Release Date // October 22nd, 2020
Platforms // Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher // Devolver Digital – Developer // Kitty Calis, Terri Vellmann, Jan Willem Nijman, DOSEONE
Reviewed On // Nintendo Switch
MSRP // $14.99
Disc Room is equal parts bullet hell, escape room, and sci-fi adventure. In this top-down “dodge-em-up” you play as a scientist out to traverse an unidentified mysterious vessel. In the year 2089, you set upon an abandoned space station in the outer orbit of Jupiter. Your mission is to discover what secrets are hidden beyond the endless wave of rooms. From room to room, you will solve puzzles while dodging a barrage of lethal discs. The game begins with a short opening crawl, letting you know your location, your motivation, and not much else. This is followed by a short comic strip illustrating the player and the environments.
As you progress through Disc Room, you will learn a little bit more about your adventure. Yet a lot of the story is left up to the imagination in a way that works. Right away you start in an empty room, the perfect beginning for setting the tone. As you progress through the game, each room becomes more and more complex. The game puts players through a series of unique challenges where they must dodge, dip, duck, and dive to avoid waves of blade discs. In addition to avoiding the titular discs, each room has a twist. In one, you play in utter darkness, and in another, you have to die by four different types of blades. These challenges are unique to each room, and challenge you in some surprising ways.
A Way Out Is Through
Abilities unlock at different points in the game giving each room even more unique playability. As you progress, you will gain six abilities, like, dashing through discs or slowing down time. Some of these rooms may seem like insurmountable barriers. For instance, I never lasted more than 10 seconds in the pitch-black room, and the room with two slow-spinning discs is still a mystery. Nonetheless, I was able to accrue success by completing other rooms. I was then able to revisit rooms I could not previously solve after learning and developing a stronger rhythm with the game. Although there are still these two rooms that befuddle me, and that is okay.
Each room is its own little square with sets of doors on all sides. The doors unlock as different goals are met within that room. It gives the game an almost a Metroidvania-like element. Although you will be using a menu map to select unlocked rooms, I definitely would have enjoyed the game more if the size and shape of each room were different. The inclusion of hallways to move from room to room would also have been appreciated rather than a menu map.
There is an incredibly fast rhythm to each room in Disc Room. You will be placed in nearly impossible situations where countless discs are beamed at you all of which are coming in varying sizes, appearances, and speeds. It is never a matter of if you will die, it is always a matter of when. Dying in each room becomes a part of the end goal. That being said, Disc Room isn’t Rouge-like. The only thing you bring back with you to the next playthrough is the harsh lesson of failure. Although you will learn the rhythm of each room on your way to mastering the game.
While playing Disc Room, I became enamored with the music. As a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, I enjoyed the industrial sound the team went for here. It is a very fun way to handle the sound direction of a game about saws and blades in space. There are some upbeat techno tracks, with lots of synth sounds that capture the mood of Disc Room. The beats fit so well with a game that makes rhythm and timing very important. The sound design really adds to the enjoyment of the game.
You can play through the campaign of Disc Room in about six to seven hours. The game adds a new game plus mode which gives you two scientists to manage at the same time all while cranking up the difficulty even more. Disc Room adds more replayability by giving you a way to compete in high scores against friends. Rooms will display a ranking indicating how long your friends lasted. The six to seven-hour campaign length is decent for something with this level of replayability plus the $14.99 price tag doesn’t hurt either. The content that is there in Disc Room, is something that can come out of your bag and be enjoyed on the Switch over a few minutes as easily as sitting at your PC for a few hours.
The Final Cut
Disc Room has its sharp edges. I find the story to be fun, imaginative, and clever. With that said, how the story is presented over a few short comic strips with no lines of spoken dialog or names is going to be divisive. Also, I think Disc Room’s difficulty is going to turn some people off. You really have to be patient, die a lot, and adapt. Players should not be bothered by giving up and moving to a different room before coming back. This could be a game you might want to stay away from if you smash controllers. However; there are three difficulty sliders that slow down the pace of the game, decrease the complexity of the goals, as well as the hazards.
What Disc Room does accomplish is a fun bite-sized adventure that can be consumed minute by minute or over hours. In conjunction, the game’s music will keep you playing along with its pounding rhythms. There is a lot of genuine old fashioned arcade-style fun to be had across the rooms, except for maybe one or two. The unique and interesting ideas found in Disc Room make it one of the better indie games to come out this year. Disc Room releases on Switch, Steam, GOG, and the Epic Game Store on October 22nd.
*Review code for the game was provided by the publisher*