Disney video games are slowly making their impact felt on the industry again lately. For a long-time Disney fans, the re-emergence of Mickey Mouse and other iconic characters being used in video games like Disney Dreamlight Valley and seeing success is something we have waited what feels like forever to see. In the case of Disney Speedstorm, many of those same characters take to the tracks in an attempt that comes short of Mario Kart 8 or Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but still leaves a good impression for those not turned off by live service mechanics.
Disney Speedstorm is filled with characters you grew up watching from Disney and Pixar films. From decades-old classics like The Jungle Book to recent memories of Pirates of the Caribbean, a significant number of eras are covered here that fills us with hope that the future will continue to be filled with a good mix of characters. This game could have very easily been filled with only characters from recent films like Frozen and Encanto. Instead, the game makers seem to have realised that this isn’t necessarily a game for kids and stationed it more for young adults and up. There’s no Elsa or Moana here, but there is so much time for them to be added.
This dedication to a particular crowd of Disney fans fills us with hope for future inclusions to the game. We are huge fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas, so the prospect of seeing Jack and Sally given these race suits and vehicles that don’t fit them is something we want to return to the game for. Monsters Inc. got a little too much exposure here; Celia being chosen over pretty much any Pixar character is an odd choice, but overall, we like the dedication to the roster. There is so much potential for various decades from the last 100 years to be fully utilised.
While we are big fans of the playable character selections in the beginning for Disney Speedstorm, we are slightly put off by the art style here. It’s not like you ever look at any of these characters and don’t recognise them, but they all have this cheap plastic look to them that throws us off. For example, we all know Mickey for his perfectly round ears. Why are there angles to them here? By no means is this a big deal, but it’s such an odd decision.
As for the racing itself, this does not compete with your favorite racing game ever. If you are into Mario Kart, this won’t change your mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad experience. The focus here is on continually building your boost meter and taking advantage of that speed boost. You get boost build-up whenever you drift, draft, or go over grind rails, so if you manage it and time your uses properly, you can get a good rush going for a while. While this method of focus is nice, it doesn’t feel nearly as rewarding as a game like Crash Team Racing, where drifting around every corner feels so great. Drifting is fine here, but not something that makes you feel good being in the driver’s seat.
Grind rails are seen pretty regularly throughout the track selections. Some can easily be driven onto, but for others, you have to press Square to jump on them. None of these are necessarily shortcuts over the main route but seeing even a little diversion in the race is nice.
In general, the tracks so far are nice, but not that special. The most visually impressive one is The Silver Screen, where you will quickly race through a movie theater before bursting through the screen and going through a classic black-and-white environment. None of the other ones do cool transitions like this, but you have Beast’s Castle and a standard jungle area that keeps things interesting and varied.
You can choose from nine total track locations, which may feel a little light. To make up for that, each track has multiple starting points and configurations to at least make it so there is a little variation in your races. As long as new tracks are added alongside characters in the future, the selection process here will be just fine.
The biggest question we had going into Disney Speedstorm was how it would handle rolling out its content. Available as a Founder’s Pack now with plans to go free-to-play later, you have your Battle Pass, which is pretty standard, but how the game handles its characters has more of a link to a mobile gameplay style than people will like.
To unlock any character in Disney Speedstorm, you have to collect Shards. Some of these are done by just completing races in Seasonal Tours — which change with the Battle Pass — or going through the single-player Starter Circuit. However, if these don’t have the Shards you want, the only way to acquire them is by opening loot boxes or buying them on rotation in the store. Are you a fan of the Beast? Well, unfortunately, until Beauty and the Beast is featured in these limited windows, the only way to get Shards for him is a 1.14% chance of landing them from a loot box.
Getting the character is one problem, but every racer in Disney Speedstorm can also be levelled up to improve their stats by getting more Shards. Whoever has the larger level character definitely has the advantage when racing, to the point that in some multiplayer races the winner is already decided before it starts. In Regulated Multiplayer, everyone has the same level, but Ranked is dedicated to the time you put into your chosen character. If you have better crew members and a higher level than the rest of the lobby, it can be a cakewalk for you to cross the finish line first.
You cannot buy Shards, but if they ever add that in the future, this game will be considered pay-to-win and lose the interest of many gamers. With that in mind, there’s plenty of single player content in the limited-time events and local races if you don’t really care about going up against real people and just want to race bots. The live service stuff is a big red flag, but there are enough good things here to still make it worth your time.
Disney Speedstorm is a fun game that we’re glad to see has quite a bit of quality to it. There are some reservations about how well the free-to-play monetisation will work as we move forward, but looking just at the game itself, it’s not a bad time. There is room for this title to become very popular, especially if the right additions are made. At the very least, this can become a fun game for friends. If you’re a Disney fan, it’s a good way to mash together some of your favorite old movies and battle it out on the racetrack.