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Disc Jam Review (Switch)

It's time for a new sport to enter the world once again, but this time on the Nintendo Switch! In this futuristic mesh of frisbee and tennis expect some fast-paced matches and a host of different challenges. Do this port and game live up to its exciting idea?

Disc Jam Review (Switch)INtRODUCTION

Disc Jam seems to be the revival you never thought you wanted. Windjammers has a niche audience and is known for its unique mix of frisbee and tennis. Disc Jam is the spiritual successor in many ways, with developer High Horse Games putting a modern take on the classic. With Windjammers now being easily accessible in the modern day, does Disc Jam evolve the formula, or get slammed down by what it's emulating? When we last looked at this unique futuristic take on sports, we took a look at the PlayStation 4 version, but this time we'll be reviewing the Nintendo Switch version respectively.

Disc Jam is available now on the Nintendo Switch eShop and is alternatively available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam.

Disc Jam Nintendo Switch™ Launch Trailer

GAMEPLAY

While there literally is no narrative in this sports meet-up, Disc Jam is all about the simplistic gameplay. In teams of two or 1-on-1 battles, the players stand across from each other on a court, throwing a spinning frisbee disc towards the other, with the object of making it hit the ground or go past the back boundary. The first player or team that reaches 50 points is the winner. The concept and controls are simple to learn and they're very fun to try to master. The game has a Rocket League feel in terms of the futuristic take on combining sports.

You can use every Nintendo Switch controller that's compatible with the system for this game, including a Joy-Con on its side. The Y button serves as a slide as well as a lob of sorts when you have the frisbee disc. The B button acts as a shield when you don't have the disc, and a regular toss when you do. The shoulder buttons also throw the disc, but they curve on the left and right sides which can be handy.

Teamwork is a Go - Disc Jam Review (Switch)

The game is shown in a court view from above. You can do moves such as the previously mentioned slide, shield, and angling. To perform all of these moves requires precise timing and movements, especially for the more advanced techniques. The court view looks fine for the most part and you can easily tell if the frisbee is being lobbed or thrown and whatnot, although for split screen it's a bit annoying that there aren't any options to change the screen views to vertical or one screen as it can be a bit more difficult to get used to in split screen.

There are special moves in this game known as Super Throws which can be a game changer. When you stand below a lobbed frisbee, you charge up, and if your meter fully charges while you catch it, you get to use a Super Throw. You can use any of the throwing options for this (Y, B, shoulder buttons) and they each supercharge the type of throw. Another way to charge for a Super Charge is to hold your shield until it's fully charged and block the frisbee to catch it once more. What adds even more flare to the matches are Super Returns, which you can perform when your opponent launches a Super Throwback at you. It requires precise timing and is very rewarding to pull off along with the standard Super Throws. There are three types of Super Throws that you can switch between.

More techniques, such as the Stuff Block where you use your shield up against the net to return the frisbee and Skill Curves where you aim the frisbee slightly after you use the throw button to make a precise return, further add to the easy to learn but hard to master formula and mix the gameplay well, with surprises on the field on all fronts.

Team play is very well implemented in this game, and really shines when you're playing with someone who knows the game as well as you. With two players on one side, you can setup some clutch moments with the shield and with passing which adds a new layer of depth that the single player doesn't have.

Perfect Toss - Disc Jam Review (Switch)
Catching and returning shots is just as important as throwing in Disc Jam. The returning mechanics work with the length of time it takes players to release a shot after it is received which alters the throw power/speed of the following shot. If you chain enough of these together and you "Juice" your shots, it makes them even more difficult for the opponent to receive. These rallies further increase the complexity in matchups, as each time the disc passes across the central barrier, the counter increases which gives increased value to the rally.

The online modes in this game worked as intended for the most part.  That's if I could even find a match at all though. In my time with Disc Jam it sometimes took up to half an hour just to find a match but likewise, I would back out of the search by then. The servers seem to either have a hard time connecting other users, or the more likely option is that the online service seems to be dwindling with players, even with crossplay. This is unfortunate but hopefully, the player base resurges at a point in time because when I did find a match, it was a blast. At least there are private matches you can set up with any friends who own the game as well. There was usually little lag (more so in doubles than singles) but it ran smooth online other than that.

The six Disc Jam characters on the roster all have different playstyles. Some are slower or faster than others and so on but these don't affect the gameplay as much as they seem they would. The characters are designed well and have their own personalities that you can infer from looking at them, but none of them have a backstory to speak of which is a shame. You have to unlock Kahuna and Lannie but I assume this is because they are recent additions to the game. There are many customizable items you can buy with the two currencies "Jamoleons" and the red cards. "Jamoleons" are "J" tokens which work in a Gashapon style prize machine which you can get random items from and you can also buy characters with these, and with the red cards, you can buy whatever you want without the randomness of the prize machine. "Jamoleons" are purchasable with real money but they are not necessary and do not interfere with gameplay, just with cosmetics, similar to what many games do with their currency systems now. In offline play, everything is unlocked which is pretty neat and lets you test items before buying if you decide to use the currencies in the game.

Any other modes included in Disc Jam are a bit of a disappointment. Other than the previously mentioned main Singles and Doubles modes you can play online or offline, there are very few options for play. There's Ghost Arcade where you challenge AI that is based on real-world player data, and then there's training which is pretty much the tutorial for learning the controls and techniques. That's all of the modes unfortunately and there's a noticeable lack of both game modes and singleplayer content.

Full Lobby - Disc Jam Review (Switch)

This port overall runs impressively in both handheld and docked modes although in handheld I've seen framerate stuttering. In docked you'll be seeing a full 1080p at 60 frames per second while in handheld you'll get 720p at 60 frames per second as well with some compromises in textures and the like along with the aforementioned stutters.

Sound and Visuals

The UI design featured in Disc Jam was very clean and had the same feel as the Rocket League UI in some ways with the sleek futuristic look. The character design, on the other hand, was subpar. The characters are easily distinguishable for the most part but they're quite generic. Without the skins that you can buy they would be even blander. The Unreal Engine graphics and lighting looks very good with them though, but the designs just don't resonate and aren't very memorable.

The animations flow well, and the way objects on the characters such as the ribbons flow in the wind is a nice touch, though the physics for this specific example may be a bit too crazy. The dozens of emotes you can earn are animated well on top of this which makes them enjoyable to use.

Shield Party - Disc Jam Review (Switch)
The music included is only a package of about 3 songs which get repetitive fast. They have a techno and high synergy feel to them, but when you only hear the same songs over and over it can get irritating.

CONCLUSION

Disc Jam is a great idea that still doesn't quite cut it in terms of content. With a dwindling online service and barely any stages, characters, and lacking singleplayer, the game ultimately is a shell of what it could be. It takes the classic Windjammers and gives it a sort of Rocket League feel and succeeds at this, although there is lots of room for improvement yet. The core gameplay is here, now we just need more intriguing content. Sure, the game is mainly based on online, but when the online isn't even that fleshed out and very difficult to find matches in, it isn't a very assuring package. The game continues to be supported and could fix these problems which is why I'm not lowering the score by much, but for now the game is mostly an excellent feat in multiplayer sports arcade gameplay and when the online works, it works extremely well.

PROSCONS
+ Simple, delightful gameplay– Limited online play service that's dwindling
+ Easy to pick up and learn– Lack of solo and offline options
+ Exhilarating multiplayer matches– Barely any characters and stages
+ Great online when you can find a match
7.1
Good

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