‘Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact… same […] thing… over and over again expecting… shit to change… That. Is. Crazy.’
– Vaas, Far Cry 3
Time. Time is an incredibly valuable commodity and, unless you’re a Highlander, you have an extremely limited amount of it to spend on this rollercoaster we call life. So with that in mind I’m going to start this review a little differently.
Let me ask you a question – how much time can you dedicate to a videogame? Or more specifically how much time can you dedicate to a videogame doing the same thing again and again whilst feeling you’re getting nowhere fast? Before you have to take a step back and admit defeat? Admit you’ve been beaten?
You see this is a question I had to ask myself a few days into Laser Disco Defenders. I have spent hours and hours with this game this week and I have not beaten it. As far as I’m aware I’m not even close. In fact I have progressed no further than Cave 8 of the opening Crystal Caves level. It was at around this point I was starting to have this internal debate with myself. I had spent all in all the better part of a day repeating the same process over and over again and there came a point where, like Vaas, I felt I was going a little insane.
I am still bringing you the review, but please do not take this as a ‘definitive’ verdict. I can only review what I have played and due to the games unforgiving nature – that unfortunately doesn’t amount to much (For example I haven’t been able to play the game’s Endless Mode as I assume that’s unlocked upon completion of the game’s main story). However I still feel I can more than adequately talk about other aspects of the game such as aesthetic, controls and sound design. So please don’t take the final score too seriously, I will try to be as fair as possible with what I have experienced.
So get on your dancing shoes, you sexy little swine, and join me as we enter the orbit of Laser Disco defenders…
The first thing that hits you with LDD is its drop-dead gorgeous style. The art aesthetic that perfectly evokes the neon lit, fur draped disco decade that was the 70’s bursts forth with bombastic colours and vibrant sounds.
In LDD you play as a member of the Titular Laser Disco Defenders – A group of super groovy cats (not literally, that’s disco slang for ‘cool people’) whose mission is to take on the Evil Lord Monotone and defeat not only him, but also his terrible taste in music! There are four members of the LDD crew you can take control of and all of them offer something slightly different in play style. For example Mr Baker, the captain of the ship and lover of pink Afros, has the most amount of health but is the slowest of all the characters on offer. Whilst at the opposite end of the spectrum you have Liz – the energetic roller disco champion who handles the quickest out of them all but only starts with one hit point.
There are also some customisation options on offer. Whilst playing LDD you are issued challenges similar to that of Downwell or Jet Pack Joyride. Completion of these challenges will then reward the team with new equipment that can be swapped about until you find your optimum combination. For example the Chrome Suit allows you to shoot smaller lasers with quicker succession and, when equipped alongside the Visor, you are then also afforded pinpoint accuracy to compliment this skill.
And the lasers are really where the meat of the game lies and are also LDD’s main gimmick. You see each cavern you traverse is a small, claustrophobic, self-contained level. In low gravity you have to pilot whichever character you are controlling around the stage whilst avoiding hazards such as jagged crystal spikes and vicious laser spewing foes. And here’s the thing – every laser, be it one of your own or an enemies, remains in the stage. And regardless of whether the beam of death is yours or not it will do you damage! This is where you very quickly realise that the biggest threat in the game isn’t Monotone, but rather YOU! Shoot off too many neon strips and you will quickly find yourself encased in a cage of pure neon suffering!
So how does one cope in such a situation? Well the easy answer would simply be to shoot as accurately as possible whilst unloading as small a payload as possible. Sounds simple enough however in later caverns where you are being literally surrounded and bombarded with enemies (some of which take multiple shots to kill) sense often takes flight as you hold down the R button and shoot with all the grace and accuracy of Stallone behind a rail-gun.
It is in situations such as this where the huge difficulty spike can rear its ugly head. Two important issues also exacerbate this. Firstly – it can be a little tough keeping an eye in everything going on on the Vita’s small screen, not having played the PS4 version of LDD I cant say whether or not it remains a problem when playing on a larger screen. Secondly – whenever you get hit the camera tends to spasm. This can, and often will, disorientate you for a few seconds and will most likely kick off a chain reaction of you getting tagged with lasers and ending your game. This was how most of my games in the later stages of the Crystal Caves ended.
You see there was never a point in Laser Disco Defenders where the difficulty clicked with me. No point where, like the Souls games for instance, I suddenly realised how I was supposed adapting my play style and this became quite frustrating for me quite early on. The immediacy with which you can also get back into the game after dying is also lacking – you have to sit through two short loading screens and a results screen (even more if you want to change your load-out). This may not sound like a big deal, but one of the reasons why games like Super Meat Boy are so addicting is that you don’t have time to sit and reflect on your failings, you are back to the start of the level that is kicking your ass in an instant and back in the action.
There is a fun game here and like I have mentioned the music and visual aspects of the game are top notch. But after repeated sessions of seeing the game over screen, trying different characters, outfits and strategies all to no avail, Laser Disco Defenders eventually started to lose its appeal as it started to make me feel a way that no game ever should – that I was wasting my time.
Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?