Hot on the heels of the success of Sonic Mania Plus, SEGA has once again decided to throw its hat in the kart racing scene in an attempt to unseat Mario Kart as the king of the genre.
Joining forces once again with their old pals at Sumo Digital, SEGA has opted to remove the “all star” cast from popular SEGA games, which they most recently starred in Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed, to instead focus solely on the pantheon of characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog universe.
To further differentiate Team Sonic Racing from those that came before it, the game introduces a team mechanic, where players need to utilize teamwork to take down rivals and rack up points to ultimately get that checkered flag.
But is it enough to set it apart from the increasingly crowded kart-racer genre, or is Team Sonic Racing spinning its wheels and going nowhere fast?
Racing at a moderate speed
First and foremost, Team Sonic Racing doesn’t deviate too much from the tried and true kart racer formula, and if you’ve played anything close to Mario Kart, you’ll be ready to roll in no time. Players pick up Wisp capsules and use them to take down rivals as they speed through breathtaking views of familiar locales.
Newcomers will have an easy time getting into the game as the controls are simple to understand, and the idea of grabbing Wisp capsules to gain items to use against your rivals is standard fare. With that said, the speed they managed to achieve is a little lackluster, which is disappointing when you consider this is a Sonic game and “ya gotta go fast” and all.
Furthermore, when you’ve taken a considerable lead, you can find yourself cruising along the tracks before a random boost pad shows up, and with some of the track’s width being large, there’s a lot of empty space in most of them, but at least there nice to look at, I suppose.
For teams, they are split into three classifications: Speed, Technique and Power. Speed is more focused on top speeds and has a weak defense. Technique is great with handling and acceleration. Power has great defense and boosting power. You pick from one of the three before a match and utilize the other two during the race to your advantage.
Now getting back to what sets Team Sonic Racing apart from other kart racers – your teammates can be the ones that can ultimately decide whether you win or lose a race. That’s because it doesn’t matter if you simply finish the race first because if your overall point total isn’t high enough, you will lose the race.
While it might seem like a questionable choice, I found it to be a great feature as it forces you to work with your fellow teammates to achieve a clean sweep of the top three places.
However, there is some problems with teammate A.I. and how they can throw you off track and possibly cause you to stumble behind. Take for instance, if you’re drifting the corner and out of nowhere, your teammate decides to ram into you, disrupting your drifting and causing you to slow down and possibly be hit by an opponent’s Wisp. This is probably the only frustrating aspect of the game as the A.I. in both your team and the opponent’s team will constantly bump into you and throw you off-course.
The tracks themselves are stunningly beautiful and are the best tracks I’ve seen in a racing game for a while. It’s fun to drive around in well-known locations from the Sonic franchise, my favorite being Rooftop Run, while listening to sweet remixes done by the legendary Sonic composer, Jun Senoue.
What’s a racer without modes?
There are three types of game modes within Team Sonic Racing: Team Adventure, Local Play and Online. Team Adventure is basically the ‘Story Mode’ of the game and attempts to explain why Sonic is racing in a car and not on his feet.
It has the typical ‘World 1-1’ top-down layout and collecting stars by completing certain objectives and obtaining keys to unlock more races are what keeps the story moving along. It also serves as the introduction to a new character, Dodon Pa – a tanuki from space that brings all the racers together. That is basically all there is to the story, so I won’t spoil anything if you want to play it yourself.
Local Play and Online are two of the same. In local play, you can race by yourself or have a friend join in as you race in either Grand Prix, Team Races or Standard Races. Online has the same setup and that you can race in either ranked or casual games. Ranked games don’t give you extra goodies, but it’s nice to say you rank #2274 in the entire world, step up plebs.
Lobbies are different in that they can be created only with your online friends. Creating a lobby also has different game modes that are not available in the local play. Modes such as Vampire Race, using only Rocket and Void Wisps to knock rings out of your opponents and consequently making them slower. There really isn’t that much to say about local play. You can just race in a Grand Prix, there are five different Grand Prix consisting of four tracks, or do team or standard races against the A.I.
Probably the best aspect to come from this is the customization. In here you can customize your racers with different parts that alter their overall performance. Decals are also obtainable and can be equipped on every racer’s cars. Parts, decals, and paint jobs are obtainable through a ‘gacha’ style toy-capsule machine. Inserting 10 Pod Coins you collect after finishing races allows you to draw random parts, decals and bonus Wisps you can use at the beginning of every race.
The other interesting part about customizing is that it allows you to mix the different racers pallets with each other. You can see Sonic rocking Amy’s pink colors on his car or see the Chao’s baby blue car turn into an edgy, all black car thanks to Shadow’s color pallet. There are even zone colored themes based off ‘Green Hill’ and ‘Studiopolis’ and many others. Either way, customization is probably one of my favorite aspects and I’ve wasted some time mixing and matching different pallets and decals with every single racer.
Team Sonic Racing succeeds in making team-based gameplay the selling point and is indeed a title I would recommend. But what stops it from being a great title is the frustrating A.I. movements on your team when your trying to break away for first place and the limited game modes that are offered make it feel shorter than it should have been.
With the good amount of time I’ve spent with it, I believe that it’s not a good game, but certainly not a bad game. It’s just there in the middle of all the other Sonic games that are just hanging around, but I would rank this number two on my list of Sonic racing games, the first being Sonic & All-Stars: Transformed.
- Visually stunning tracks and awesome music
- Easy to pick-up and smooth controls
- Good online matchmaking
- Short amount of game modes
- Frustrating team A.I.
- Slow user interface (especially in customization)