Disney Speedstorm PC Beta Impressions…
Kart racing would seem to be a no-brainer for licensed games. You get some recognizable characters, have them race over familiar places turned into race tracks, add some powerups, and try to make it not suck.
But the kart racing genre as a whole has arguably been stifled for decades by one series, Mario Kart. There have been some decent challengers here and there (most notably the original Crash Team Racing & Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed come to mind) but none of them seem to have much in the way of staying power and honestly that kind of sucks if you want a decent kart racing game and don’t own a Nintendo console.
So how does a game stand out in this genre dominated by a single series? The latest challenger to the kart racing throne is Disney Speedstorm, a free-to-play racing game releasing eventually on pretty much everything but for now, the only way you can be playing it for a very limited time is if you registered and were invited to play the closed beta. I was so after playing Disney Speedstorm for about a week and a half I thought I’d give my impressions. Here’s the disclaimer where I tell you this is a beta version of a game that while likely releasing soon, doesn’t yet have a release date and things could easily change by the time the game releases.
I think it’s also important to note while Gameloft has made a ton of games, nearly all of them are mobile titles. While a couple have had a PC version, this is the first notable one that’s going to be available on consoles in a very long time. While they aren’t present in the beta, Disney Speedstorm is a free-to-play game from a mobile developer, so you know there are going to be plenty of ways for you to spend money. The real question is how it affects your ability to proceed and unlock various things and frankly, we won’t really know until the full release, so I won’t speculate on that for now and just talk about the gameplay.
Comparatively to the kart racing game I just played on Apple Arcade that also features Disney-owned characters, just ones featured in more adult-oriented shows, Warped Kart Racers, Disney Speedstorm is leagues ahead, featuring a lot of things I wish the former had at least attempted on some level.
Most notably, there are important differences between the racers. Not only does each racer have a unique special power (though those aren’t available right away you have to upgrade the racer enough to get them), they are seperated into three distinct classes and it definitely makes for some notable differences. You’ll want a defender class in elimination races because they’ll give you an extra hit thereby making it likely you’ll last longer for example. You can earn slots for pit crews members (which are all supporting cast related to the racer’s respective franchise) that add bonuses to your stats. You can level up by both collecting experience and earning currency through racing and achieving objectives. I’m not positive what my expectations of Disney Speedstorm really were before playing but deep customization options were certainly not one of them.
Disney Speedstorm also makes pretty good use of the fact that hey this is a Disney game and the atmosphere should reflect that. There’s only a handful of tracks available in the beta but you’ll easily recognize racing through Beast’s Castle, Olympus, a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed track, etc. along with remixed versions of favorite tunes such as Be Our Guest that fit well with the track you are racing. There’s a lot of clear love for the Disney license here rather than just throwing the characters on some generic tracks with even more generic music.
Of course all of this would mean nothing if Disney Speedstorm wasn’t fun to play and frankly as someone who likes kart racing but hasn’t seriously gotten into a title in years, Disney Speedstorm is pretty dang fun to play imho. I played with an Xbox Series X controller on my PC and while there were some expected hiccups it was overall pretty stable, handles very well and most importantly, it feels fast.
The various power-ups you can grab in a race can be difference-makers but not to the point where someone is comepletely screwed over if they get hit with a particularly nasty bunch in a row which is nice.
There are a variety of modes including a starter set of 4 chapters that really let you get a good feel for the game, an adventure mode and of course some multi-player and daily challenges. Once you get through the beginner chapters and the adventure mode I sort of feel like anyone not seriously comepeting in ranked play might drop off but Disney Speedstorm is already a free game so it’s not like someone would be out any money in that case and I feel it would be some hours well spent.
So to sum up, my initial impressions of Disney Speedstorm are overall quite positive. It’s suprisingly deep, good use of the license, and is fun to play. The biggest question remains when do we hit that wall where you stop getting anything worthwhile just for playing the game and have to start actually spending money (and then do you get your money’s worth)? We won’t really know until Disney Speedstorm has it’s official launch, which as of right now is slated for the third quarter of 2022.
That’s all for today, if nothing else really comes up I should at least be finally dipping back into the vault for a retro review next week after months of not doing that, so see ya real soon!