Disjunction Review – Pixel Stealth
Developer: Ape Tribe Studios
Release Date: January 28 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sold Out Software
Genre: 2D Stealth
Stealth games are something of a rarity lately. Sure, several games give you stealth options or implement sneaky sections, but it’s uncommon to see titles dedicate their whole gameplay to stealth. I imagine it can be a challenge for developers as stealth gameplay can easily feel cumbersome if executed poorly. Thankfully Disjunction by developer Ape Tribe Games and Publisher Sold-Out Software provides a quick-paced stealth adventure that focuses on strategy and speedy reactions that make for a nail-bitingly entertaining experience.
Disjunction takes place in a dystopian future of 2048. Set in New York, three strangers quickly see their connections to the seedy underworld become entangled as they dive in deep to uncover corruption where they uncover more than they bargained for.
You take control of these three characters, who each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Levels see you breaking into a facility where you must navigate to find evidence or interrogate suspects for information. Levels are set up with multiple corridors with heavily-armed bodyguards, mechanical assault bots, and security cameras.
Even though you’re told you have the option to go in guns blazing, enemies will most likely make quick work of you if you choose such an offensive approach. Guards are alerted by your presence either by line-of-sight or loud noises. Once they know where you are, they will alert anyone nearby, resulting in numerous guards swarming you with deadly force. Your character can only withstand a couple of hits before being killed, which made this my last resort approach.
Stealth is the key to survival in Disjunction. Even the sound of your footsteps can alert guards, so I often found myself crouching as my default. When you crouch, your movement is silenced, and you can clearly see nearby enemies’ line-of-sight as indicated by a large cone. On the other hand, your movement is slowed down, making certain areas anxiety-inducing as you weigh the options of quick movement over the sound you might make to alert guards.
I personally would have preferred crouch to be my default position as I used it 90% of my playthrough, but instead, run is the default movement. This basically means I was continuously holding down a button to crouch for the majority of the time. It’s an interesting choice given the heavy focus of stealth, as many action games don’t have run being so prominent. At the time of this review, there isn’t an option to change this in settings, but hopefully, an update could easily add that in.
In most cases memorizing enemies’ patrol patterns and figuring out a strategy that lets you go undetected is paramount. Enemies line of sight commonly overlaps, giving you little opportunity to miss a beat with your approach. Additionally, in more crowded rooms, there is only a sliver of space provided for you in blind spots. Overall it can make some sections reasonably tricky, but forming strategies in combination with quick movements helped keep me thoroughly engaged. Any form of action either inflicted upon guards or your character happens in the blink of an eye. Having claustrophobic rooms also paces the action well, giving you little time to breathe. Because of this, Disjunction never feels like a slog.
While the action can be quick, it does pay to be patient and take in your surroundings. All too often, I found any impatience led to my demise. The game rewards you for formulating your movements and punishes you pretty harshly for trying to save a second here or there.
To help you through tricker sections, each character has unique abilities. These range from stun weapons to cloaking mechanisms or holographic distractions. Each ability takes up energy and has limited uses. This forced me to play conservatively, typically only using them as a last resort. These abilities are enjoyable and add a great deal of strategy and fun to the overall gameplay.
Another useful action that all characters have is to move a downed guard or mech. You can move them completely out of sight or strategically place them in certain areas to grab guards’ attention. Doing this also puts them in a cautious mode where they break up their usual pattern to search for the intruder. This mode is a bit more unpredictable with guards’ movement but really helped me out when patrol patterns became overwhelming to contend against.
Each level also has a save point once per floor and can be activated once it’s found. However, this savepoint can only be used once per floor, so often, I found myself clearing a stage as much as possible before using it just in case things got too hairy. It’s a gamble when to use it, but like most other things in Disjunction, it makes you consider saving from a more strategic standpoint.
Disjunction offers several choices in its narrative as well as the fate of your enemies. You can choose to simply knock guards out with your melee weapon or approach them with lethal force. When interrogating certain characters, you also have the option to kill them, turn them over to the police, or let them go. All seemingly will affect the overall narrative and add to replay value to see how your branching path may change.
Controls and movement work fairly well but can be a bit tricky to get used to. Your weapon aim and way to look around the screen are combined. This wasn’t a problem most of the time, but sometimes I did want to take in more of the room and found my aim in a vital moment completely off. Given this, the movement can be a bit disorientating at times with how quickly you can jolt the screen around and may prove too much for those sensitive to motion in a game. It’s not game-breaking, but at times, the overall moment of the screen, along with the aim, could be awkward.
Disjunction is a tough but speedy stealth adventure that kept me thoroughly engaged. Character’s abilities, narrative choices, and more strategic elements really give players some interesting variety and options on how to approach gameplay. There are some questionable control choices, but nothing that will hinder the experience. For those looking for a sneaky cybernetic stealth-adventure, Disjunction shouldn’t go unnoticed.
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