Death in video games come in many forms, but the common consensus is that death is bad, obviously. In Dark Souls, you lose your hard-earned currency. In Super Mario 64, you have to retry the level again. Yet, what happens when you play a game that encourages death? Why, it feels quite invigorating. It feels like freedom. Disc Room is a breath of fresh air, because even though you'll die many times in this simple-yet-brutal indie, I never felt discouraged to pick myself up and try again.
Deadly Saws in Disc Room
Don't let Disc Room's simple visuals discourage you—it would be a disservice to this game. Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about the style, but it has a lot of charm to it and definitely grows on you. Disc Room feels like a very, very high quality flash game with its visual style. I mean this in the best way possible, as many flash titles opted for simple visuals, resulting in a clear, readable game. Disc Room is quite chaotic with many different things happening on the screen, so I'm thankful that the style is simple, slick, colorful, yet effective.
The music is also a surprise. Like the art, it didn't take me by first. I soon began to realize that the arcade-like music served as a perfect backdrop from the fast-paced gameplay. If you take time to listen to the music rather than focus on the action, you'll find yourself appreciating Disc Room even more. While Disc Room doesn't offer many cutscenes or, really, any substantial plot, this title presents itself very well both in its visuals and audio.
As for the gameplay, it's straightforward. You're a little scientist man that's arrived on some strange facility, and soon you find that it's quite perilous. In fact, every room you encounter has a defense mechanism. This mechanism is a bunch of discs—genuinely deadly ones, at that. From the start, you can see the map of this scientific complex. Rooms are locked, so players need to achieve certain objectives in each room to proceed in a certain direction. Very often, the objective is transparent: survive for a select number of seconds.
If you love collecting Pokémon, you'll be glad to hear you can fill up a catalog of discs as well. Disc Room features 64 different discs to die by, and you're going to want to be killed by each of them at least a few times. You know, just for fun.
Each room is different, with new discs to encounter. There's dozens of different rooms as well as dozens more discs, making Disc Room feel like a game with so much variety. There's discs that shoot out other, smaller discs. There's ones that patrol the perimeter of the room. In other areas, there's discs that are more like living organisms, where players have to pick up pellets to destroy them.
Disc Room's developers are a clever lot, finding so many ways to make an ordinarily boring disc into something much more.
Some of these rooms' objectives require that you die to different types of discs, hence how Disc Room encourages death. There's even a compendium of the different types that showing stats of how many of a certain type of disc you've encountered or died to—this also happens to be my favorite part of the game. I found myself running to my death intentionally many times over, just so I could fill up this log. Another clever move by the developers, because it doesn't feel like any death is wasted.
Disc Room's Powers and Difficulty
It's a funny thing, because Disc Room's premise is so simple, yet the game itself can be quite difficult. The difficulty curve is very fair, however, and as you venture further into the complex, the challenges ramp up, but so does your arsenal of abilities. Yes, at its core, Disc Room's gameplay is a top-down indie where you run around, avoiding deadly obstacles. Your arsenal of abilities takes it to the next level.
Progressing and dying to certain discs in this title will allow you to unlock various powers, ranging from a time-slowing power to making clones of yourself. Others include a dash allowing you to move through discs, a burst that disperses discs away from you, the ability to absorb discs, and more. While you'll probably end up sticking to one or two abilities most of the time (I preferred slowing time and the clone ability) I found that no ability goes wasted.
If I got stuck in a room, I'd move on and try to go a different route in the complex. I'd unlock a power and find that this new ability is perfect for combating the behavior of discs in a specific room.
Disc Room feels a bit like a Metroidvania in this regard, where coming back later with a new power allowed me to overcome a previously difficult obstacle. I didn't expect this amount of depth with Disc Room, but it turns out to be another pleasant surprise.
Another great little aspect of Disc Room is that there are different sections of the deadly maze of rooms. You start out in a pretty simple area—it just seems like your typical sci-fi space station. As you progress, you'll come across sections that call for different strategies. One is very dark and obscures most of your vision, with the exception of a handy spotlight effect that gives you some vision of these rooms. Another is a fleshy, organic environment. The floor is sandy and desert-like, and a monster pops up every few seconds to try and eat you while players also contend with various saws. All of these rooms really help keep the gameplay from feeling stale and also sequentially increase the challenge.
Disc Room also features bosses called "gatekeepers," but the ultimate goal is to make it to the end of the complex. I won't go into spoilers, but after beating Disc Room you unlock Hard Mode. Now players go through the facility in reverse, and have to tackle even harder rooms. These rooms resemble those you went through on the base difficulty, but there's more discs. It doesn't sound like much, but Hard Mode is a fantastic addition to Disc Room and it feels insanely hard in the best way possible. It's very satisfying to tackle the rooms in this difficulty since they really do put your skills to the test.
Disc Room | Final Thoughts
Really, I only have one complaint about Disc Room. Sometimes, it's unclear how to proceed. While most of Disc Room's instructions are clear and straightforward (mostly comprising surviving a set amount of time), there are a few select rooms have objectives that are a bit more confusing. My progress stalled or I outright never accessed a few optional rooms because I didn't understand how to accomplish an objective.
This is a little frustrating as Disc Room is one game I feel compelled to 100 percent. One room's objective was to "????? the ?????" which is super ambiguous. There's some rooms that also show you how many disc types there are, and a few remain incomplete because it seems impossible for me to get a new disc to appear. Otherwise, it's hard to put Disc Room at fault since the answer to accessing the hidden rooms and finding missing discs might be more obvious than I think.
All in all, Disc Room is a brief but very satisfying package. The developers set out to make a game about avoiding discs and dying a lot, and it's executed near perfectly. Sometimes, you feel like you waste time in games by dying so much, but I didn't feel that way with Disc Room. With each room being different and filling my compendium of deadly saw-like discs, every death was worth it. Disc Room is just such a satisfying package, and despite it's difficulty, I was glad to find that there was no frustration with my failure. Difficult games don't get much better than this.
TechRaptor reviewed Disc Room on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch and the Epic Games Store.
- Art and Music Complement the Gameplay Well
- Discs and the Disc Catalog
- Abilities Are Fun and Useful
- Fair Difficulty
- A Few Instructions Can Be Unclear