Originally set to be a free-to-play title upon its release, Disney Speedstorm isn’t quite at that stage right now. Instead, it currently costs money to buy as an Early Access title, much like Gameloft’s other recent title, Disney Dreamlight Valley. It might not be everyone’s preferred way to play, but here we are. Strip away all the currency nonsense and menus that are far more complex than they have any need to be, and there’s an adequate racer at its core. It’s just a shame that in its current state, it feels a bit bare bones.
Currently there’re only a handful of characters to choose from, some being from the more random pockets of the Disney World. Sure, there’s Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, but there’s also the likes of Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of the Caribbean. Other characters from Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, and The Jungle Book make up the slim pickings at present, but as it’s a live service game, so there will almost certainly be more added, such as Monsters Inc; which is currently part of the game.
Let’s get the currency out of the way because, quite frankly, it’s a downright awful. There are blue and purple tokens which all serve to unlock new stuff. Gold tokens are part of the Battle Pass-style progression, whereas the others can be spent in the Shop. Multiplayer tokens are unlocked online and can be used on other stuff, then there are chests which can be opened and unlocked to offer new outfits and car parts as well. Then there’s racer shards (are you lost yet?) which level up your character’s star levels, but not their stats; that of course comes from another type of upgrade. It’s ridiculous how much is thrown at you, detracting from the actual enjoyment of just getting in your kart and driving. There’s even more to manage on top of that, but to go into it now would only melt your brain further.
The racing in Disney Speedstorm is decent enough, but nowhere near as smooth or satisfying as Mario Kart or even Crash Team Racing. Whenever you get walloped by an item or fall off the track, it’s easier to get back into the race. But not here. It feels like a constant battle to win, and even after some solid handling and drifting throughout a lap, it can all come undone and knock you back five or six places, leading to frustration. Each racer falls into a different category, and upon reaching a higher racer level, you get your own specific power-up. You can also boost by building your gauge up after riding across panels on the course. Drifting feels satisfying, and is probably one of the better implemented mechanics.
It has the foundations for a strong racer, but it needs balancing. Disney is for everyone, and there will be kids playing this. My two daughters joined me for a couple of races, and even played through Disney Speedstorm’s single player introduction mode. Both were confused by what all the jargon meant and the AI being far too smart for its own good. They’ve played countless hours of Mario Kart and are no strangers to the genre, yet like me, they struggled in races and got frustrated by how it punishes you, even when your driving is perfectly fine.
The courses have some nice variety, such as the Hercules-inspired track which is filled with some nicely linked corners allowing for drifting marathons, and the Jungle Book one has some aerial platforms leading to shortcuts. Each course has different parts to it, but the films they’re based upon are, like the characters, limited at present. If Gameloft find a way to ease up on the multiple amounts of currency and try and focus on the fun that it presents, we might actually have an arcade racer to rival the better ones on the market.
In its current state, Disney Speedstorm has far too many menus, upgrades, currency, and confusion to warrant reccomendation. Sure, the racing is fun, if too punishing when it doesn’t need to be, but hopefully that will get balanced out the more we get into the Early Access period. It’s also worth mentioning that the soundtrack is pretty fantastic, utilising some of the better Disney songs and giving them a completely new spin, utilising electronic and dubstep genres to try and make the racing more exhilarating.
Some fun tracks
Drifting is sublime
Colourful characters and tracks
Far too much currency
Menus clutter the experience
Lack of characters and courses
Racing is unbalanced