I have been a massive fan of the Mario Kart series of games since the original came out for Super Nintendo. In the past, there have been a few enjoyable kart racing games released for other franchises like Crash Bandicoot, or Sonic Team Racing, but none really having had the power to dethrone that monumental series. Will Gameloft create a memorable new racer with Disney Speedstorm that doesn’t feel like a bad clone?
Disney Speedstorm is a kart racer currently in early access on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. The full game is set to launch in a free-to-play state in late 2023 or early 2024. The problem is the early access version is going to cost you money to play. There are three different DLC packs to select from that all give you early access to the game along with some other rewards:
Standard Founder’s Pack — early access, two racers unlocked (Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck) and the choice to select a third character, 4,000 Tokens, two Golden Pass Credits, three exclusive racing suits and a Founder’s Avatar and Motto.
Deluxe Founder’s Pack — early access, three racers unlocked (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Mulan) and the choice of an additional racer, 7,000 Tokens, two Golden Pass Credits, four exclusive racing suits, and a Founder’s Avatar and Motto.
Ultimate Founder’s Pack — early access, (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Mulan, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Hercules) with the choice of an additional racer, 12,000 Tokens, three Golden Pass Credits, six exclusive racing suits, a Founder’s Avatar and Motto along with Wings to add onto Donald Duck’s kart.
The racers you will be able to unlock as your additional choice are Baloo, Belle, Beast, Elizabeth Swann, Shang, or Mowgli. Not really a massive catalogue of characters, but some neat additions if you are a fan of the movies they are from. The Tokens are an in-game currency that you can earn for free by completing goals in the game, or if you don’t want to spend the time to earn them, you can spend real-world money. Some of the things you can use these Tokens on include buying items in the shop or purchasing the Golden Pass. Golden Pass reminds me of a Fortnite-style battle pass, as it gives you access to seasonal rewards like suits, racers, and liveries. I am not usually a fan of games where I have to purchase all the characters separately or subscribe to get access to exclusive outfits and characters, but I am curious to see how this will all work out when the game is out of early access.
Fortunately, the place where Disney Speedstorm does well is the racing itself. You begin the game as Mickey Mouse, the buttons used to control different actions feel very familiar if you have played a kart racer in the past, and they feel really tight and responsive with a great drift mechanic. The karts have a good weight as they are jostled and pushed around the race track, so the collision detection is very good. The area that I felt was totally different than in other racers like Mario Kart was how you attack your enemies. Instead of picking up items, you will collect Skill Points. Each of the racers has their own set of skills that they can use, if the skill is an attack you can use it shooting forward, backwards, or charged. The charge shot will do more damage but allows you to get hit. Some attacks launch unguided projectiles, while others are guided and will hit the nearest enemy. All the skills have a star rating between one and five and can be levelled up to make them stronger or change their attribute — like unguided projectile to guided. While playing local multiplayer, we discovered a lot of crazy attacks like reversing the track for your opponents or being able to teleport if you are using Jack Sparrow.
While playing the single-player, Circuit Mode you will only have the base characters that were unlocked based on the DLC Pack, for the first section, you only have Mickey. But, if you play local multiplayer; all the racers are available to select from — this was a nice surprise! You select how many CPU opponents you want in the race — there is the option for zero if you don’t want any — up to five if you have four players local. Select their difficulty from very easy to very hard and the speed you want to race at — Fast, Faster, or Very Fast. For the tracks, you select an area (or theme) and there are multiple tracks that you can select from. There are currently no cups like you would see in other racers, just individual tracks. No matter which area you select, the track designs are well done, they look really nice and the music was very fitting. I was playing the game on my Steam Deck hooked up to the TV with no issues, but it seems like it doesn’t perform nearly as well on the Nintendo Switch.
Overall, we had a fun time playing Disney Speedstorm; and although we did notice a few minor glitches — like the game showing Jack Sparrow's picture when Baloo had won — but none of it was game-breaking. It wasn’t as enjoyable as Mario Kart, primarily because of the game's Skill mechanic. If you switched characters between races, it was hard to learn what attacks you were able to use as it always changed. In Mario Kart, if you pick up a Red or Blue Shell, you know exactly what that does. I’m sure as time goes on, and we have more time to play the game, we will become more familiar with each of these skills and know how to use them more effectively.
Disney Speedstorm is a fun kart racing game that fans of the genre will enjoy, but keep in mind that it will cost money to play it in early access. The racing itself was a lot of fun, it's just the way the game has multiple currencies, points, and shards that you have to earn or pay to get which I’m not excited about. I wish that all the characters would be available to unlock by racing and not require me to pay money for a pass to give access to other racers. I am not looking forward to when a character that my kids love gets released, I predict a lot of discussions about me not paying for every racer they like! It will be interesting to see how the game changes once the free-to-play game releases.