In honor of the bare bones presentation of J. Appleyard's new physics puzzle ("phyzzle"?) Disk Field, this review will eschew the typical literary aesthetics you may have grown used to here. No, you won't find any metaphors or outlandish similes here. Nor should you expect to see any form of puns, gags, running jokes, irony, hyperbole, and most definitely no impromptu song lyrics. I don't do song lyrics.
What you can expect from Disk Field is a simple yet engrossing action puzzler that works wonders with a fairly basic concept. Your goal is to guide your black and white disk into the red hole. Unlike most games of this nature, though, you do not control the disk nor do you control any form of device that can be used to hit or otherwise propel the disk. Instead, you control the actual field of play.
Specifically, you control the direction of the many arrows that dot the field. Whichever way the arrows point, so goes the disk. Simply rotate the arrows clockwise using the [right] arrow key, and counter-clockwise using the [left] arrow key.
As you progress, you will find a number of obstacles both subtle and obvious keeping you from your goal. You will contend with black holes that teleport you to white holes elsewhere on the map, moving platforms that can shove your disk any which way, blue arrows that defy your attempts to control them, and much more.
Analysis: No, Disk Field is not a pretty game, but we've been around long enough to know that flashy graphics don't always translate into a pleasurable gaming experience. Throw in as many lens flares and particle effects as you want into an action sequence and it doesn't amount to much if it's still not much fun.
Luckily, the sacrifices made on the visual front are more than compensated for with the gameplay. It's a fairly innovative idea, to control the very nature of each level in a comprehensive and dynamic manner, and is executed here quite nicely.
With no shortage of grace and ingenuity, Appleyard uses the basic mechanic of Disk Field to create a series of levels that will test both your mind and your dexterity. At once you must envision the board as a whole to plot your course through the labyrinth as well as employ deft reflexes to negotiate some of the trickier paths. Disk Field's clever approach to level design supports primary obstacles with minor variations in topography for maximum effect.
Interestingly enough, while Disk Field looks at first to be void of frill and flare, there is a kind of subtle beauty at work here. The way the contour of the playing board twists and undulates at the command of your fingertips is smooth and entrancing. Your eye begins to see a topographical grace in each level, picking out the divots and hills as you coax your disk from one end to the other. No, there may not be any snazzy visual effects, but don't let that fool you into thinking there isn't a sort of visual direction to be appreciated.
Disk Field doesn't explode onto the scene with clamorous bravado. Instead it arrives with subtlety, dignity, and contradictions that seem to work. It is plain, but not without beauty. It's a thinking game, but one that requires you to be nimble of finger. And like all good casual games, it's a quick play that can have you coming back over and over again for "One more try."