game features two main play modes, singles and doubles. Of these, doubles was by far superior, rallies go on for longer – matches are often more evenly balanced and it feels as though the game was set up with this in mind. However matchmaking can often be hit or miss on this front, and at times it struggled to find me a doubles match at all. If you do end up getting into a match it’s often difficult to stay there – because the rematch system requires all 4 players to agree to a rematch, not allowing for those who want to stay to re-enter matchmaking as a three in order to save time.
During matches players can communicate using Rocket League-esque chat options from the d-pad. The matches require you to send the disc flying back over the net using one of three throwing techniques; a curved shot, a lob and a straight shot. Each of these can be varied with different amounts of curls and bounced off the edges to try and catch out your opponent. You are also able to block shots with a shield which can either grant you a super throw, or push the disc back over the net to catch your opponent out – beating the tougher opponents will require a mixture of all these techniques.
Playing games, and winning games grants you a varying amount of the in game currency which can be used to unlock new customisation options via the ‘Prize Machine’. For me this is where the game really fails in it’s comparison to Rocket League. There are only 4 characters available to use and none of them are memorable or unique and the customisation options for each are honestly dire. The ‘skins’ available are merely a different colour set and the only worthwhile customisation seems to be for the disc that you use in game – but I’ve not unlocked any of those because the progression of unlockables feels slow and uneven (I have a plethora of different ‘tags’ but still use the first one I unlocked). This really means theres nothing really making me want to continue playing the game after I unlock every trophy – which is a shame, because a lot of the ideas on show could have made for a great party game. But with competition from great games such as Towerfall: Ascension, Nidhogg and of course Rocket League I can’t see myself spending much more time with Disc Jam.