The big problem with death is that it’s an irreversible condition. It only takes one tiny little decapitation for that to be it, no more anything ever for the person on the receiving end. Technically sure, there’s a bit of hang-time where a stopped body can be revived, but when a jagged circle of sharp and pointy metal rips various bits of important organ-meat right out of the torso, that’s pretty much the end of the line. Full stop, no take-backs no changies, dead dead dead. Unless you’re a researcher on an alien vessel, in which case yes, it’s still squishy bleedy death, but only of the temporary kind.
Disc Room is a dodge-em-up arcade game about avoiding, as the name directly states, discs. The comic-book-like story takes place on a giant mysterious saucer that’s popped up in Jupiter’s orbit, so being the inquisitive species we are we dispatch a group of scientists to check it out. Whatever it was that sent the spaceship has a fairly severe disc fetish, as evidenced not just by the shape of the craft but also the thousands and thousands of sawblades patrolling its rooms. Solving the ship’s mysteries isn’t about survival so much as perseveranc, and in fact there’s no way to avoid frequent deaths. Each room is an arena that locks its doors permanently so long as anything inside is alive, so the only way out is by dying. But it only works with the right death.
The standard unlock is by time; survive X number of seconds and a door is bound to open. Most rooms have more than the single door, though, and these are going to take a little more creativity to open up. On death there’s a checklist at the left of the screen showing how long you survived and the objectives to open each door. Some rooms want you to die to a certain number of different discs, others require survival for a certain period of time in a number of different rooms, etc. Exploring an entire floor requires a whole lot of dodging and knowing just when to die, and that’s especially true when it comes to earning new powers.
The scientist starts off only able to run about, staying out of the way as best possible but being utterly defenseless from even the slightest misjudgement. There are new discs constantly spawning in the arena, making the initial open arena much more crowded with every passing second. Sawblades patrol the walls, others drift across the floor, some split into smaller pieces while others have a slowing aura around them, giant ones take up far too much space and one of the early ones even revs up a dash move. Dying to this disc is actually fairly important, because it gives the scientist its ability and all of a sudden a crowded room is a little more survivable. The dash not only covers ground quickly but also give a second of invulnerability, which never sounds like much until it’s exactly as much as you need. As the rooms go by new abilities become available if you can find the right disc to die to, such as cloning or time warp. There’s a lot still in development, though, so it’s a bit too early to give a proper catalog of abilities to come.
What Disc Room is going to be, though, is a simple idea stretched out in as many different directions as possible. The basics are as simple as “don’t get hit,” but beyond that the sky’s the limit. Each sawblade has its own behavior and when several of them get together it’s basically an un-survivable bullet hell. That’s all part of the design, though, because if death is inevitable then it should at least have the potential to be rewarding. Every once in a while that reward is a new power, but for the most part it’s the opportunity to attempt to survive all over again under circumstances that are just a little more dangerous than the last. It’s the kind of simplicity that’s only simple for a short while before getting completely out of hand in the very best way.