Do or die trying. It’s a an old adage that video games make a mockery of with the ability to respawn and try again. Disc Room takes that to an extreme. It’s not so much do or die trying, it’s do and die trying.
In the far flung future, a mysterious alien thingamy has appeared in space, with a handful of scientists sent to investigate. What they find is the sci-if equivalent of a lumberjack yard haunted by malevolent poltergeists.
Each room is home to spinning buzzsaws that float around in the vague hope that they will be the lucky one to cut you in half. This is a bullet hell of a puzzle game that will have you frantically trying to skirt past these flying serrated discs, while also trying to meet the conditions to unlock the next room.
Many room unlocks boil down to needing to stay alive for a certain period of time, but how time is defined depends on the room and the zone that you’re in. It could simply be dodging a few slow-moving discs for five seconds, or you might need to stand in a particular area, or weirder still, collect increments of time. Then there’s the cumulative requirements that spread across multiple rooms and will likely see you having to revisit and try to improve you previous best run.
Some rooms will need you to die. A lot. You’ll die anyway at the end of each and every attempt – such is the nature of this hellish game world – but some room requirements need you to die in particular ways. It can become quite gruesome at times…
Dodging discs initially seems quite easy, but there are dozens of different types of disc in Disc Room. Some are big, some are small, they can be slow or fast, they can spawn other discs, change direction or speed in somewhat unpredictable fashion, phase in and out of existence… You never quite know what to expect as you step into a new room, let alone a new zone, where the fundamental rules of time are liable to change along with the environments.
Along the way, you’ll start to pick up a handful of new abilities, starting with a dash that lets you skip past and through discs coming your way, and getting much more esoteric from there. You can use any unlocked ability in any room, and picking the right ability can have a big part to play in helping you overcome the challenge in front of you. The game doesn’t do a great job of explaining how they really work though, and it can be a touch frustrating when they seem not to be working, leaving you to try again and again and again while figuring things out.
The game is relatively short, meaning that the difficulty ramps up quickly as you get deeper into the maze. The first few levels can be beaten in a handful of attempts, but later on, as I’m trying to complete zone-wide time challenges I found myself butting my head against brick walls for go after go after go. That’s part of the appeal, but if it does prove to be too much to defeat, you can also modify the game’s difficulty, tuning the speed of the game, the disc movement, the room requirements, and even just unlocking all of the doors. Some will be sniffy that this doesn’t “count”, but still will allow people to experience more of the game.
There’s also plenty of replay options. Built into every single room is its own leaderboard, initially challenging you to beat the best dev time, but once the game is released, inviting you to go up against the best in the community. The replay value is twisted further by a set of eight challenges that task you with beating the game in under 15 minutes, fewer than 30 deaths, at higher game speed, and more fiendish demands, which are sure to tax completionists and speedrunners alike. For the rest of us, I’m sure that one blast through the game will be enough.