Disney is an unstoppable force in media. Its reach covers just about anything. The mouse’s empire trying to take on the likes of Mario Kart is not really surprise – it was basically inevitable – but while the concept of a Disney-themed racing game isn’t really an unexpected launch, there are definitely a few things that are a little peculiar about Disney Speedstorm.
For one, even having played it for a while, I still can’t decide whether I like it or not.
Disney Speedstorm In A Nutshell
You might think that a glance at Speedstorm tells you everything you need to know. Disney characters tearing around tracks inspired by the company’s most popular franchises and throwing weapons at each other. Mario Kart without the Mario, and with Monster’s Inc characters, right?
Well, not exactly. The game is a peculiar Frankenstein kind of title that tosses in mechanics from various other racing games.
If you thought Mario Kart was a way to ruin friendships, Disney Speedstorm is a way to forge enemies. The game is surprisingly aggressive. You pick your racer and vehicle before dropping into a track with various other players (or possibly bots). From there, you can simply outspeed your opponent, utilize shortcuts and alternate routes, or you can play dirty.
The game has a ramming system, which lets you aggressively slam into your opponents and run them off the road. It also has some pretty fiendish weapons. The one that temporarily reverses your controls is especially mean.
Different characters bring different skills to the table, as well as having stats that favour certain play styles. There are a few that are currently wildly ahead of the rest of the cast, a certain green, one-eyed monster immediately springs to mind.
The setup is fun, though it does feel a little let down by the handling of the cars. They tend to feel slow, even when traveling at speed, and feel a bit like trying to drive a slippery tank round the course. It’s not awful but it did leave me pining for something like KartRider: Drift where I always felt very in control of what I was driving.
Awesome And Creative Environments
While the car handling itself didn’t really wow me in Disney Speedstorm, the tracks really pulled out all the stops, and I can’t do the review without taking a bit of time to gush about them.
The Speedstorm tracks are varied, creative, and just have a sense of chaotic fun to them that makes up for the lackluster car handling. They’re unsurprisingly themed after Disney and Pixar properties, but the creators haven’t let this fact make them lazy.
One that stood out in particular for me was a track based around classic cartoons, which catapults you through a cinema screen into a black and white wonderland, then promptly hits you with a train. Tracks are dotted with hazards, shortcuts, boost plates, and rails to grind on, which means getting to learn the track gives you a massive advantage going forward.
Unfortunately, it’s advantages that might be one of the more controversial aspects of the game.
The Shadow Of Pay To Win
Of course, everything else aside, there’s one big concern that looms over Speedstorm that’s impossible to ignore. The pay-to-win question.
Disney Speedstorm is set to be free-to-play on its release, but obviously, any game needs to make its money. At this point in early access, you can purchase more costly editions of the game in order to unlock more characters, and get extra in-game currency to play with.
The characters all have different stats and places in the meta, and the currency can be used to upgrade your racers and generally improve your performance. Herein lies the trap of pay-to-win.
You can earn the stuff you need to upgrade your characters by playing without spending, and you can get hold of the characters too, if you’re willing to get on the grind, but you can get there a lot faster by parting with cash for premium boxes and racer shards.
Certainly, this might be enough to put many people off it entirely, though as the game is in early access it’ll be interesting to see if Gameloft can manage the power creep and prevent people from just buying their way to the top racers, while also stopping new players hitting an immediate wall.
Is It Worth Playing?
It’s hard to either condemn or get on the hype train for Disney Speedstorm. The game has some real creativity in areas that make me really want to like it, but it’s hard to overlook its flaws.
There’s definitely some fun to be had, and with multiplayer this might be exactly the game you need to really despise the rest of your friend group for an evening. It’s really down to how you feel about its quirks. Full release is see to be free-to-play, so there’s no reason not to give it a go when that rolls round.
If it’s of interest to you, you can check the game out now on Steam Early Access.
If you want to see some other games we’ve been playing lately, also check out our review on Mail Time.