As I’ve talked about before, the original Disc Drivin’ was something of an obsession with the TouchArcade staff and many members of our community. I’d say it easily wins as being the mobile game I’ve played for the longest time, as it launched way back in 2010 and has remained a constant in my rotation ever since, with only a few breaks in between. So it was a mixture of delight and trepidation when developer Pixelocity announced Disc Drivin’ 2 (Free) which just launched this week. On one hand fans were getting a new entry of a favorite which would theoretically add all sorts of fun new stuff. On the other, would this sequel mess with the formula or ruin the happy feelings we have towards that beloved original? As a diehard Disc Driver I’d say there’s a bit from column A and column B, but overall I’m thrilled with this new entry in the series and Disc Drivin’ 2 looks poised to continue the tradition that the original started for many more years to come. If you’re unfamiliar with Disc Drivin’ then please read my review of the original game for the nuts and bolts of what the basic concept behind the game is. This review will assume you have a basic understanding of Disc Drivin’ and mostly focuses on what’s new compared to the original game.
First off it’s worth noting that Disc Drivin’ 2 is quite different from the first game in a number of ways. The physics feel just ever so slightly different… not in a good way or a bad way, just in a different way. Discs felt like they were lighter and moved faster in the first Disc Drivin’ but maybe that’s my imagination. Then there’s the major change of being able to take two swipes per turn as opposed to the one swipe of the original game. This is a really neat change in my opinion, but one that you need to get used to. I almost always forget that I can take that second swipe as I’m watching where my disc is going down the track, and when I do remember it can be tricky to figure out where exactly that second swipe will send me. The camera remains behind the back of the disc based on the direction it’s traveling, so if you’re in a curve or something you don’t really have a good view of where you’re flicking to on that second swipe. I can’t think of a good solution for this problem, and it’s certainly getting easier the more familiar I become with the tracks in the game, but it still feels a little awkward and clunky.
The courses in Disc Drivin’ 2 can now have more complex curvatures and elevation changes, and hazards can now have moving parts so you’ll come across things like panels with retracting spikes or sections of the course that will appear and disappear in intervals. These make the tracks in Disc Drivin’ 2 a whole lot more interesting and fun (and dangerous!) and force players to take timing into account when taking their turns. The original Disc Drivin’ has a whopping 28 courses with mirrored versions of each, though that number was significantly fleshed out due to many updates over the years. Disc Drivin’ 2 launches with a respectable 16 tracks, though sadly no mirrored versions, but the added complexity of the tracks means I don’t think they’re at risk of growing stale anytime soon, and I’m sure Pixelocity has some new tracks up their sleeve for updates down the road. I’m also happy to see a handful of tracks from the original game make a return with slight variations that take advantage of the new elevation changes and moving hazards. Roundabout, for example, now has a true overpass bridge rather than some barricades with jump pads placed in front of them to simulate the feeling of going over the track. It’s really cool.
The way the special Powers work is significantly different in Disc Drivin’ 2. In the first game you had a speed boost (sort of the “default" special Power), the ability to stop on a dime, an oil slick to drop on the track, a bomb to drop on the track, invisibility which allowed you to pass through walls, and a jump. You could switch between these at any time during play and once your Power meter filled you could use the Power of your choosing with the press of a button. In Disc Drivin’ 2 you start out with the speed boost but all other Powers are unlocked by earning XP and leveling up your profile. XP is earned by playing any of the modes in the game, and once unlocked special cards can upgrade the effectiveness of those Powers (more on cards in a minute). All the original Powers return and some new ones have been added, like a missile attack and a shockwave type move that will blast nearby opponent discs. It’s somewhat frustrating not having all the Powers at your disposal right away, but they unlock fairly quickly the more you play and it’s kind of nice how you’re forced to get good with the ones that you have unlocked before getting access to new ones.
In addition to Powers there’s also a new thing called Disc Abilities. These are unlocked through the same card system as Power upgrades, and they offer passive bonuses that affect certain aspects of the game. For example, one Ability gives you a 25% stronger second swipe during a game, and there are ones that allow you to pass through hazards like oil slicks or bombs without harm. Others allow you to drop more than one Power item at a time, or increase the effectiveness of a Power like extending the amount of time you can remain invisible. There’s 53 Disc Abilities in total, offering a TON of ways mix up your strategies in the game. You’ll choose just one Disc Ability prior to starting a game and it will remain active throughout that game. While Disc Abilities can’t be upgraded like Powers can, you can unlock stronger versions of certain Abilities through the card system. In case you couldn’t tell, I LOVE the new Disc Abilities and what they bring to the table.
Disc customization also returns in Disc Drivin’ 2, and again this is something that’s tied into the new card system. Buying cards can unlock new discs at random, and there are a whopping 100(!) different discs in the game. Many of the same types of patterns from the original game make a return, and also like the first game you can change the primary and secondary colors of each one. There are also a good amount of totally unique 3D discs in a variety of styles that aren’t strictly disc-shaped. There’s a ninja star complete with pointy edges, a Homer Simpson-style pink donut with sprinkles, a steering wheel from a ship complete with handles around the edge and spokes in the middle, and my own current personal favorite a stack of pancakes on a plate. These new disc types are a ton of fun and the slow drip of unlocking them through cards is a satisfying method of progression that’s not tied to anything gameplay-related. This is probably a good time to mention that the overall visuals in Disc Drivin’ 2 are a big step up over the first game, with much sharper graphics and better lighting and shadow effects.
