DiscStorm (PC Review)
“DiscStorm; Best played with a Gamepad (And some friends!)” is the first thing we see after the 8-bit XMPT Games logo dissolves in the background. This statement couldn’t be more correct. The controls work supremely well with a Gamepad and the A.I. is so broken that playing alongside your hamster would be an improvement. The promise of fun and excitement is certainly within the games capacity, it’s just unfortunate that you’ll need a bunch of your friends huddled closely around your computer screen to experience it…or simply wait until they add online multiplayer at a later date.
The games main focus is on fast-paced, adrenaline fueled, frisbee throwing chaos. Trapped in claustrophobic arenas you must fight your way through hordes of undead monsters, ninjas, and singing mermaids to progress the DiscStorm’s story. Albeit a vague/non-existent story. There isn’t much to experience within the games singular story arc, you fight through varied thematic arenas full of varied thematic enemies. Completing a stage will grant you with a reward, the reward always being a new costume (as far as I am aware). The costume is usually some funky alteration to their original attire, like adding a monocle to your character or greying their skin so they look like a pixelated zombie. My main problem with DiscStorm’s campaign is the reward system. You complete a stage and you are taken to the results screen, as you would expect, then afterwards you are rewarded with a new costume (presumably at random) for any character in the games roster. These costumes hold no value whatsoever, they are purely cosmetic. Sure they can make your character “look” more badass or as cute as a kitten but at the end of the day it’s still difficult to see these minute changes since all the in game characters are 8-bit sprites. In the end, it doesn’t benefit the player all that much.
The challenge is real in DiscStorm. Jumping from stage to stage is incredibly easy as long as you have patience, but mastering a stage or at the very least achieving a decent score requires extreme perseverance. There are no difficulty settings present in DiscStorm although at times it would seem they certainly need some. The challenge is overcoming the amount of obstacles flying around the screen at once whilst hurling your own projectiles at the same time. And if your timing is perfect, catch your frisbee as it comes hurtling back at you. If you miss, then you’ll need to fumble about trying to pick them up before you can go back on the offensive. DiscStorm’s default assigned difficulty requires you to “Git Gud” or simply die, die, and die some more until you finally complete the stage with a low score and move on up the the next event.
DiscStorm’s 8-bit art style lends itself well to the gameplay, it’s simple and to the point. All the in-game sprites are sharp and colourful but the characters avatars that are displayed when a character is talking are on a whole other level. The artwork is amazing and it is quite a shame to see so little of it in game as it’s usually the same avatar picture shown over and over again for each character.
I only managed to delve slightly into the games multiplayer aspect, simply fighting against bots as I had no peripherals to allow for a friendly game of couch deathmatch. I Instead had to opt for an A.I. companion to accompany me to the battlefield and partake in some frisbee wars. Things didn’t go so well and the experience wasn’t a great one, the CPU controlled characters have as much intelligence as Hodor from Game of Thrones. To begin with, as soon as you choose your character and choose how many Hodors you want to fight against, you are thrust into a random stage with a random effect; random drops or no random drops. You have no control over what stage is selected and if pickups are active or not. Secondly, once you are thrust into the game, depending on the stage, the game could last anywhere between a couple of minutes to 10 seconds. I say this because all the little Hodors on screen have no sense of strategy or accuracy. It seems prevalent that the A.I. has a set routine and reacts only to player commands. As if it were an old school fighting game.
On several occasions all the CPU players launched all their projectiles in all directions with no adherence to what was going on around them. Regardless if there was an opponent near them or not. Their strategy was similar to that of someone throwing a penny at a high powered fan and hoping for the best. Once all the little Hodors lost their weapons; 3 frisbees per player, they were at a loss for what to do next. They would not go and pick them up and and resulted in each character running on the spot, clueless. I took this opportunity to be as unsporting as I possibly could. So I stepped as close to them, close enough to smell their pixel sweat, and decided to attack. The CPU managed to dodge the attack, literally inches away from its face. I felt as though I was Trinity giving it the “Dodge this” attitude just to have the Agent turn round and give me the middle finger as he swaggered on off.
It’s quite clear that DiscStorm doesn’t have everything it needs to stand tall amongst a lot of other indie game on the market. Its main campaign isn’t exciting or rewarding enough to merit multiple playthroughs but it is still enticing enough for that initial jaunt. DiscStorm’s multiplayer component is now the only saving grace, with its A.I. being incompetent yet surprisingly impossible to beat, and the current state of replayability is to have a friend(s) over and have at it on a randomly selected stage. As surprising as this may sound, I personally enjoyed. DiscStorm is simple enough to jump on in for a quick game or two but not enough to keep me coming back for more. Lets just hope that the upcoming introduction to online multiplayer is enough to save DiscStorm from an early grave.