Disney Speedstorm Review
During the 8 and 16-bit era, Disney released a number of games that are still considered classics in the medium. Titles such as Ducktales and Aladdin captured the magic of the cartoon and managed to translate it into a wonderful video game. While there has been a stint of mediocrity with releases that sport the conglomerate’s name, it appears that Disney has drifted past the speedbumps and is back on track. With the successes of Dreamlight Valley in their rearview mirror and the hype surrounding Illusion Island on the horizon, Mickey and Co. look to shift into top gear with Disney Speedstorm. Will this cross-franchise, karting extravaganza be able to compete against the crowd of other family-friendly racers?
Like with any all-star racer, the roster is key. Disney has arguably the most iconic cast and many of these are part of Speedstorm. Rather than focus on characters from new franchises such as Elsa and Bruno (yeah, I’m talking about him), Gameloft opts for those who have been part of the Disney DNA for years. From Donald to Sulley, there are some excellent characters available and with the free-to-play model, many more are surely planned for the future.
I Wanna Be Like You
In order to create unity between the varying art styles, the characters have undergone a redesign. Similar to Disney Infinity, there is a slightly blocky, figurine representation of each racer. While they still look like their on-screen counterpart, it feels like an unnecessary change. Due to this, some of the charm the characters ooze is missing.
As you marvel at the on-screen icons available, your enthusiasm will quickly dwindle when you try to select other members of the crew. At first, you’ll have access to Mickey and shortly after will unlock Donald, however, it gets tricky to play with the character of your choice. You are able to unlock certain racers from particular modes, but most require you to use some form of currency. With season coins, MP coins, tokens and a bunch of other forms of credit, the game baffles. While you expect microtransactions to form part of the free-to-play model, a clear and simple method would be more helpful.
Surprisingly, the game includes a sizeable single-player option. You can take part in several races and earn a number of items. It’s at this point that you can level up your racer. Although this gives the incentive to play and master a character, it can also offer an unfair advantage when playing ranked races. With so many features to improve your characters, it opens up the possibility of pay-to-win. In its current state, this is not the case but the notion is there. Regulated Multiplayer places everyone at the same level, and is definitely a more competitive option.
Life is a Highway
On the road, Disney Speedstorm feels great. All the staples you’d expect are here: drift to gain a boost, use weapons to get an advantage and much more. A nice addition is each character’s skill move. You can press the button to use it in its traditional form or hold it to alter its effect. It’s a simple and intuitive way to add an additional layer of strategy to proceedings.
Courses are themed, linking to the available characters. Most are traditional tracks that have references to the source material dotted around. A stand-out level is one which references the early years of Disney. You smash through a movie theatre screen into black and white. It’s a great moment that shows innovation from Gameloft, however, there aren’t enough moments like this in other courses. Most tracks include multiple routes which add variety to each lap. Blue rails adorn areas and you can hop on these to grind your way on a different route. Cars have a nice weight to them but as a whole, it feels closer to the Sonic racers rather than Mario Kart.
The music of Disney is incredible. Classic songs are etched into our childhood and have helped lead their films to greatness. While the game does encompass elements from franchises represented, it fails to really capitalize on the property. The modern electro beats include refrains and samples from original songs. Although it raises a smile when a recognizable element surfaces, a larger focus on the themes would have helped to capture the magic of Disney.
Sporadically, I did encounter performance issues. As the screen gets busier with environmental chaos and characters that zoom ahead, the game was prone to some framerate drops. Although this never really hindered my performance, it is an annoyance and needs addressing.
Disney Speedstorm is a solid racer that ties a number of franchises together in one fun experience. Seeing fan favorites share a racetrack is a thrill, however, a variety of issues stop this from reaching the greatness of its influences. The restrictive nature of its character selection and the confusing number of currencies hinders the enjoyment. Mix in the performance issues and this racer narrowly misses the podium.