Power Disc Slam is the debut game of Chequered Cow Games and is exclusive to the 3DS. It’s an arcade sports game heavily inspired by Data East’s Windjammers, a game that upon release was met with little acclaim, yet has slowly become a cult classic.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Power Disc Slam is set in the sport of disc throwing. competitors on either side of the court throw a disc of ever increasing speeds at each other, hopefully throwing it past them into the point zones. It’s like tennis but cool. It’s a simple concept as old as the first video games, evolving from Pong, but thinking of it as just Pong would be doing it an injustice.
The gameplay is a 1 v 1 affair as you compete in gaining the highest points. Before you play the game you are invited to check out the tutorial, which I also advise. It’s not the best tutorial in the world, but it will give you the basic mechanics of the game. The first thing that will strike you about Power Disc Slam is how overly sensitive and imprecise the movement is. It feels completely off and takes a long time to get used to. While playing the game makes it more manageable, the game doesn’t give a good first impression.
In regards to the matches, the amount of points and time given can differ depending on the difficulty or competition, the general idea is to score as many points as you can in a game of multiple rounds, usually a best of three. You can score points in three different ways. You can get the most points by hitting the red colour zones at the backend of your opponents court. While that will give you five points, you can be satisfied with three by getting the disc into the yellow zones settled alongside the red. Lastly, you can get two points by allowing the disc to land on the ground in your opponents half, although I found this to be a rare occurrence as the opponent rarely fell for it.
Usually matches are fast pace affairs, leading to frenetic tense battles, in which it can be difficult to rack up points. It’s a difficult game, certainly and it mostly comes down to your movement and I’d say rather questionable hit detection. You see, catching a disc is done automatically, there’s no button input for you, all you need to do is to allow the disc to touch the front part your player. Easier said than done considering there’s little precision in your movements, you’re often terrified of moving at all because you know you’ll over run it.
It’s not helped at all by the dash mechanic. Normally if a disc is far away from you, you can press the A button to dash a long way to reach it. It’s a decent idea. Unfortunately, the A button is also for throwing. This becomes quite a serious problem by the fact that the quicker you throw the disc back, the more momentum it has. You often find yourself going to catch the disc and because you’re so eager to throw it back at full speed, you mash the A button too early and instead of throwing the disc, you end up throwing yourself way out with a dash. The X and Y buttons do nothing as far as I can tell, why couldn’t the dash be mapped to one of these?
In Power Disc Slam you have two types of throws, the fast simple throw with the A button or a lob with the B button. The simple throw is by far the most used as it’s the best way to score points, the lob is more of a cheeky shot that the opponent will rarely succumb to. As you might expect from a disc throwing sport you can put spin on your throws. You do this by ‘arching’ the circle pad when you throw. I’m not going to lie, I don’t quite get it. I found it really difficult to pull off consistently. It didn’t help that I found the tutorial rather unhelpful and not particularly well designed. In the end I didn’t use the spin very often, even though your opponents will use it consistently and often bamboozling you.
What I think Power Disc Slam does well in is its content. For a cheap game like this, there’s loads of content for a single player experience, although obviously they all are built around the idea of a disc throwing competition. There’s a standard arcade mode where you go through each of the other character in sequence until there are none left.
There’s a standard free-play mode, a knockout cup competition, six fun mini-games each with eight levels, survival mode is kind of like the arcade mode but you only go one round with an opponent, if you knock them then out another opponent will take over but the twist being that they will keep the points their predecessor accumulated although you start from zero again. Then of course there’s the online portion which you can either play with random people online, or your friends locally or over the net. Sadly there’s no download play, but this is still better than nothing. The fact that a small download game like this has more online options than Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash is definitely commendable.
Matching the character count, there are 8 courts to be played on, each of which has a different surface that alters how the game plays. Personally, I didn’t notice a huge difference between the courts aside from the locations of the points zones but it’s nice to have choice. The characters themselves feel quite different too so there’s quite a lot of options for you.
The graphics and animation are probably the least appealing part of the game, aside from the over sensitive control pad. I don’t expect much from a 3DS eShop game, but it is rather on the ugly end, especially the character models and poor animation. The sound design is pretty decent and the music suits the game pretty well although nothing special.
Overall it sounds like I’m complaining a lot, because Power Disc Slam does have a few too many flaws for its own good. Saying that, I did enjoy playing it and I found it rather addictive. The overly sensitive movement and an odd choice not to use all the buttons available did frustrate me often, but there is fun to be had here. There’s plenty of game modes and an online which can be fun with friends.
– Lots of content
– Can have some really tense matches
– Varied characters
– Movement just feels off and overly sensitive
– Questionable hit detection
– Poor models and animation