Disc Jam (PS4, 2017)

I got this game for free via PlayStation Plus. Its regular retail price is €14.99.

Earlier this year, Disc Jam seemed to pop up overnight. By the time I heard of the public beta on PS4, the full release was just around the corner.

I don’t closely follow any of the communities dedicated to Windjammers, the early 90s faux-sports game for NeoGeo that has a cult following and inspired many homages, including Disc Jam, so I wasn’t sure just how long this tribute act had been bubbling under the surface.

From playing it, it isn’t really evident that this is the full release; it currently feels like an ‘early access’ experience players can buy into now, in the hopes the developers will follow through in the months to come.

Disc Jam is collection of well crafted, nuanced mechanics that have the potential to form a die-hard community of competitive players, but its cold and robotic presentation is a turnoff.

The game successfully modernizes the core Windjammers premise, a futuristic fusion of ultimate frisbee and tennis, with a new isometric perspective and most of the original game’s mechanics intact. What it fails to recreate, or rather doesn’t even try to recreate, is its bombastic, quintessentially 90s aesthetic. You don’t need to have owned a NeoGeo to appreciate the sights and sounds of Windjammers; its colour pallet and soundtrack would inspire nostalgia in anyone who enjoyed video games in the 16-bit era.

The original Windjammers, with it’s over-the-top sense of style, is coming to PS4 in the near future.

Disc Jam lacks soul. It didn’t need to shamelessly ape Windjammers aesthetic, but it needed something. Something other than two vanilla character models throwing a disc back and forth on an empty tennis court with no audience, and generic stock music in the background. Upon release, the game’s main menu sported a ‘thank you’ message from the small development team promising more modes, skins and content-a-plenty in the coming months. I hope they deliver, because the rock solid, easy-to-learn/hard-to-master mechanics of the gameplay deserve better. The game has an Overwatch-esque loot system, where success in matches earns you a random skin or victory pose – but the time investment is so high, and the skins so drab and uninteresting, that it’s hard to care.

Disc Jame menu

With no single player options as of this writing, it’s hard to recommend Disc Jam, even at its modest price. It feels like a game that graduated from beta to ‘full release’ without actually changing anything — it passed the neccesary quality assurance tests and was suddenly on sale. Should a fresh coat of paint and bevvy of new modes roll out in the coming months, this could be one to revisit in late 2017.