From the moment Disorder began and I found myself in a dingy, dimly lit hallway, I knew I was in for an unpleasant ride. An opening disclaimer warns that the game pursues an intense insight into depression and grief, foregoing any sort of levity or lightness. But after traversing through each level, I discovered more and more that a game as grim as Disorder can still be exceedingly enjoyable. Disorder weaves solid gameplay and a disturbingly accurate and interesting portrayal of despair into an eerie but entertaining game. Though I would hardly ever put charming and eerie in the same sentence, they are both excellent descriptors for what makes Disorder stand out among its peers.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Duality forms the core of Disorder and shapes everything from the level design to the narrative. As I leapt from level to level, the game, through various scenes and text, introduced me to the character’s dilemma; his struggle with a family member’s death and a gnawing obsession with mortality plunged him deeper and deeper into guilt. The writing is good and does a good job of conveying the character’s thoughts and feelings, but there are times where the inner dialogue becomes a bit overwritten and starts to edge into the overly philosophical. The visual scenes, however, are amazing as they, along with the text, change depending on which perspective is currently active. One that particularly stood out was when I came across a seemingly normal family dinner in the “normal” perspective, which turned into a chaotic, aggressive argument when viewed through the “character’s” perspective (the yellow perspective is “normal” and the purple perspective is “character’s”). There are many little moments like this throughout that game that provide that sense of duality needed to make the narrative successful — they emphasize the power of a mindset on reality. I felt attuned with the character’s morbid outlook and was mostly engaged throughout the game story wise.
But I can’t say the same for Disorder’s visuals and sound. The game features a 16-bit art style that’s extremely standard for the platformer genre. Nothing in the background nor in the creature design nor in the platforms grabbed my attention as interesting or clever. That’s not to say it negatively affects the game’s atmosphere, yet I was never particularly wowed by the generic dirt platforms or the cookie cutter cityscapes. The same goes for the sound design. Each song is nothing more than a few stretched out, minor tones that form a simple, creepy melody. It does add to the sense of dread in each level, but again wasn’t particularly interesting in terms of expression.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
Disorder is a 2-D platformer that uses a switching mechanic (as mentioned above with perspectives) to alter the landscape and obstacles. It’s not a unique mechanic, but Disorder features some excellent platforming sections that utilize the mechanic to an intuitive degree. Some of these include forced switch triggers, platforms that only move a certain direction depending on the current perspective, one-directional channels and enemies that change behavior based on perspective. Disorder takes these mechanics and blends them seamlessly together, forming an entertaining, challenging difficulty progression as I moved toward the game’s end. The levels are challenging without being cheap, with a certain exception towards the end, as I felt a genuine enjoyment from clearing each platforming section. The game is fairly short at an hour and a half completion time, but add in a few collectibles, a branching ending and some opportunity for replay and Disorder proves itself worthy of another distressing go.
Disorder is not a cheery game; every new location in the game is just as oppressive and bleak as the last rotting place, and the game’s subject matter is none too pleasant either. But this doesn’t mean that Disorder is a particularly unpleasant game to play. On the contrary, I found myself engaged with the dismal state of the game’s world as it unraveled an interesting tale of coping with sadness. The gameplay is also incredibly enjoyable, though not exactly anything innovative when it comes to platformers. But it’s clear that ScrewAttack set a goal and an intention and delivered it in a satisfying, albeit disturbing package. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys platformers, especially ones that venture outside of the box with their mechanics. For its current price at the time of writing this review, I’d say its worth the purchase. Just be forewarned: if you’re looking for a delightful, stress-free experience, Disorder is not the game for you.
Final Score: 8 / 10
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood