Disney Speedstorm Review (Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
Sooner or later, a Disney kart racer was bound to hit the stands. There was somewhat of a hiatus for the 100-year franchise. Before that, tons of Disney-inspired games hit the market, but never a kart racer. Now, developer Gameloft has released Disney Speedstorm, a mere few months after the release of Disney Dreamlight Valley. Could Disney be reviving another breathless run of Disney games for the years to come?
Disney Speedstorm is a kart racer infused with action sequences. It’s an all-it-takes-to-win type of racing, where players are free to sabotage opponents in their favor. You can also go into defense mode using a character’s specialties. None of that is unique to its competing counterpart: Mario Kart. So, what sets Disney Speedstorm apart from the rest?
Well, for one, Disney Speedstorm has a wealth of fan-favorite Disney characters, both old and new, all of whom present unique skills from one another. That way, each racer feels like a new experience, making it all the more worthwhile to experiment with each one and find your preferred one. Curious to know what more Disney Speedstorm has to offer? Here’s a more deep-dive Disney Speedstorm review so you know what to expect.
Baby's First Steps
Your first steps into Disney Speedstorm will nudge you to the Starter Circuit section. This is more or less the game’s campaign mode, where you learn the ropes of the controls, explore the environments available, and check out the characters on offer. While there is no set story for either of the characters, you’ll find the Starter Circuit neatly sectioned into chapters.
I say, “neatly,” because it’s almost like a way to simulate some sort of progressiveness. Otherwise, all of the chapters follow the same pattern: select a character, select an environment, start your engines, and crank up the speedway before you see the word, “Go.” Trust me, it helps.
Pedal to The Metal
It’s easy to underestimate the wealth of fun Disney Speedstorm delivers on the track. At least until you try out one of the races for yourself. The karts shoot forward like lightning, leaving all care to the wind. One falter, one dilly-dally, and you lose. It’s eccentric, fast-paced, and demands your full attention until you cross the finish line.
The timing is perfect, even feeling like a race faster than time. The controls are smoother than you might expect them to be. Plus, they feel responsive to your every command, doing exactly what you tell the kart to do. You may even find the controls a little too sensitive, in which case you’re free to take the sensitivity metric down a few notches.
Although you can easily beat most races without the need for drifting or other cool stunts. I, for one, made it across most races solely focusing on keeping my kart at, or close to, the center of the track. Do feel free to drift if you’d like, especially since future races are probably going to demand more rigorous driving. Rest assured, drifting will work almost perfectly at every sharp turn, provided you turn just a few minutes off.
Disney World in the Comfort of Home
With the controls intact, it’s hard to dislike anything else Disney Speedstorm has to offer. Even if said elements are subpar, at least. The rush of adrenaline at every race, the wealth of fun induced, it’s all made possible thanks to controls you hardly ever need to fight with. Still, it keeps getting better, thanks to the intricately designed environments sketched out of various Disney themes.
Disney Speedstorm features eight environments at launch. Most of which you’ll recognize from iconic Disney and Pixar films. The docks of the Pirates of the Caribbean make their way to kart racing. Or, the wilds of The Jungle Book. Mount Olympus. The Great Wall. Toon Village. There’s definitely an environment you’ll recognize and love.
Race tracks never seem out of place, either adopting the themes they’re layered into or popping off nicely against their background. Shadows, lighting, nature effects, and all backdrops say one thing in unison; the developers didn’t leave anything to chance when designing them.
The Songs You Didn’t Know You Needed
At the moment, two pieces of the puzzle are missing. The characters and soundtrack. Starting with the soundtrack, there are no words to describe the headbangers Disney Speedstorm came up with. Remember “The Bare Necessities”? It's now a heavily remixed dubstep track that perfectly suits the stakes at hand.
Other iconic songs from movies like Hercules and Mulan have their own versions of hype music, too. Quite frankly, if Disney Speedstorm put out a playlist of the songs on it, I’d want to grab a copy to listen to outside of playing the game.
And now, the characters available are an impressive bunch: Mickey Mouse (of course), Belle, Mowgli, Jack Sparrow, Mulan, Donald Duck, and Hercules, to name a few. With the wealth of characters in Disney and Pixar films, it’s definitely going to grow into a longer list, possibly during the upcoming ‘season’ updates.
Onward and Upward
Speaking of seasonal updates, perhaps Disney Speedstorm wanted to create a game that players would constantly return to for days, weeks, and even months. Kind of like how mobile games structure progression so you return to unlock more content via daily and seasonal challenges.
This live service structure, while innovative to some degree, may very well be the thing that causes the downfall of Disney Speedstorm. See, once you finish taking in the joys of racing for the pure fun of it in Starter Circuit, you start to explore other game modes: Season Tour, Limited Events, Ranked Multiplayer, Regulated Multiplayer, and others. These are somewhat mandatory to unlock more characters and upgrade the ones you have.
Upgrading and unlocking content isn’t anything new to gaming. However, when a game adopts a Gacha system where you have to earn currency to upgrade or unlock better characters to win races, keeping in mind that players may choose to do so with real money to avoid grinding on a daily basis or timing season tours, well, everything Disney Speedstorm had worked so hard to build in Starter Circuit starts to go down the drain.
Unfortunately, even Starter Circuit is hindered by progression, where players must unlock a certain set of characters to continue playing. It gets worse when you’re “locked” out of the running if you’re completing what’s needed a little too quickly. To be fair, some players may be totally comfortable with grinding. In that case, you’re likely to then run into another issue called, clunkiness.
Lost and Found
Once you leave the Starter Circuit, you run into a whole other world of game modes, currency systems, upgrades, and, well, grinding. Honestly, the game modes are still a little confusing, especially in regard to what the point of them all is. There is ranked multiplayer and regulated multiplayer. From my understanding, ranked is where you grind to unlock more characters and upgrade the ones you have, while regulated is the standardized version where all players use the same-level characters.
Then, there are the limited events and season tour modes, where players upgrade and unlock characters. This way, you’re likely to return a day, week, or month from now just to see what’s new. Quite frankly, all of these seem unnecessary. The base game is already so good that plastering a grinding system on top of it takes away some of the lighthearted fun you may have wanted to share with friends.
Well, at least you have a Local Freeplay mode that you can jump into at any time. However, Local Freeplay doesn’t rack up any stats or upgrades, which brings you back to square one.
Think Outside The Box
Aside from the few glitches here and there, I can’t begin to describe the feeling you have when speeding through the tracks. As aforementioned, characters have unique skills and abilities. Some, like Mike, can “hold the door.” Essentially, opening doors mid-track to fast-track ahead and using the same doors to back-track opponents. It adds to the individuality and personification of the characters, as well as making you want to unlock a certain character just so you can see how they perform.
Additionally, environments add their own fun twists and turns. They test your resourcefulness, as you can glide over rails to gain power boosts or dodge obstacles that slow you down. You can even jump on some dark-blue rails, and so much more.
To say that Disney Speedstorm doesn’t do all it sets out to do would be a rushed judgment. Frankly, I didn’t expect it to reach the heights of Mario Kart, but the feeling it induces on the race tracks nearly propels it among the greats. Disney Speedstorm fosters an experience like no other, save for an emphasis on grinding and clunky UI. Perhaps we should wait till the game becomes free-to-play because it sure does deserve exploring, even for an hour or two.
Disney Speedstorm Review (Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
Kart Racing. Action-Packed Stunts. All in One.
Disney Speedstorm innovates kart racing while sticking to Disney and Pixar films’ DNA. It’s the perfect venture for Disney lovers to dive into, and racing fans can enjoy time-limited shots of adrenaline at every race.