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Disc Room is full of alien mystery, and also discs and rooms

Disc Room
(Image credit: Devolver Digital)
GOTY 2020

goty 2020

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to our team-selected Game of the Year Awards 2020, individual members of the PC Gamer team each select one of their own favourite games of the year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside the main awards, throughout the rest of the month.

Disc Room is proof that having a cool idea for a videogame doesn't mean much on its own. What's the idea of Disc Room? Well, you're in a room, and it's full of discs. They're like sawblades and they bounce around, and if one of them touches you, you're dead. So, you've got to run around avoiding the discs. 

It's the brilliant execution that makes Disc Room at all interesting. And the creative disc avoidance tests would've been fun on their own, but the creators also spun the idea into a cool little interplanetary mystery that I still haven't solved.

I love that Disc Room doesn't explain itself. Not having a tutorial or being intentionally obtuse would be a valid complaint about a lot of games. Here, it brings me back to the '90s, when videogame mysteries were just mysteries until you solved them, or stumbled across a mention in a magazine, or found a very specific CompuServe message board post.

For example, there's a room in Disc Room where the clock that times your survival doesn't start. The room's got two bouncing sawblades in it, and you can avoid them for as long as you want, but the clock won't budge. The leaderboard shows that only one of my friends has a score in the room. Everyone else, like me, has recorded a time of 00:00. I have no idea how to start time, and I know I could look it up, but I don't want to. I like having that mystery unsolved and waiting. Like The Stanley Parable, which gives you an achievement if you don't play it for five years, I don't feel like I need to get everything I can out of Disc Room right away and then move on. I'll come back to it.

The intelligible parts of Disc Room, which is most of it, are also fun, and tough. There are all kinds of cruel disc types, little twists, such as arenas where you have to stand in the center for the timer to run, and special abilities to wish you were better at using.

And yet I never felt frustrated by Disc Room. Well, maybe a little, but not to any serious degree. There were tough rooms to clear (usually by achieving a certain survival time), but the conditions for unlocking more rooms never felt so unreachable that I felt stuck. It might've helped that there are granular difficulty options, so if I had wanted to, I could've lowered the progression barrier, or made the levels easier in a number of ways. I never did, but just having the option seemed to make me less prone to frustration.

I'm being a bit of a rascal here, because if you pick up the issue of PC Gamer magazine with our awards in it, you might see that I wrote about another game I reviewed this year, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. I've been caught: I liked them both and couldn't pick just one. 

Especially at this time of the year, Ori's a cozy sort of game that you could really sink into, and you don't have to play the first one to enjoy it. Disc Room is colder—there are no cute meerkat guys cheering you on—but I bet it'd be fun to stream in Discord and figure out with a friend. They're two tough, 2D games that are very different, but ended up being what I enjoyed most during this weird year, when big stuff like Cyberpunk 2077 failed to snag my imagination. 2020 was all about fiddly, detailed little drawings of ancient forests and sci-fi ruins for me.

Tyler has spent over 1,000 hours playing Rocket League, and slightly fewer nitpicking the PC Gamer style guide. His primary news beat is game stores: Steam, Epic, and whatever launcher squeezes into our taskbars next.