Last week, Disney Speedstorm launched via paid early access. The (eventually) free-to-play kart racer is a multiplatform spin on Mario Kart and stars a wide array of Disney characters including Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Belle, Jack Sparrow, and more. And while it’s a lot of fun to play, its free-to-play grind and lack of tracks at launch might put off non-Disney adults.
Developed and published by Gameloft, Disney Speedstorm is a kart racer that plays much like Nintendo’s popular Mario Kart games. You drive various Disney characters around colourful tracks based on different movies and collect power-ups that let you damage your opponents, increase your speed, or defend yourself from attack. Drifting helps you earn extra boost and it’s often easy to come from behind if you collect a few power-ups and take some shortcuts. You’ve played this kind of game before. But this time around your opponents are beloved Disney characters and also some people from Pirates of the Caribbean, too.
🚥HIT THE TRACKS! 🚥#DisneySpeedstorm is now available on PC & Consoles!
— Disney Speedstorm (@SpeedstormGame) April 18, 2023
The racing action in Speedstorm is fantastic. Karts feel responsive and fast. Race tracks are both fun to drive through and cool to look at. And when you perfectly hit a drift or time a boost, it feels great. All the power-ups are exciting to use, too. And using the right stick to slam into other racers, potentially bashing them right into walls is extremely satisfying thanks to the way the game slows time down and shows your opponent eating shit, like a takedown in Burnout.
Helping to make the action on the track more exciting and set it apart from Mario Kart, racers in Speedstorm are grouped into various roles, each offering different bonuses and advantages. For example, Mickey is a speedster, a role focused on going fast. Other roles focus on damaging opponents or being a mobile tank, able to withstand whatever the hell Goofy or Hercules toss at you next.
The moment-to-moment action and driving in Speedstorm is so good I was almost able to ignore the rest of the game’s problems and shortcomings. Almost.
Speedstorm’s lack of tracks and free-to-play grind
Firstly, the game only has about nine courses and some of these recycle bits from other tracks or just flip the direction you take. After a few hours of playing through the introductory campaign, I had raced multiple times on every course. Sure, Disney Speedstorm has some different modes that shake things up, like a mode that covers the course in thick fog, but racing the same nine or so tracks over and over again is a shame. It’s also odd. Disney has so many popular films to rip courses from, and while the devs have big plans to add more tracks and racers each season, it’s a bummer that it launched with such a small list of courses.
What makes the small list of tracks even worse is the free-to-play grind you may encounter in Speedstorm. If you just want to drive around as your fave Disney characters, have some fun with friends via split screen, and unlock some upgrades, you’ll be fine.
But for folks who want to unlock everything, complete every challenge, and finish the season pass, you’ll be racing a lot (and I mean a lot) on those same courses over and over, collecting dozens of currencies and XP used to craft upgrades for racers.
While I appreciate the idea of levelling up racers, getting them new abilities, and unlocking fresh cosmetic items for each of them, it can all feel very overwhelming and very grindy. If you consider yourself a big Disney lover, you might be able to look past these flaws. However, for others, the awesome kart racing likely won’t be enough to distract from a lack of tracks and the endless grind. Perhaps in a few months, after Gameloft has added more content, Speedstorm will be more appealing to non-Disney adults. But for now, you’d better really, really like kart racing and Mickey Mouse.
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