You know that feeling at the fairground when you’ve had too much candyfloss, you’re giddy from the spinning rides and everything seems a bit overwhelming? That’s what this game is like. All the time. If you embrace it, you’ll have an amazing time, even if you can’t sleep properly afterwards.
Yes, Disney Speedstorm is out at last, although only in ‘early access’ form because the final game is going to be free to play when it finally launches at some point in the next 12 months.
Right now, even though you can’t spend more money than on the initial ‘Founder’s Pack’ outlay (which you can actually buy more than once if you do so on different platforms), the game is heavily set up and ready for microtransactions.
The whole game is a festival of loot boxes, in-game currencies, rare and legendary items and characters and abilities locked away behind either a paywall or a bit of grinding.
It’s enough to make you run a mile, but our advice is simple: don’t be put off.
Disney Speedstorm’s name couldn’t be more apt. It’s a tumultuous, rampantly playable kart racer that throws action at you with a barrage of power-ups, power drifts and power remixes of classic Disney music.
From a racing fan’s point of view, it’s got it where it counts. The new-gen versions target 60fps, although Xbox Series X seems to be a little more steady than PS5, which stutters when the action gets a bit too screen-filling.
For the most part, it’s silky-smooth, ultra-solid and looks the absolute business, especially when the backgrounds are doing crazier things like oversized crockery dancing around above you, or pirate ships firing cannons at each other.
The handling feels assured and the karts themselves actually look like hulking automobiles with big fat racing tyres and suspension that rocks, a bit like a 1960s F1 car in many ways. The cars look like they could exist in real life and if they did, they’d be super fun.
There’s a dedicated drift button like in Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed, and one of the most powerful jump buttons in the genre, allowing you to really leapfrog hazards and reach suspended power-ups in special events.
Everything feels well-implemented and absolutely nothing is overplayed; as soon as you’ve done one thing for more than two seconds, you’re on to the next with no time to pause.
No matter which tier you’ve purchased, everyone has access to the Starter Circuit series, which introduces you to many of the characters and lets you try some out for free. You’ll also get to immediately spend one of your Golden Passes, which grants you access to another separate branching event series, which is time-limited.
The first is based around Monsters Inc, and the possibilities for future updates are mouthwatering if you’ve ever liked a Disney property. Even if you’re ambivalent, there are plenty of recognisable characters and likeable sound clips from the soundalike voice actors. It’s not as loveable as it could be, but it’s good enough.
After a short while you’re also let loose online, with two different multiplayer modes: one is Ranked and lets you rise through levels faster or slower depending on how well you finish races, and the other is an evened-out affair where true skill shines through, as everyone has the same level.
Both these modes reward you with Multiplayer tokens which can be used in the shop to buy one of some 325 pieces of multiplayer-earned loot. It’s all about the loot, you have absolutely no idea how much the game wants you to care about loot.
But should you? Honestly, not really. Every character can be earned by collecting Shards, and once you’ve got enough to unlock the character, they’re yours to keep. The various cosmetic mods are something and nothing for the most part, with basic kart colours costing loads of credits, plus some reasonably good-looking aerodynamic mods that you basically won’t see for most of the game because everything’s happening so fast.
But you will soon start to yearn for two things: upgrade parts (normally a universal chequered flag icon and then a specific, themed icon like a teapot) to level up your character to a fast enough spec that you can complete the season modes, and star levels, which see you improving your racer incrementally from 1 star to 5.
This improves the range and power of your attacks and makes a big difference to how confident you’ll be when racing wheel to wheel with someone. If you ever become underpowered for the Seasonal events, simply playing multiplayer for a while with the appropriate character should yield enough tokens to level up again.
But – for once – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the grind because the gameplay loop feels so very satisfying. Every race is full of opportunities for skilful play and there’s absolutely no feeling that the game is dumbed down for children.
Far from it; instead it feels like it’s been made overly complex so that fans can boast about their knowledge of its intricacies. If Disney is still cool enough to catch on, then Speedstormcould become the talk of many playgrounds.
One final element of note is the local multiplayer. This mode lets you and up to three friends (on the big consoles and PC at least, Switch is reportedly 1-2 players only) select any of the racers – whether you’ve unlocked them or not – and hit any of the tracks at your leisure.
There are three speeds to choose from, and they start at ‘fast’ which is a nice little nod to the game’s breakneck pace. But at this lowest speed level, it is more accessible and there is time for a newcomer to get used to controlling the kart before you move up to the faster stuff. The split screen runs beautifully and it’s very impressive in terms of fidelity. A great addition to the game.
In terms of bad points, as we mentioned in our tips and tricks article, Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc is a touch overpowered, especially in the few Time Trial events because his special move lets you drive through a door and reappear further up the road, shaving many seconds off your time.
There are also only a few stage themes available so far, though of course, this will improve over time. You may also yearn for simpler times when you just bought a game and all the characters were there without you having to find shards to unlock them, but we’re looking at a game that might finally do what Onrush tried and failed to do: offer a four-wheeled alternative to Fortnite.
Whether it catches on in such a crowded scene is up to the players, but as for the quality of the game, we are convinced. This is very, very good. Get on it.
|Release date||18th April 2023|
|Available platforms||PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PC|
|Version tested||Xbox Series X|
|Best played with||Xbox Series X/S controller|
Full disclosure: This game was purchased for review purposes. Here is our review policy.