In recent years, a wave of cyberpunk games has entered the market and it can be difficult to tell the bad from the good. Disjunction is a game that aims to give a new twist to the genre, combining stealth action with RPG and pixel art. But does it hold up? Here’s our review of Ape Tribe Games’ first game, Disjunction.
Disjunction takes place in a futuristic version of New York. This is your typical cyberpunk setup. Criminal gangs, drug epidemics, and violence are rampant and three characters are connected in the midst of it all.
The game features the first playable character, Frank, with a phone call (or terminal). I’m a huge fan of games that let you paint a picture of the protagonists through the gameplay and what people are saying, rather than giving you a ton of backstory at the start. Little things like seeing characters call each other by nicknames can instantly tell you that they’re friends, for example, without needing to say so.
However, the way this can be worded is sometimes a bit awkward. With three characters who all know people and have their own goals in a world full of complexities, the dialogue feels a bit steep at times. When the characters let go of a lot of information, it can sometimes seem artificial. The game tries to help you though. Important people, places, and businesses are highlighted in orange, which you can mouse over for more information if you need to, and that helps smooth it out.
Graphics and Polish
When I first booted up the game and saw the main menu art, I immediately thought to myself “Dude, this is gonna be good!” From the first cutscene, I was already fascinated by the quality of the art.
Disjunction’s gameplay revolves around stealthy levels that can be in any number of locations, from warehouses to posh apartments, and art is always available. The detailed pixel art mixes with radiant light effects to create a stunning aesthetic that really sells the cyberpunk vibe. Pixel art also successfully conveys potential dangers in levels with warning animations on traps and vision cones on enemies (although these can suddenly widen depending on the angles, which may seem like strange and surprise you sometimes).
The disjunction is also a very neat game. I only saw a minor bug (where alerted enemies can get stuck in walls), but otherwise the game was very smooth.
Disjunction uses a system in which you move a sprite of your player character around the screen with the arrow keys. Your mouse moves the camera so you can see farther in one direction than a locked camera. It was shocking to me at first, but as soon as I got into the stealth gameplay, I immediately felt at home. This control scheme is at the heart of the game’s stealth mechanics, and it integrates very well, allowing you to safely spot and plan your approach, which you absolutely must put to good use.
Disjunction’s game loop revolves around stealth levels. You have to go from one side of a level to the other (usually over several floors) to get information, or find someone at the end. You can choose to be totally stealthy, all flaming weapons, or a bit of both, but whatever approach you take, you still need to watch and plan because you have limited resources to use.
Each character has a weapon; ammo is limited but you can earn more by collecting pickups dropped by enemies. However, shoot when there are multiple enemies around and you will be heard, so this is not always a viable option.
This is where abilities come in. Each character has three abilities and one passive to help you on your missions. These each cost energy to use, and you only have so much to burn, so you have to think about using them wisely (although you can find mics to keep them cool as well). These abilities vary from stun and smoke grenades to invisibility, health regeneration, and dashes depending on the character. Each protagonist has a unique playstyle encouraged by the abilities they have, while the abilities themselves are fun to use, even if you should use them sparingly.
You can find upgrade kits in levels that you can exchange for bonuses to make your abilities more powerful, and you can choose to upgrade the ones that best suit your playstyle. talents with the EXP you gain to increase your general stats, like attack speed, defense, health, etc. It also allows you to gradually specialize in a lethal or non-lethal playstyle.
In terms of difficulty, parts of the levels can range from really easy to really hard, and it’s often quite random as to where those difficulty spikes can be. There is a system of checkpoints in the form of panels that you walk on, but there are usually only two to three per level and these are often quite far apart. Since some levels are designed to have multiple routes to take, sometimes you can miss them entirely. This can often lead to chains of frustration, as you have to repeat the same parts of a level over and over, often more eagerly. It can be really bad to keep losing over and over like that, stuck in a repeating loop, when all you want to do is move the story forward. This is especially true when you finally get past that part you were stuck in, only to die right after in another part and have to repeat both of them.
You should also pay attention to checkpoints, because if you activate one, you carry over any missing health or energy. You often end up having to force a level restart if you make it to a checkpoint but with minimal stats.
Despite this, I kept coming back, even if I had to stop playing a bit. The gameplay is certainly as fun as it is frustrating, and it’s rewarding to finally get past the levels that were causing you a lot of trouble. Sometimes prepare for a brutal experience!
Do you remember what I said about art? I immediately knew the sound was going to be good too.
The music has this way of really setting the tone, but without being overwhelming. I would describe it as adding an air of dark mystery with a touch of hope. But it can also increase at times, especially in some of the later levels, which can really help create a sense of urgency in a game that, really, requires patience to play.
Sound effects are also well used to enhance the gaming experience. You can hear the sound of robots and footsteps and you hear when an enemy has been alerted. All of your abilities sound different when used. Sound in general is just used very well to help communicate to the player what’s going on.
With regard to accessibility, additional functionality is limited; you will not find color blind modes in Disjunction. All dialogue takes place as text only, eliminating the need for subtitles. Important words are always highlighted in orange to help players choose the most important parts of what is being said, and these words can be hovered over at any time for additional information.
There are no subtitles for sound effects, but there are usually clear on-screen indicators when something is happening, such as question marks or exclamation marks for alerted enemies. , and animations when attacks occur or abilities are used. No sound would mean to make the game a bit harder, but it should still be able to be played that way.
Credit: Ape Tribe Games
Overall, Disjunction is a fun cyberpunk stealth game, with beautiful pixel art and great sound that is well worth the price. Prepare for challenging levels and plenty of frustration, but enjoy the glory of your successes at the end, all while enjoying an intriguing story set in a dystopian world.
Note: You cannot pet the cat in disjunction. But you can project a fake one!
This Disjunction review was performed on Steam. Examine the copy of Disjunction provided by the developer.
Featured Image Credit: Ape Tribe Games
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