There’s a better-than-average chance you’ve played a Disney-themed kart racer over the years, whether its Mickey’s Speedway USA from GoldenEye 007 and Diddy Kong Racing maestros Rare, or Toy Story Racer from LEGO specialists Traveller’s Tales. There’s even the largely-forgotten Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour – a whimsical little racer from Crystal Dynamics helmed by the creator of… horror classic Dead Space. At any rate, Disney is going back to the enchanted well in 2022, courtesy of the crew behind Gameloft’s long-running Asphalt series. Does it have the bare necessities, or is Gameloft taking the mickey? IGN was given an early glimpse at the game in action ahead of this week’s closed beta.
Pitched as a hero-based combat racer, Disney Speedstorm appears to be a typically intuitive and accessible arcade racing game. While IGN is yet is have hands-on time with the game itself, the team has described the handling as easy to grasp, tricky to master, and certainly informed by the experience gleaned from the Asphalt series – particularly Asphalt 8: Airborne, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Asphalt Xtreme.
Of course, approachable driving dynamics are the minimum entry requirement when it comes to competing in the karting space against incumbents like the impeccable Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the successful Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (and even non-karting racers like Hot Wheels Unleashed, one of the best arcade racers of the last decade). Disney Speedstorm’s trump card here is the admittedly unparalleled treasure chest of characters, worlds, and even music it gets to draw inspiration from.
This means Hercules and Megara racing through the Monster’s, Inc. Scare Floor, Baloo and Mowgli blazing through the Beast’s Enchanted Castle, Elizabeth Swann and Captain Jack Sparrow crashing through ancient China, plus all sorts of other combinations. The characters revealed so far appear to be arriving as pairs and also include Belle and The Beast, Mulan and Li Shang, and naturally Mickey and Donald. The studio has leaned into the theme by cladding each character in bespoke race suits too, which is a cute touch.
Disney Speedstorm – The First Preview
More importantly, however, every character has a specific range of skills. They can be roughly sorted into categories like defenders, brawlers, tricksters, and speedsters, which changes the best way to earn boost. Speedsters get more boost from boost pads, while brawlers get more boost from fighting, defenders earn more boost from slipstreams, and tricksters get more boost from drifting.
Each also has an individual array of stats that can be pumped up based on your playtime with them, plus unique special moves. Hercules, for instance, can summon Pegasus and receive a turbo shot by driving in his magical slipstream. On the other hand, Belle can summon obstacles ahead of opponents using her enchanted mirror. Mickey’s Fantasia-inspired skill increases his speed, but also the speed of racers around him. The hero aspect of Disney Speedstorm does seem like an interesting development challenge to balance, though the team explains matchmaking and lobby options to cap racer levels ought to keep online players competing fairly. Disney Speedstorm will feature cross-platform multiplayer support so it seems unlikely it’ll suffer from a shortage of online opponents.
The tracks, which are lifted from iconic locations from Disney and Pixar films, include circuits draped across the docks from Pirates of the Caribbean and winding through Hercules’ Mount Olympus. They’re dressed with plenty of iconic backdrops and props to make them instantly recognisable, and even feature what the team describes as grinding rails that vehicles can hover over in a magnetic fashion reminiscent of the anti-gravity mechanic introduced in Mario Kart 8. Shortcuts are included, though the team notes Disney Speedstorm’s shortcuts won’t be the top secret, hard-to-access, instant-win variety. For better or worse, shortcuts won’t require particularly complicated tricks to take.
Disney Speedstorm Screens
Disney Speedstorm will be free to download and play upon release, with a seasonal model in place to supply new characters, new circuits, new customisation options, and new collectibles. Any associated costs for this content are not clear at this stage. It’s coming to coming to PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC at an unspecified date later this year.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.