I admit, pixel art games can be hit or miss with me. The same is true with stealthy titles. So when I first saw Disjunction on my radar, I nearly brushed it aside. However when developer Ape Tribe Games put out a new gameplay trailer announcing the game’s release date, it caught my attention. I then decided to try out the still available demo on Steam and I’m glad I did. I now firmly believe this could be one of my favorite indie titles of 2021.
Set in 2048 New York, Disjunction centers around three playable characters: Frank, Joe, and Spider. They all possess different skills and playstyles that will make the player think about how to progress each level. The demo only makes two of these characters playable though. These are Frank for three levels and Joe for a single mission. Frank and Joe carry different motives for why they carry out their playable missions. Frank is a private investigator who is asked to find out why a prominent community figure was arrested on suspicion of drugs and killing an officer. Joe, on the other hand, seeks to find out how his daughter was killed and by who. The two stories do not connect in the demo, but it did enough to give motivation for each level and I looked forward to how the story would continue after I completed it.
Story dialogue is played out with character portraits stacked on top of each other with texts sprawling across the screen. The player can highlight over orange texts that appear to get additional context on key information. The players also can choose how to respond to certain questions or dialogue prompts as the story progresses. Ape Tribe Games says these choices will impact the unfolding story with real consequences. I’m not sure how truthful this is with the demo taking place so early in the game, but I did see these choices in action. Without spoiling anything, one sequence presented me the option to kill, arrest, or even let go a certain baddie. While I made the choice to arrest him, the demo ended right after leaving me wondering how that decision would impact the future missions.
As you walk around, you will find enemies sprawled out across the map. Some sit facing in one direction while others patrol a certain area. When players crouch to sneak their way around, the enemies’ vision of are revealed. Players will need to use their abilities and the map’s terrain to navigate the floors without being detected and killed. Frank and Joe come with similar, but different abilities to help you navigate the level’s challenges. For example, Frank carries a smoke grenade to cloud the vision of enemies. On the other hand, Joe brings a concussive grenade that instantly knocks out weaker opposition. To use these abilities, players expend energy points. These do not regenerate over time and only get replenished by finding consumables on the map or from fallen enemies.
While the game wants you to play in a stealthy manner, the player can choose to go against the grain and start shooting. Both come equipped with guns as Frank brings a pistol and Joe brings a shotgun. Again while players can go guns blazing, they must be conscious of their health, energy, and ammo or else find themselves dying over and over.
Each level comes with a few mission objectives display on the upper left corner of the map. I found locating an upgrade kit somewhere on the map to be a common optional objective. I hope the optional missions vary the farther into the game you go though. These upgrade packs can be spent before the next level to strengthen your character. These upgrades give players the option to customize the game to their playstyle. This can range from making Frank’s smoke screen also deal damage to increasing the amount of health returned by Frank’s first aid kit. Players also spend experience points to increase talents which also adjust the playstyle of the character. Players won’t need to spend precious time considering their options though as both are not permanent. So you can adjust your choices before each mission if your previous decision doesn’t feel right.
Disjunction features music from UK composer Dan Farley. While I’m personally not familiar with his previous work, the atmosphere of the game felt bolstered by the music in the game. The music included just enough techno beats with just enough ambiance to fit this stealthy cyberpunk setting. The attacks felt strong by the accompanied sound effects. Overall, I didn’t feel blown away nor disappointed by the sound presented throughout the demo, which I’ll consider a good thing.
While it’s still early in 2021, Disjunction jumped up on my indie game radar simply from the demo. I felt compelled to finish it and once I did, I felt compelled to write this preview. I can’t say many demos I’ve played of late did the same. For that reason alone, I encourage you to try out the demo on Steam or GOG. It may not drive you to buy the game upon release, but I feel at the very least you will leave feeling satisfied over spending the hour or so to complete it.
Disjunction releases on January 28 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on Steam and GOG.