Disney Speedstorm Review

Disney Speedstorm Review Image

It’s surprising how long it’s taken to get a Disney karting video game, the company’s long and rich history of characters and worlds ripe for a chaotic Mario Kart-style racer. And while Disney Speedstorm may finally deliver on something sure to please its fans looking to scratch that nostalgic itch, unfortunately, its free-to-play structure creates an experience that’s just as enjoyable as it can be frustrating.

From a gameplay standpoint, the mechanics of Disney Speedstorm are solid, the game checking all the usual boxes when it comes to kart racing. The drifting feels satisfying, the selection of characters offers some variety in statistics and weapons often fun and intuitive to use in the heat of the race. Speedstorm makes sure to inject a few wrinkles of its own too, characters split into different classes, a boost meter filled upon performing certain actions and even the ability to grind on neon bars (because why not?).

Disney Speedstorm Review Screenshot 1

Even more impressive is the care and attention given to each respective IP used in the game. Racing through the likes of Beast’s castle or smashing through a cinema screen to enter the black-and-white world of Steamboat Mickey is the sort of fan service you rarely see from Disney particularly when it comes to video games. Better still is the fact there’s absolutely no Marvel or Star Wars, a welcome break feeling very much needed by this point for both franchises. Characters too dip deep into the Disney vault the likes of Jungle Book’s Mowgli and Hercules’ Meg making an appearance. Then there’s the soundtrack, easily the most impressive element of Disney Speedstorm, taking classic Disney tunes from the movies you love and giving them a modern and fresh twist. Trust me when I say you’ve never heard Gaston nor I’ll Make a Man Out of You quite like this. I do wish the karts themselves were given a bit more personality, each sporting the same generic metallic style with minor differences. Why not give Belle a giant teacup kart or Mike from Monster’s Inc one of the yellow canisters on wheels?

Where the wheels start to fall off, however, is in the actual way Disney Speedstorm is structured. Since this is a free-to-play game (or at least will be once it leaves Early Access), there’s an awful lot of repetition, currencies (both paid-for and non), materials to consider for levelling up your racers and a generally overwhelming amount of information and things to juggle between racing. Look, I get it. It’s not exactly anything we haven’t seen from games of a free-to-play nature before but in the case of Disney Speedstorm, a lot just gets in the way of the exciting racing itself.

Disney Speedstorm Review Screenshot 2

Take the seasons, the first of which is themed after the Monster’s Inc. franchise. While the idea of every week being introduced to a handful more races of increasing difficulty and goodies is a neat one, the two biggest grievances come in the form of the repetitious nature of the races themselves and the gating for certain events that require a certain character or racer type be used in them. The former problem sees you racing the same tracks over and over with the different mode types only feeling minor in variety – the only truly unique mode covers the track in fog making knowing where to steer a frustrating process of guesswork. Sure, each themed location will see different track layouts, but many follow similar chunks of the track rendering their differences small. The gating meanwhile proves frustrating as chances are you may not have the right character for the job, or even if you do their level may not be high enough to compete. It results in sums of events being blocked off to you until you can unlock the character or accumulate enough to level them up.

There has also been plenty of times where I’ve felt screwed over in races, and not in the good Mario Kart kind of way either. Races ending with an opponent soaring past on the final few turns despite my character being at top speed using a boost. In fact, the rubber banding has to be by far the most… well, rubber-bandy I’ve seen in a kart racer yet. It almost makes the whole levelling up of characters and use of crew members to boost stats feel sort of weak. Like no matter how over-levelled I may be going into a race, I could just as likely lose if I were ten levels lower. It turns challenge into tedium and tedium eventually into frustration, a feeling that seems to rise the further into a season you play.

Disney Speedstorm Review Screenshot 3

Still, there is fun to be had with Disney Speedstorm, online races proving to be a highlight as you take on seven other karts. Local multiplayer too is decent although only supports two players on Switch (while other versions allow up to four). I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t a rush nabbing the final shard to unlock a new character, or earning enough experience to raise your season level and unlock a bunch more goodies. Of course, that’s what free-to-play games are all about and as much as I’ve never been a big fan of this approach it does have the occasional surge of excitement to it… countered with the usual frustrations.

As a fan of all things Disney (except the modern-day remakes, those can burn) Disney Speedstorm is an exciting idea, a chance to reacquaint myself with the worlds and characters that defined by childhood in kart form. While the game certainly delivers on the nostalgia and its racing proves enjoyable, sadly the free-to-play wrapping (it’s worth noting this game isn’t free currently) lets the package down resulting in a grindy structure that irks more than engages the player.

Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Gameloft

Total Score
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