No, Disney Speedstorm isn’t like Mario Kart, Nickelodeon Kart Racing, or any Sonic racing game. Just because you have a cast of iconic characters racing with power-ups doesn’t mean it’s a copy. That’s like saying Racing Ryan plays like Forza. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Of course not. Forza wishes they had the swagger Ryan does.
For a quick summary, Disney Speedstorm is a hero-based combat racing game where a cast of iconic Disney characters race and battle it out through different Disney and Pixar worlds, from Pirates of the Caribbean’s Pirates Island to The Jungle Book’s Jungle Ruins map. Each character has their own unique skills and individual stats that can be upgraded to help win races. For example, Mulan’s “Firework Barrage” or Sulley’s “Fearsome Roar”. If this didn’t help, think of how specialty items worked in Mario Kart Double Dash. Customization is also a feature in Disney Speedstorm. Gamers can customize their Disney character from their suit, kart wheels, and yes even wings. Alright now let’s get nitpicky, but first, let’s talk about what turns me away from this title.
Disney Speedstorm is a live service title. This means that the whole game’s foundation relies on its online service. Of course, there are offline races that can be done but that’s not where the bread and butter of this game lies. I won’t let this heavily affect the score of the title. It’s 2023 and I understand that live service in video games, while a turn-off for some, is considered normal and non-surprising for others.
Besides, the live service doesn’t affect how the game actually performs but you know what does? Microtransactions. The microtransactions in Speedstorm not only add a little flair to vehicles but play a heavy role in how players perform in races and that is NOT okay. Let’s break it down. The title will be going free to play but right now to even play Disney Speedstorm players will need to fork over at least $30 (or regional equivalent). Any real progression you make in the game goes toward unlocking and leveling up racers. To unlock any additional racers it requires their character shards. How can these shards be earned? Well through a grind staking process of competing in time-limited Season Tour Events, grinding daily events races, or guess what; buying them from the in-game Shop in the form of everyone’s favourite… lootboxes. Wanna play as Sully from Monster Inc? That other player beat you last game as him and he looks pretty cool. Too bad, you chose to play Belle from Beauty And The Beast. Either grind or open your wallet.
The majority of the game will be spent grinding out one character to even compete in online races. Online, racers have their own ranking tier system items to help in racing all of which can be helped with a credit card. You will not have a full roster unless this title is grinded nonstop unless the almighty wallet saves you. In 2023 it’s surprising to say this but Pay To Win is not fun in gaming. The same goes for loot boxes, even if it’s just cosmetics. What makes this worse is the title isn’t even free to play yet.
You might be thinking that this review is a wrap after a rant like that but Disney Speedstorm isn’t a bad game. A cash grab, absolutely, but as a racer I had fun. The maps all provide their own unique atmospheres with absolute bangers for songs. Sure, some will think most of the songs are just dubstep remixes of the movies and tv shows iconic songs but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was bopping my head to the remixes of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme and I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan. Characters are actually full-voice acted and have their own customization pieces, progression system, and special abilities. That’s why I was so disappointed for half of the roster to be locked. I want to see the other characters’ abilities and potentially find my new favorite racer (mines currently Belle). They all have something that makes them unique whether it’s the customization or their own item box kits that can be upgraded. Fresh seasonal content is planned to be a regular occurrence within the title, which includes new racers, new tracks, and collectibles so it is exciting to see and predict which Disney or Pixar rep gets added to the game. Fingers crossed for Moana or Stitch. What? A guy can dream.
I’ll give Speedstorm credit for giving the option to have an online mode where gamers can play a regulated race where stats don’t matter. The rewards aren’t the same as ranked games but it’s something for those who don’t wanna face pay-to-win or just higher-level people.
Disney Speedstorm has the potential to be something great. The driving is smooth and fluid, the maps are vivid, and I love the characters and how they’re made to perform. But let’s be real here, gacha mechanics shouldn’t even have been considered for a racing game. This won’t be the last action racer we’ll see and I don’t expect any of them to be the next Mario Kart killer. I do expect them to at least not be a cash grab hidden behind a mask of beloved iconic characters, cool power-ups, flashy tracks, and cool funky music.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.