Review – Disjunction

I don’t think there’s any other trendy theme that has saturated me as quickly as cyberpunk. We’ve had some great games released over the past few months, such as Ghostrunner and Observer: System Redux. Then the whole Cyberpunk 2077 release, as well as the mammoth-sized controversy that followed, made me feel completely fed up with the genre. That’s sad, because there’s a lot of potential to come up with interesting stories and gameplay experiences set in a cyberpunk world. Hell, my favorite game of all time, Perfect Dark, is a cyberpunk game. Let’s see if the next batch of titles can bring the genre back to its glory days. Sold Out’s brand new title, Disjunction, is the first game to come out from said batch.

Disjunction

Why do I look like Shaggy sneaking behind a monster in a Scoody-Doo cartoon?

Disjunction features all the main ingredients for a competent cyberpunk setting. Gritty urban world? Check. A party of characters comprised of a detective, a hacker and someone with lots of cybernetic implants? You got it. Mysteries to be solved, often involving shady megacorporations? Yessir. Questions regarding humanism? Duh. Given its huge emphasis on storytelling, I really don’t want to talk a lot about Disjunction‘s plot, but I can safely say it’s one of its highlights. However, there is a TON of text, to the point that the game even lets you hover the cursor over specific highlighted words and read even more exposition about its world and setting.

Even if Disjunction features a good story and decent world building, its presentation is quite disappointing. It’s a pixel-based game with retro-styled graphics. This isn’t exactly an issue per se, but the game doesn’t do a good job providing the player with interesting environments. It also looks excessively stretched on a big TV screen, meaning that the game would actually be best suited for the Switch’s smaller screen in portable mode. The soundtrack is a disappointment, being entirely comprised of boring ambient synthwave.

Disjunction

Don’t mind me, I’m just the janitor.

So far, I haven’t been very positive with Disjunction. But believe me, I actually really enjoyed it despite its poor presentation and the fact it’s yet another cyberpunk game released over the past few months. Basically, this is a mixture of two widely different gameplay concepts that actually blended well together: Hotline Miami and Metal Gear.

From Hotline Miami, Disjunction borrowed the visual aesthetics, over-the-top violence, optional twin-stick aiming, trial-and-error respawn system, and occasionally unbearable difficulty level. From Metal Gear, most specifically the “classic” MSX, NES and Game Boy Color games, Disjunction borrowed the espionage atmosphere, emphasis on spy tech, optional collectables, and gameplay that rewards being stealthy and non-lethal. You’re encouraged to complete levels by sneaking behind guards and knocking them out. You can use weapons to kill them, but not only will that alert everyone nearby, you’ll then also have to deal with story-related consequences.

Sneak Attack? More like Sneak Cranial Trauma.

Each playable character has different additional abilities/items they can use in order to get rid of enemies, both in an active and passive way. For instance, the detective character can use smoke bombs to briefly blind guards and robots, allowing you to get behind them without alerting them. The former boxer with implants on the other hand, can charge directly towards an enemy with brute force, knocking them out cold. He can also use haptic force grenades to stun everyone in a small radius at once. Those are just a few examples of what you can do to overcome your troubles in Disjuction; trust me, there’s far more where that came from.

Gadgets are very useful, but you need to spend energy points whenever you decide to use them. Energy is finite, so you won’t be able to spam smoke bombs until the end of a level. You can get energy refills with random enemy drops, as well as predetermined spots within levels, but all in all, you’re told to rely mostly on your sneaking skills first, gimmicks second. There are also a few checkpoints within levels, meaning that, unlike Hotline Miami, you don’t exactly need to restart from the beginning of a level every time you die. But that also means that levels are much longer, and don’t worry, they are still infuriating. This is why they’re fun.

See this health bar? Yep, I died a lot until I found another checkpoint.

Despite the unfair difficulty curve and uninteresting presentation, Disjunction is a very well-designed take on the Hotline Miami formula, albeit with its own stealth-focused twist. It offers enough gadgets and gameplay tropes to let players tackle each level the way they want to, either by being stealthy and classy or by being ultraviolent and unsubtle. We all might be fed up with cyberpunk titles at the moment, but I’d easily recommend giving this little title a try. Be it on PS4 or especially the Switch, this is a challenging title that will surely grab your attention.

 

Graphics: 6.5

The pixel art visual style is decent enough, but it doesn’t impress. It gets the job done with a multitude of characters and some interesting cutscenes, but the rest of the game is very repetitive visually.

Gameplay: 9.0

Disjunction mixes the overall gameplay and vibe from Hotline Miami with the stealth focus from older Metal Gear games. The controls are simple and responsive.

Sound: 5.5

Boring ambient synthwave coupled with sparse, low-quality and low-volume sound effects. Disjunction does not excel when it comes to its sound department.

Fun Factor: 8.0

The game might be unbelievably unfair at times, but it’s really well-designed. It takes milliseconds for you to respawn after dying and there are multiple ways for you to beat each level. It might be best enjoyed on a Switch, but it’s still tons of fun on the PS4.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Disjunction is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Disjunction was provided by the publisher.