Have you often dreamed of a far-off place, where the crowds would cheer when you hit first place? Well, from developer Gameloft comes Disney Speedstorm. a title that challenges you to jump in the kart and ‘Go the Distance’.
A ‘hero-based combat racing game’ that gives characters their own classes and unique skills out on the track, Disney Speedstorm offers a dynamic, fast-paced twist on the kart racing genre that sets it apart from your average Mario Kart clone. Where it also differs from the Mario Kart series, however, is in its convoluted upgrade systems, gacha mystery boxes, and all-too-familiar battle pass system that — with a grind-inducing gameplay loop — will have the average Disney fan wondering whether every mile would be worth their while.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been quite a few Disney kart racers over the years. Still, none have combined such a variety of beloved live-action and animated characters, and in such a stylish, cohesive fashion at that. Much like the 2022 mobile RPG Disney Mirrorverse, Speedstorm reimagines a swathe of well-known characters from the Disney vault, using a Tron-like arcade opening to justify Captain Jack Sparrow hitting the track with the likes of Baloo and Randall Boggs.
Characters come dressed for the track in racing gear inspired by the films, and you can customise carts, colours, and even license plates in ways that are thoughtful and authentic to the characters. There are some major omissions from the star-studded cast list, but with Gameloft’s sister title Dreamlight Valley offering an alternative roll call of Disney icons, it’s nice to see some of the lesser-known characters get their chance to shine out on the racetrack. Plus, with a focus on seasonal content, there will no doubt be updates ready to roll and plenty of reasons to return for Disney fans.
With plenty of experience from the Asphalt series and other mobile racers, Gameloft has created an exciting, fast-paced racer in Speedstorm that, in conjunction with the Disney-fied presentation, really gets you leaning forward in your seat as you aim for pole position.
Characters are categorised as ‘Brawlers’, ‘Defenders’, ‘Tricksters’, or ‘Speedsters’, each with unique abilities that suit their personalities. By holding the ‘X’ button on the track these skills can be charged for a bonus effect, adding a nice layer of strategy to the gameplay. A great example of this is the fire ability used by Donald (and other aggressive characters), which can either create an AOE attack or be charged to explode quickly, meaning you can use it to your advantage depending on where your opponents are.
With only nine different tracks available the racing does start to get repetitive rather quickly, but to the game’s credit, it keeps things fresh for the most part, with different race stipulations such as ‘Last One Standing’, and even multiple alternative layouts for courses.
The ‘Starter Circuit’ game mode provides a nice introduction to the game’s controls, upgrade systems, and character styles, unlocking more game modes as you go, but it’s very much needed; the number of upgrade parts, character tokens, and customisation options is overwhelming at first, and it will certainly mar the experience for those wanting simply enjoyable arcade Disney action. It’s sadly a reflection of the modern game’s need to maintain attention and encourage repeat spending, and while I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hooked on Speedstorm, I’m still not so sure whether this Fortnite-esque format is the right fit for the racing genre.
Like many online games nowadays that feign exclusivity with cosmetic trinkets, Speedstorm is currently in ‘Early Access’, and its three available SKUs of increasing value are so convoluted that they require some pretty detailed infographics on the game’s website to explain. It essentially comes down to the number of characters you’ll have unlocked from the start, with the top tier ‘Ultimate Founder’s Pack’ bagging you Mulan, Hercules, and Captain Jack, as well as some extra coins to oil up your racer’s wheels and get you going a bit faster off the starting block.
Speedstorm’s outing on Nintendo platforms is a decent one overall, with an expected hit to the visuals on Switch compared to other platforms and some stuttering in between the extensive menus, but a solid performance where it counts in the races themselves. Docked mode is a welcome enhancement, but in handheld it’s more than passable as a portable option.
Headache-inducing upgrades and convoluted menu systems aside, Disney Speedstorm is an exciting, engaging kart racer, with a thoughtful and cohesive presentation that any Disney fan will get a kick out of. Other than Nintendo themselves, I don’t think there’s a company with as many enticing IPs, and this will work to Gameloft’s advantage going forward as they continue to support the game and keep players going back for one more lap.
Disney Speedstorm Review £28.99
While a range of convoluted upgrades and currencies add more hurdles than just the ones out on the racetrack, Disney Speedstorm is a dynamic, engaging kart racer at its core, with carefully re-imagined characters that will encourage fans to go the distance.