In terms of modes, everything from the first game returns plus a couple of new additions. There’s the standard online races for up to 4 players against either random opponents or players you invite via username or from your Game Center friend list. Then there’s pass and play where up to 8 players can play by passing the same device around, or local multiplayer where up to 8 players can play on separate devices in the same location over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. New to Disc Drivin’ 2 are two single-player modes. Speedrun mode has you choosing any of the game’s tracks and trying to complete a lap as quickly as possible to earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals. These are also tied to online leaderboards where you can see how you stack up against the world. Then there’s the Daily Challenge mode where you’re given a limited amount of time to complete a track while also picking up each of 5 flame icons which are spread around the track. The single-player modes are fun diversions from the competitive stuff, and all modes will earn you XP towards leveling up your profile, which is helpful in unlocking new Powers.
Ok, let’s talk monetization. The original Disc Drivin’ started out as a pay-once game in separate iPhone and iPad versions, with an additional ad-supported free version for the iPhone. Down the line IAP was added for unlocking disc customization packs. Disc Drivin’ 2 is a much more contemporary free to play model. There’s one type of in-game currency, coins, and there’s forced ads in between turns in games. Coins are used to buy cards which are 25 coins apiece and give you a shot at unlocking new Discs and Abilities as well as going towards upgrading your Powers. Coins are also used to start up non-random games online, and it’ll cost you 1 coin to start a game with friends where the track selection is random, and 5 coins to start a game where you’re able to select the track yourself. Coins are purchased as IAP in packs from $2-$40, and you can also earn them by completing Daily Challenges, earning medals in Speedrun, or playing races online.
Overall the coins are unobtrusive enough but will definitely make for a hefty grind for free players trying to unlock and upgrade everything. An additional IAP called Deluxe Drivin’ can be purchased for $4.99 and will give you a coin doubler, 10 cards, the ability to have 25 online races going at once (normally the limit is 10), unlimited tries at the Daily Challenge (normally you only get 3 attempts per day), and the removal of all forced ads. This should be a no-brainer for those enjoying the game and planning to play long term, as it will speed up the coin grind, give you a better chance at earning coins and XP with the Daily Challenge, have more online games going, and most important of all to me personally it’ll get rid of the interstitial ads. I hate those ads! However, it doesn’t ENTIRELY get rid of every kind of ad, which leads me to my next point…
Mulligans. Yes, Disc Drivin’ 2 features mulligans which is basically a fancy way of saying they’ll give you a second chance should you completely biff one of your turns. Thankfully they’re limited to just 3 per race, but in order to use a mulligan you’ll need to watch a video ad, and that goes for both free players and those who purchased the Deluxe IAP. Two things here. First, I’m not sure I agree with including this sort of feature in the game. It can be nice as sometimes you get a bad swipe or things don’t play out how you expect and being able to redo things can be helpful. On the other hand… that’s life, you know? We all get a bad flick now and then and you just have to roll with it. Beyond that, if we accept that these are a part of the game now, I don’t think the Deluxe players should have to wait through an ad to be able to use them. Ads just slow down the pace of what is normally a nice, quick experience, so if people are paying to get rid of the forced ads the opt-in ones should be included in that too, I think.
Anyway, I’ve covered most of the nitty gritty in Disc Drivin’ 2 but haven’t really answered the question of how I feel about this new entry, being that I was a huge fan of the original. Well? I love it. I truly love it. Yes there are a few design decisions I question and a few rough edges here and there. I’ve had some occasional stuttering on my iPhone X and I’m SORELY missing a pull-to-refresh option in my list of online games as the game itself isn’t super great about refreshing it for you. Those are small things though and I’m sure Pixelocity will be smoothing things over in the weeks and months to come. The bottom line for me is that this is the Disc Drivin’ I know and love but with everything cranked up to 11 with all sorts of neat features I never even knew I wanted added in.
One of the big things that would always cause me to take a break from the original Disc Drivin’ was that due to its simplicity games would often revolve around who could make that big shortcut jump first, often leading to a completely lopsided affair. Don’t get me wrong, I loved finding and utilizing shortcuts in the first game, and think it’s totally fair play to use them. But they also relied heavily on luck in addition to skill, and it would really dampen the enthusiasm of a game if you’d miss a jump because the physics engine decided you’d bounce a different way than your opponent and you’d fall off the track and find yourself way behind with no hope of catching up. Disc Drivin’ 2 rectifies that with its new mechanics and many new abilities. I have no doubt that exploits will be discovered in due time, but at the very least the tools are there to make it more possible to be competitive in a race even if things don’t work out how you’d hoped. One screw up no longer feels like the kiss of death that it used to, and I think that will make all the difference in Disc Drivin’ 2 remaining fresh and fun for literally years to come.
Is it crazy to write a 2500 word critique on a game I could just as easily have told people to download for free and try out for themselves? Yes. But that’s because I’m crazy and the original Disc Drivin’ was more than just a game to me. It was a lifestyle, man! I was never under the impression that the first game made all that much money, so I never actually expected a sequel to get made. The fact that it exists and brings so much to the table is a miracle to me. Yes there is room for improvement, and yes the free to play model and slow pace of unlocking stuff might turn off some. Hardcore players of the original might be turned off initially due to the differences in this sequel, I know I certainly was at first, but the game really does grow on you as you get used to what’s new and slowly let go of what you’ve known. I urge you to stick with it as the brilliance of Disc Drivin’ 2 slowly reveals itself. This is a true evolution of a classic formula, and one I know I’ll be sticking with for a very long time to come. Give it a try, and hit up the forum link below for some discussion or to share your username and find some online competitors.