Disney is no stranger to lending their iconic cast to crossovers, with some of these including racing games. Mickey and friends speeding across raceways on the Nintendo 64 and even some of their friends driving across Disney World on Dreamcast and PS1 being some more notable examples. But in 2023, Disney partnered with Gameloft to put Mickey and some of their Disney and Pixar friends back on the race track.
Disney Speedstorm is a crossover kart racer that takes many notes from the masters of the genre. However, its decision to be free to play puts a few holes in the tires.
Filling Up the Engine – Gameplay
The core gameplay of Speedstorm is that of a typical kart racer. You collect various power-ups as you drift and boost across race tracks inspired by various Disney and Pixar worlds. Even if it’s typical, a few wrinkles to the formula make it quite enjoyable.
The controls for starters are very tight and responsive, making drifts fun to pull off on the mostly well-designed tracks. Through drifting, you don’t do a full-on boost like in Mario Kart or Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed, you build up a meter that, when full, you can pull off longer boosts. Speedstorm’s sense of speed is quite good, with mechanics like grindable rails adding to the experience. Despite being janky at first, once you get used to the controls finding new routes on the track is enjoyable.
In addition to the power-ups, which include disks, bombs, and the like, you also have character-specific skills. Mickey’s skill, for example, lets him have a longer boost while conducting a short Sorcerer’s Apprentice-style tune, while Mulan’s skill has her shoot firecrackers for a little while.
They can be quite fun to pull off. Especially with the more unique ones like Mike from Monster Inc where he creates doors that if you drive through, you get warped further into the track while if your rivals drive through them, they slow down. Overall, the core gameplay of Speedstorm is good and offers fun short bursts of racing… But the progression leaves a lot to be desired.
There is a Fee Mr. Mouse – Progression & Free To Play Model
The game’s release is an interesting one. The majority of my time with the game was with the Founders Pack release back in 2023. Though, recently the game transited to its current free-to-play model.
Progression in Speedstorm hinges on three different currencies: gold coins which can get upgrade parts for your car and sometimes some character cards to unlock them, Speedstorm Coins which can be used to buy character unlock bundles and the game’s version of loot boxes, and multiplayer tokens which can be used to buy things to customize your car.
That is not the only currency. Each franchise has its own items to collect to upgrade the characters within it. So Mickey and company need two things to upgrade themselves until you hit level eight or so. Then they need THREE things to upgrade them further. In addition, the game has a Seasonal Battle Pass, where you get a mixture of rewards from competing at different levels. It’s also the easiest way to earn the Speedstorm Coins.
To the game’s credit, some of these currencies are easily earnable through the various Chapters present in each season. They put you on various missions that mix up the races, normal races, and even give you access to characters you don’t ‘own’ for some specific races. While these variations on the tracks and gameplay don’t mix things up to the degree that Mario Kart DS accomplished, it’s enough to keep you engaged.
Disney Speedstorm Cast and Crew
If you missed out on a Season, however, then unlocking characters is a problem. The main currency to buy them you don’t easily earn in the Season Chapters like the other currencies. Meaning, you are very much encouraged to spend real money on Speedstorm Coin bundles.
The characters added to the roster since the initial launch are quite vast. Including cast from Toy Story, Aladdin, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and in the upcoming season Little Mermaid. And these aren’t the live-action versions, these are the 90s Classic versions of the characters.
While I completely understand a free-to-play game wanting to find ways to get monetization, it just feels wrong doing this with IP so closely linked to children. Hopefully, as the game continues, they find ways to make the character unlocks fairer.
Strong Engine – Presentation & Performance
The game’s presentation and performance are quite nice. The visuals themselves look authentic to the films they pull from, with one stand out being the Steamboat Willey tracks. Starting out in a movie theater in one of them, then you drive into the screen and racing in a black and white cartoon, only to circle back to the theater where color returns. The Toy Story tracks are another highlight. The track lets you literally race in Andy’s Room as if everyone is the size of a toy.
The frame rate on PlayStation 5 is a stable 60FPS, featuring a crisp 4K resolution. The game also makes good use of the Haptics feedback on the DualSense controller, adding another layer to the races.
Sadly, the music is hit-and-miss. They use techno and trap remixes of various iconic Disney themes. The Frozen remixes didn’t sound right to me, however the Mulan and Hercules Remixes are standouts.
Disney Speedstorm Overall Impressions
The fun racing and clear love for Disney’s past and present an enjoyable package, if similar to other kart racers. But the live service elements detract and hinder progression, making things more complicated than they should be.
If you enjoy Disney or grew up with them, going on the Speedstorm race tracks for a little while isn’t a bad use of your time. But don’t go expecting the next kart racing classic either.
Note – Game was purchased by the reviewer, using the Founders Edition on PlayStation 5. In addition, the publisher provided a code for some of the in-game content.