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May 2022

Laser Disco Defenders

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action
Publisher: Excalibur Publishing
Developer: Out of Bounds Games
Release Date: Oct. 6, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Laser Disco Defenders'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 21, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Laser Disco Defenders is a high-impact, twin-stick shooter where every shot fired ricochets inside the environment to damage you and your enemies.

Buy Laser Disco Defenders

Twin-stick shooters are often easy to grasp. One stick moves, and the other fires in whatever direction you're pointing. Some just use the right stick for aiming while a shoulder button does the actual firing, but that's about as complex as it gets. Twin-stick shooters are also not known for displaying finesse. Get your hands on these shooters, and you'll likely spend your time indiscriminately firing in all directions at all times. Even if you have limited ammo caches, you'll still want to pepper the area with bullets since it is usually easy to find more ammo stashes nearby. Laser Disco Defenders aims to change this mentality in twin-stick shooters, and it does so with very enjoyable results.

You play one of four members of the titular Laser Disco Defenders. Your mission is to get back the 78th wonder of the universe, a mirrored moon that is powerful enough to transmit songs all over the galaxy. It was stolen by Lord Monotone, a musician who was rejected from a contest, so he could broadcast his music using the moon. Truthfully, the game doesn't pay much attention to the story, as beyond the introduction, only the relevant cut scenes are viewable in the Extras menu after they're unlocked. What you have here works well enough, even if you don't need it to enjoy the game.

Using your jetpack, you traverse approximately 15 randomly generated levels and destroy every enemy you can find, so you can open up a warp gate to escape and get one step closer to Lord Monotone. You can fire in any direction with unlimited ammo, and even though you only have one life, you can take a few hits before you expire. There are no checkpoints, however, so every run must be done from the first stage.

Laser Disco Defenders throws in a few things to complement the shooting. You can pick up power-ups that work for a limited time, such as the ability to freeze time while aiming or creating a solid beam sword instead of firing shots at enemies. Those power-ups can be activated at any time, so you aren't forced to use them at inconvenient times, such as when a place has already been cleared of enemies. Also, you have four characters to choose from, each of which differs only in two categories: health and speed. Picking someone with lots of health means you won't be able to move around that quickly and vice versa, so your strategy can change accordingly.

The big hook is from the lasers that you shoot. For starters, they don't disintegrate once they hit an enemy, so one well-placed shot can take out more than a few people in its path. Second, the lasers bounce. Hitting a wall means that a laser changes its trajectory, and while it may not be as fast as it was initially, it still remains just as potent. Enemy lasers behave in exactly the same manner, and with the lasers never expiring until you leave a level, you can effectively fill a level with shots from yourself and foes that don't care who they hit.

This one change makes a world of difference in practice. Mindless, relentless shooting is a sure-fire way to get yourself killed, as the world would be filled with enough lasers to make escape impossible. You want to go for a minimalist approach, tossing a few lasers in a direction or hoping that the endless bouncing will catch an enemy at an angle. That element of luck or skill, depending on your approach, makes combat feel satisfying, while the same can be said of deftly avoiding lasers headed your way. It feels like a real change that is satisfying but not as restrictive as expected.

Aside from the randomly generated levels, Laser Disco Defenders entices you to play with various mini-missions throughout the game, much like what you'd see in some mobile titles. You get three missions to complete every time you play. Some are cumulative, such as taking out a certain number of laser mines. Others rely on match results, such as surviving a certain number of rounds in a row without getting hit. Completing each of these challenges gives you access to new outfit parts that are good for every character, such as triple-spread guns or the ability to gaining more points per enemy kill. There's nothing out of the ordinary here, but the changes are enough to keep things exciting if you're willing to mix things up.

There are only a few things here that could have been executed better. The enemy variety isn't there, as you'll see all there is to see by the time you reach the fifth stage. Beyond the story, there's not much else on offer except for Endless mode and leaderboards. It also would've been nice if the characters varied more in stats beyond speed and health.

From a presentation standpoint, what you have here works and doesn't go out of its way to stress any part of your system. The graphics are fine, and while the colors are muted in places, it doesn't hide the lasers being fired, so you won't get hit by phantom shots. Animations are also fine, although the art style doesn't lend itself to fretting about details. The sound effects are good, and there isn't anything to complain about with voices, since they're all relegated to mumbling. The music is excellent, as it takes on that 1970s disco and funk vibe without sounding like it is making fun of the era. It comes off as more of a celebration that you wouldn't mind listening to in-game.

Laser Disco Defenders plays like a good arcade game with some hidden depth. The bouncing lasers alone change the game's approach from a mindless shooter to one that requires some real thought in planning your attack. The randomly generated levels and bonus equipment help, and the presentation is nice, but it is really that one change that sells the game outright. Laser Disco Defenders may be a game that you can tackle in an afternoon, but you will want to revisit it often.

Score: 8.0/10

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