Is there a name for the subgenre of games divided into little levels where you try to die to a seemingly impossible challenge, instantly retry with a button press, die, then retry and die over and over until you nail it and feel like an absolute champion ? Disc Room is one of those games, and it's a good one. First released in 2020, it hit Game Pass this week, inviting more folks to dodge through a giant alien spaceship filled with buzzsaws. I certainly recommend having a go and discovering what your insides look like.
You play a cute little explorer venturing into a vast alien disc which appears near Jupiter in the future (nicely, it's coded to always take place 69 years from now). Turns out, this disc is filled with more discs, little and big jagged spinning disc which crave your blood. Each level is a small room where you simply have to survive as buzzsaws bounce and whirr around. See a disc coming? Just move. Easy.
You'll start out with simple objectives like surviving for 10 seconds in a room while a few blades bumble and bounce around. This quickly escalates with murderous new types of saws. Saws which meander. Saws which charge at you. Saws with slowing auras. Saws which spawn more saws. Boss battle saws. Round arrangements of teeth which oh no those aren't sawteeth at all. Alternate abilities unlock across the way, movement tools and other tricks to help face new challenges or give a new approach to old news. Objectives shift too, introducing new conditions and challenges to unlock new rooms in the labyrinth of disc rooms. It's a pleasing way to spread, usually offering several paths to new places if one particular room is too challenging right now. Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get it later.
In this yet-unnamed subgenre, Disc Room is a good'un. Start, the, restart, the, restart, the, restart, triumph. A single button press takes you right back in, ready to build on something you've learned about that particular challenge, or to flex your growing familiarity and confidence. Often, sure, I could try a different room to make progress, but I'd be so locked into the cycle of death and rebirth that I'd fixate until it was finally mine. It's good when a game kills me and my response is not frustration but an instant "Okay THIS TIME I'll beat you."
Disc Room is fast and deadly but it does want you to win. When teeth draw near to your skin, time slows just a smidge to encourage heroic escapes. And a generous difficulty settings menu lets you tune Disc Room by making objectives easier, slowing saws, adding indicators for spawning blades, and so on. If you want or need such settings to get you to the end, go wild, Disc Room doesn't judge. Or you can crank the game speed up, if you'd rather. Hey, it's your blood.
I know fast and deadly arcade buzzsaw violence is a tough sell for some, but that makes Disc Room a great fit for Game Pass. Give it a go and find no shame in tuning the difficulty settings if you must. When the dodges flow from your fingertips without thought, and you see trajectories and space rather than blades, that's the good stuff.
Published by Devolver Digital, Disc Room is made by the team of Terri Vellmann (Sludge Life, Heavy Bullets), musicman Doseone (pretty much every great Devolver game soundtrack), Jan Willem Nijman (Minit, and formerly one half of Vlambeer), and Kitty Calis (Minit).
For another opinion, see our Disc Room review from when it launched new at £12. Brendy said, "Disc Room might be readily slept on, but if you are the kind of tough game obsessive, a connoisseur of arcade death, or a bullet hellion who cannot resist the call to mastery, these rooms should be approached wakeful and willing and ready to die."