Disc Jam is very straightforward at first glance. It's an explosive game of frisbee, where up to four players can take to a digital court and try and outmanoeuvre each other, scoring points as they throw the titular disc back and forth in search of match-winning points. To be honest, it doesn't get much more complicated than that, but mix in some different throw types and a handful of nuanced controls, and you've got a game ideally suited for local play, and one that's not too shabby when taken online either.
It's one of those "easy to play, hard to master" type games, cut from a similar cloth as Rocket League, although perhaps more akin to air hockey or even tennis in terms of execution. We played friends and strangers, online and off, and for the most part it was an entertaining experience that grew in challenge and complexity as we played more competent opposition, and as we got more comfortable with the controls. It's also one of those games that'll have potty-mouthed players screaming obscenities at the screen from time to time, but our own expletive-filled moments were nearly always down to personal ineptitude, when our fingers couldn't keep pace with our brains, or when we missed a painfully simple catch.
It starts off with a two-part tutorial that reveals the moves that you'll be using when playing competitively. This is also the first opportunity to check out the visuals. The court is simple and effectively realised, and the animations of the characters are competently done. It won't win any awards for visual design, but it does the job. There aren't a huge number of characters to choose from (for the most part we went with the one that looked like a young Danny Trejo), and presumably fresh faces, and things like additional and/or themed costumes, will be added later as DLC for players to either earn as they play or buy with cash. There are various customisation-focused unlocks that you can earn by spending points earned in-game, and we see plenty of potential to expand on this part of the game with cool gear for players to work towards.
Movement around the court is, again, competently done. Each character differs in terms of speed and throw strength, however not all of them feel perfectly balanced against each other (of course, that could just be general crapness on our part). It's easy enough to guide them around, but perhaps they could have moved a touch more fluently. Each character can slide as well as run, and you'll need to be quick on your feet to catch the disc in certain situations. Cleverly rebounding it off of the walls can make it almost impossible for your opponent to return it, and it's not just a case of reacting quickly; sometimes you'll need to preempt your opponent's move if you're going to keep the rally going or win the point.
As and when the disc comes to you it's important to return it as quickly as possible. The longer you hold onto it, the less points you'll get should you win with the subsequent throw. The standard is first person to 50 wins the round, and you'll usually earn between seven and ten points for a winning a single play. When trying to score the idea is to either hit the back of the opposite side of the court, or land the disc on the floor. When trying to catch the disc and send it back you'll frequently tap a button too early; this pulls up a shield that deflects the disc away from you, usually costing you the points. When the disc does hit the floor or back wall, there's a little explosion, and if you're too close to it the blast will send you flying. The ragdoll physics that follow these explosive moments are most certainly the cherry on the cake. If anything, this is something that could have been expanded further.
There are a bunch of ways that you can throw the disc; you can chuck it straight in front of you or aim it diagonally, you can add some curve, you can lob it for a cheeky change of pace (although if you get under a lobbed throw and time your return just right, you can play an near-unstoppable reply that zigzags across the court), or if you're playing near the net you can even use the shield to nudge the disc back into the other half of the court without even catching it. When players are evenly matched and can switch between throw-types with ease, matches quickly get intense.
You can play either single-player matches or double up with a friend and take on another pair. However, beyond that there's not much more to it at the moment, and this results in Disc Jam feeling a little one dimensional at launch. No doubt the plan is to add more courts, more characters, and more modes to the game now that it's out in the wild, and High Horse certainly needs to do that if they're going keep the game alive beyond the first couple of months. This is a solid start, make no mistake, but if this is going to follow in the footsteps (or should that be tire marks?) of Rocket League and be the next go-to competitive game on PC and PSN, there's work to be done to flesh out the basic offering and thus give players more reasons to return to the court beyond those first few matches.