You’ll have heard the refrain, often down in the comments section of a recently announced indie darling, ‘I’ll wait for the Switch port’. I am, I’m not proud to say, one of those who’s muttered those words to myself more than once, and more often than not the wait’s never too long. In Disco Elysium’s case, though, it’s been some two years – two years, in my case, spent dodging what I’m frequently told is one of the most fascinating RPGs in recent years – one that’s got its frustrations, sure, but also one that’s full of splendiferously dark delights.
It’s a pleasure to say that the Switch port of ZA / UM’s dense noir mystery hasn’t just been worth the wait – it feels as if playing Disco Elysium in handheld on the go might well be the perfect way to experience this boozy, hilarious and deeply melancholic distant cousin to the likes of Planescape Torment.
First, there’s the technical side – or rather, the point that the technical details really don’t matter so much at all here. Disco Elysium is portrayed in a painterly style, courtesy of art director Alexander Rostov, that scales perfectly for portable play without losing any fidelity. There’s an occasional fiddliness to the controls that was there in previous console versions too, though they’re rarely a hindrance, and likewise on Switch the loading screens can linger a little too long (something that was vastly improved by the day one patch, though, and that has since never presented too much of an issue).
Most pertinently, it’s how the rest of Disco Elysium fits so neatly into the concept of the Switch – that play anywhere ethos that’s easy to take for granted unless you’re forced into one single spot to play a game. This is a dense, text heavy game (with text helpfully bumped up a point size or two until it’s perfectly legible on handheld, though I admit I have been cheating and playing on the increased real estate of the Switch OLED’s screen).
Indeed, the Disco Elysium experience is as close as video games have got to the novel, a world where the shambling inner lives of its citizens are painted just as richly as the shabby, crumbling streets, and where thoughts chase across the screen with the regularity of tracer fire in an FPS. It’s the sort of world you’d typically lose yourself to via a tatty-eared paperback borrowed from a friend who’s been banging on about its virtues for years now, all digested on a slow-moving cross-country train journey.
Which is to say this is a game best lived alongside, dipping in and out of its rich depths at your leisure. Who reads a novel hunched over a desktop anyway? Over the past week or so I’ve delved in and out of Disco Elysium’s world by the comfort of a bedside lamp, on the back seat of a bus or over a coffee in the morning, and it’s lingered with me well beyond. Here’s a game that’s found its way into my thoughts like few others have before – I’m just grateful there’s now a chance to carry it around with me wherever I go.
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