Genre: Puzzle, Board Game, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer|Publisher: Black Zeppelin Studio | Conceptsleutelaars
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £7.19 | EU € 7,99 | AUD $12.00 | USD $7.99| CAD $ NA
Release Date: 14th May 2020
Review code used with many thanks to Conceptsleutelaars.
Xs and Os
Noughts and crosses (or known as tic-tac-toe in some places) has always been that easy go-to game to play with a friend so long as you have a pencil and a surface to write on. From boring lessons in the classroom to hospital waiting areas, it’s always been there in the background as that sort of last-resort game to help relieve the pain of boredom, for approximately 32 seconds. It’s a classic, for sure, with no more than four lines, two players, and possibly the creation of a wonderful memory between you two or the start of a friendship or romance, if only.
But video games are here to show us that you can always put a spin on even the most basic of formulas. So here we have Discmaster, its naughts and crosses with a few tweaks and a massive makeover. Let’s review.
Well, this is a first in my reviewing career. The game opens with the Switch trailer which you can find online or on the eShop. It even has the infamous Switch clicking logo at the start. I guess the trailer shows you what you’re in for and acts somewhat as a tutorial. I was left more confused than anything, though. You’re then dumped into the main menu to decide whether to play the single-player campaign or couch multiplayer.
In single player, your task is to save your best buddy Nubby from the evil Shadow Master. The only way to do this, of course, is to play multiple games of super noughts and crosses with various computer opponents rather than talking things through, seeing each other’s side of the story, and coming to some understanding. I guess it makes a change from violence or throwing cards at people.
Super naughts and crosses
So when I say super noughts and crosses, let me explain in a little more depth. You and your opponent place discs on the 3-by-3 board and try to achieve three in a row. Each disc you play may have an attack or defend symbol in one or multiple directions, enabling you to get the edge over your opponent.
Sword symbols have the capability of taking opponent discs out of play. Defend symbols defend from attacks. Since these actions usually only work in one of four directions, you can still take these discs out of play if you attack one of the disc’s vulnerable sides.
Each player starts only with two discs, and one is added randomly each turn, so sometimes you are placing discs on the board, hoping and praying your opponent doesn’t randomly draw a disc that will turn the tables. It all adds a bit more spice to the traditional formula. Failing one round, however, is not the end of the world as you and your foe have hearts which decrease per loss. The first to zero hearts is the loser. The computer’s health increases the further you get into the game.
In single player or multiplayer, you get to choose from three disc sets: warrior-looking dogs, ninja-looking cats and Harry Potter-like pigs. Each set carries favourable perks that may work better against certain opponents. Like attacking diagonally, for example. Unfortunately these are the only disc sets you can play in the game. In single player, you come up against a wide array of characters and disc sets with interesting, unique, and frankly better perks. Absolutely none of these are unlockable, which seems like quite the wasted opportunity.
These are not Pogs
The graphics are decent. Everything is all hand-drawn nicely with a good use of colour. Your discs contain a variety of interesting characters. The characters also exchange witty dialogue before you inevitably do battle. The disc characters also make random odd noises when placed or get taken out of play, all while a pleasant melody plays in the background. It’s fine but I mostly enjoyed this game in handheld mode with no sound.
Stick with the Joy-Cons
The game controls fine with the buttons and stick of the Joy-Cons. It does allow for touch controls, but these felt very finicky. It wasn’t clear when I had selected a disc and when I could place it with touch controls. So I preferred the buttons as they assured more certainty, especially when one wrong move could easily cost you the match. In TV mode, I was disappointed that this game doesn’t support the Pro Controller. It only works with Joy-Cons, which seems very bizarre.
Lacking reasons to return
The solo campaign will keep you distracted for a few hours.
The game uses chests instead of stars for ratings—to try be different, I guess, from the typical mobile model we are used to seeing in games. Unfortunately you can’t obtain all the chests playing a level once; you have to play them multiple times in order to accumulate more chests to progress further. This design is a bit tedious, and I would have just preferred more levels as opposed to constant repetition.
This game really just does the bare minimum, trying to rely on you coming back for the multiplayer mode—which is fine, but with only three disc sets to choose from, it wears out quite quickly. If the game added more basic content like an arcade mode for single player and more disc sets to play with, it would give more reasons to return.
Get the paper out
Discmaster is OK. But there is just not enough content here to justify the price tag. It’s a fun enough game to play through. Who would have thought you could make the game of noughts and crosses more interesting? Maybe worth a try on sale. But sometimes it’s perfectly OK to put the Switch down and grab a random scrap of paper and play best-of-10 or more games of noughts and crosses with some random person at the bus stop. It’s cheaper and might make for a fun story, and you could save that bit of paper in your journal as a nice memento.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure