“Why would you do that?!” I said repeatedly more times than I could count during my time with Disc Room. Why would the various rooms full of saw blades taunt me so? Why would a certain disc bounce this way and not that way? Why would it cut my little space man to bits just sheer 1000ths of a second before the goal which would have opened the next door? Devolver Digital’s Disc Room is mean, cruel, and vicious… but I have to admit, it’s got a heartpounding pace that makes my adrenaline go wild and gets me wanting to thwart its dastardly intentions at every possible turn, if even for fractions of seconds before it gets me again.
A wild world of disrespectful discs
Disc Room comes to us from the creative minds behind High Hell and Minit, and it feels similar to the latter in a few ways. Disc Room is sort of another bite-sized experience in terms of your interactivity with a given area. The story is simple: A giant disc ship has appeared in orbit over Jupiter. You are a scientist off to explore the mysteries of said ship. You quickly find that the ship is an array of Smash TV-style rooms filled with increasingly complex spinning discs. Doors sit on various sides of the room and the only way to open them is to meet each door's individual goals, such as surviving a certain amount of time. Of course, you must also die to open the door. And oh, how you will do that a lot.
You see, the only way to end a session once you’ve completed a goal is to be shredded by any one of the game’s nefarious saw-toothed slaughter circles. It only takes one hit (barring a certain ability later), so moving around the room until you’ve met your goal is imperative. After that, it’s all about seeing how long you can last for bragging rights if you want. The way to keep moving forward is to survive the specialized goals of every closed door in each room and reach special guardians with unique requirements to get rid of them. Make it to the end, and you’ll have defeated Disc Room. Easier said than done. Then you can start over and challenge yourself to unlock 100% of the ship or take on specialized challenges.
Disc Room is absolute simplicity. Survive long enough, die, move forward if you did the first for long enough or in a particular way. Disc Room needs you to die so much that there are even door objectives specifically based on how many types of discs have killed you (more on that in a bit). It doesn’t demand much thought, but it will absolutely test your reflexes because each room has the propensity to become a bullet hell of various saw blades quickly. You died early? Just start again, over and over, infinitely. In that way Disc Room is compelling and addicting in its challenge. It’s also highly upsetting when a goal eludes your disc-ripped flesh within a breath of achievement.
Death on discount
There’s sort of a duality to Disc Room. As you clear a door’s objective, they will open up, allowing you to venture forth. You don’t have to clear every room to defeat a playthrough. So, if you wanted to, you could 100% the whole station and clear every room or just do the bare amount to get to the last room as fast as possible. Disc Room has no real form of combat on your part. As you go through rooms, you’ll find unique discs in each one that do different things. One might simply bounce wall to wall. Another might explode into smaller bouncing discs. Yet another might jump forward through the room a bit, then stop, then jump forward again. Others might actually home in on you. There are a ton of different discs and surviving long enough to be killed by every single one of them is actually a challenge because some might not show up till you’ve survived a certain amount of time or might demand certain requirements to appear at all.
There are collectible abilities that will allow you to do neat tricks, but they’re also solely about survival. Dash will project you forward rapidly and let you pass safely through discs for a moment. Time Slow will let you project a shrinking circle that drags any discs caught in it to a crawl. Clone will let you shed a second of survival time to spawn a fellow space man so you don’t lose instantly if one of them gets shredded. I found one crucial ability frustrating. Mirror lets you teleport to the equal opposite of the room from your current position, but I found if I was too close to a wall, sometimes I wouldn’t teleport leading to many an angry death. Otherwise, each new power adds an interesting wrinkle to survival in the game. You can only equip one ability per room, so it makes it a little fun to choose to choose which one you think will work best per situation.
There are also “bosses” in Disc Room in the form of Guardians. These big spinning, wheels of death are absolute butts, but they’re also the only discs you sort of “fight.” They all have a defeat condition that will allow you to destroy them and move forward, usually in the form of picking up orbs they drop which make them explode. Every single one of the Guardian discs are increasingly difficult jerks. For instance, one forces you to try to linger in a center ring to kill a countdown timer while it spews little discs at you. Touch it or the little discs and you’re donezo. Start over. That said, the fiendishness of these machinations made watching them explode when I defeated their awful conditions all the sweeter.
Disc Room wants to cut you in so many ways. It wants to chew you up, dismantle you, and make you say a swear or 50 creatively woven into the same sentence. It’s bullet hell without the regular therapy of being able to return fire. But for all of those aspects, it's also horribly addicting. The ease of picking up where you left off and trying your darndest to survive just a little bit longer to unlock a room left me putting down my controller, rubbing my head, and then often picking it up to say, “this will be the time I get it. This time.” It’s not a ridiculously long or complex romp. But it also doesn’t really need to be. It knows what it wants to be. It wants to be your murderer. And the only way you’re going to thwart it is by surviving just long enough to open its next doors and beat its myriad of challenges.
This review is based on a digital Steam copy provided by the publisher. Disc Room launches on October 22, 2020 on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
- Simple, messy survival
- Easy to pick up and play
- So many discs (so many)
- Victory is absolutely sweet
- Specialized challenges following completion
- A bit on the short side
- So many discs (So. Many.)
- Abilities sometimes glitch, leading to angry death
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Disc Room review: The sheer discrespect of it all!
hmmm this looks kind of fun