The kart racing genre is known for many mediocre franchise tie-in titles. NASCAR, DreamWorks, and even Garfield have entered the party with varying results. Sonic and Crash are arguably the only two that can somewhat rival Mario and his friends. Disney Speedstorm is on the cusp of that.
Disney Speedstorm hits and adds some new mechanics and twists to the genre. While the overall game is impressive, it will be hard for many to ignore the microtransactions that poison the sweet apple that's this game (expect many Disney references, you have been warned).
"One Jump Ahead" of Mario Kart, in some ways
Disney Speedstorm is a refreshing addition to the kart racing genre. It brings all of these beloved Disney characters together, like Aladdin and Jack Sparrow, but also adds some awesome gameplay mechanics to the format. The Disney characters aren't the only attraction, unlike other tie-in games that live off the property's name and do the bare minimum.
One of the thrilling mechanics is the charged skill system. When you pick up an item, there are two variations of moves you can pull off. For example, with a mine, you can throw it in front of you or hold the item button to create an explosion in your near vicinity. This adds more of an element of strategy to the game. I hope Nintendo takes notes as I find the items in the Mario Kart series, like the banana and bombs, a bit repetitive and old.
There's also a slight tang of the Burnout series in Disney Speedstorm, as you can ram other players into the walls. I'm surprised such a violent move can be found in a game inspired by the House of Mouse. Additionally, you can use a nitro boost to speed yourself up, like in Team Sonic Racing and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.
These mechanics truly add to the kart racing experience. "For the First Time in Forever," we're actually seeing some innovation within a tired genre.
A great start to the action but...
With Gameloft's experience with the Asphalt series, it's no surprise that Disney Speedstorm feels great to control. While the kart does move a little slower than I'd like, drifting around is a dream. Boosting also feels powerful as you work your way through the hills of the Steamboat Willie-inspired The Silver Screen track and around the halls of Monster's Inc.'s Factory.
I personally love that each character has their own unique item as well. Donald lays out fists around him as he gets angry, while Aladdin rides his magic carpet across the stage. Jafar also bursts fire from his scepter. It makes each character unique and makes me want to try out everyone on the roster.
I'm happy to report that the game runs smoothly on both the PS5 and Nintendo Switch. The tracks look gorgeous on Sony's latest system, and while the Nintendo Switch does have a few rare hiccups here and there, Disney Speedstorm does run well on the hybrid system. It's also cross-play and cross-save compatible, so you can take the game anywhere you'd like to go and play it with anyone you'd like.
Leveling up your character...
My main issue is that your characters need to be leveled up for better stats. For offline play, thankfully, this isn't a big issue. However, your success in the single-player Season Tour mode depends on your character's top speed, acceleration, handling, boost, and combat. You won't be on an equal playing field at points. Mulan might be too slow to finish a race in the first place.
You'll need to get upgrade parts to level up your characters. Most of the time, I've been able to get them easily through unlocking them in the Season Tour mode and Starter Circuit. However, there have been points where I've had to grind for upgrade parts to proceed. It can be frustrating, and this is where the microtransactions rear their ugly head.
The good thing is that everyone is on a level playing field when you play the multiplayer mode. Your characters are automatically at Level 30, which is the regulated level of Regulated Multiplayer. The Ranked mode, however, does depend on your character's stats, so keep that in mind. It does feel pay-to-win in this instance.
There are so many microtransactions!
Like The Goofy Movie with Goofy and Max, you'll need to be "I2I" with the micro-transactions in this game. There are so many to keep count of that it can be overwhelming. Here's an explanation of each of them:
- Tokens - This is the main currency used towards character tokens, vehicle parts, crew members, etc.
- Multiplayer Coins - These are gained through finishing leaderboard events and doing well in ranked multiplayer. This is used for costumes and multiplayer boxes (loot boxes that give you random rewards).
- Season Coins - This is the most common currency you'll earn through finishing races in the Season Tour and Starter Circuit modes.
- Box Credits - These are credits that can be used for opening specifically marked boxes in the Shop.
Gameloft should have streamlined the microtransaction process to make the process clearer. There's also the Golden Pass and Collections level system to keep track of, which gives you character tokens, crew shards, and even mottos. It's a lot to take in and initially turned me off the game at first. With a family title like this, I bet kids are even more confused. Families would wish they'd have a "Friend Like Me" explaining this while playing Disney Speedstorm, I'm certain.
It can be irritating to miss out on your favorite characters like Stitch and Woody as well due to missing each season. You can get them from the Universal Box, but it's ridiculously difficult to get them. For example, to get Angel from Lilo & Stitch at the time of writing, there's a 0.98% chance of getting 1-3 racer shards from the Universal Box. You'll need ten racer shards to get her.
Disney Speedstorm has so much potential though
It's so irritating that there's a bad micro-transaction system in Disney Speedstorm because I genuinely love this game. If it was released at $39.99 and had all of the characters, tracks, and content, it would be marked as one of the best kart racing games out there.
There's a deep love of Disney behind each track design. You're maneuvering around plumes of fire in the Cave of Wonders before the lion opens its mouth, letting you out. Disney Speedstorm has a track based on Mulan that has you racing on the Great Walls of China Wipeout style, with the rockets from the avalanche scene becoming an obstacle later on.
In the Hercules stage, you're drifting around a gorgeous depiction of Mount Olympus as you're listening to a banging electronic remix of the film's opening song, "The Gospel Truth."
The tracks are also laid with fun obstacles and beautiful scenery inspired by the films we know and love. I especially like seeing the colorful and summer vibes of the Hawaii stage from Lilo & Stitch. It's just a shame that the game gets a little repetitive with a small selection of tracks currently.
If you're a Disney fan, you're going to see a lot of references. The music is a bit of a mixed bag with some fantastic remixes of tracks we've grown up with and then others that go overboard with the dubstep and techno beats.
Disney Speedstorm "Goes the Distance" and makes a rough landing
Disney Speedstorm is certainly "on a roll" with its electrifying stages and game design, but it's certainly not "undefeated." The confusing microtransactions pull it down and become an annoying distraction to what's great in this kart racer. While a love for the Disney product is certainly present in Disney Speedstorm, there are a few annoying aspects of the game to be mindful of.
Thankfully, you can play the game offline with all the characters unlocked. You can participate in the multiplayer modes, too, with a rotating selection of guest racers. As the game proceeds, we'll be getting new tracks and characters every two months, so there will be a regular stream of content incoming for Disney Speedstorm.
[This review is based on the Ultimate Founder’s Pack of the game provided by the publisher.]
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