Laser Disco Defenders, by indie studio Out of Bounds and published by Excalibur Games, is a brand new Vita exclusive title. It’ll get a PS4 release later this year, but for now it’s a handheld exclusive. Here’s our review.
Thematically, the game mixes 70s disco (is there really any other kind) with a weird and cheesy sci-fi plot that serves as an excuse to produce a game featuring a whole lot of laser beams. There are four characters to choose from, and each of them can wear a wardrobe collection that is part disco, part sci-fi – for a neon-inspired look.
This makes the game look fun and somewhat casual, but the actual gameplay isn’t all that casual at all – this is in fact one of the more challenging Vita games we’ve ever played. The core mechanic of the game puts you inside a (randomly generated) level, which is a 2D space that’s completely enclosed by walls. This is never a square chamber, but rather a collection of oddly shaped rooms and corridors, where 90 degree angles between walls don’t seem to exist.
These oddly shaped “rooms”, if we can call them that, make combat interesting – since that’s where the lasers come in. Your task is to take out enemies and eventually defeat Lord Monotone (obviously an enemy of the disco groove), and you do this by firing lasers. Nothing new there, you’d say, but in laser disco defenders a laser beam keeps reflecting off the wall surfaces it encounters – until you end a level or die. Because of all the erratic angles, laser beams go everywhere, and soon they become a danger to both yourself and your adversaries.
The laser shooting and bouncing mechanic calls for a certain level of tactical thinking, because your rapid fire offensive might very soon backfire whereas taking it too slow might fill up the level with enemy lasers. It’s a lot of fun in the first few levels, but very soon the difficulty level ramps up and you’ll be forced to strategize carefully. Although difficult, this is also part of the fun, because you’ll find yourself thinking about your approach to a difficult level before hitting the restart button. Some levels might have hiding spots where you can go after firing a few lasers, hoping they’ll do the job before one of them ‘finds’ you, and others might seem insurmountable.
It’s these difficulty spikes where the game is in danger of becoming a frustrating affair, which is perhaps partly due to the fact that keeping a good overview of which lasers are where is hard on the Vita’s screen. When we said handheld exclusive earlier, we meant it – the game isn’t currently Playstation TV compatible, even though it feels like it’s a title that would profit from it.
Nevertheless, Laser Disco Defenders is a fun and frantic action title with strategic elements that is worth playing. It has an excellent audiovisual feel to it, and it’s fun to just pick up and play – as long as frustration doesn’t take the upper hand. Be prepared for a challenge, or be prepared to get frustrated.