Team Sonic Racing Review
For many decades now, the kart racing genre has been dominated by one franchise, and while others have put together valiant efforts, nothing has quite reached the quality of Mario Kart. And I think companies have begun to realize a standard kart racer just won’t cut it anymore, and SEGA took that philosophy and delivered with Sonic Team Racing, available on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
So what really makes this game different from all the rest? The devil isn’t in the details here, but rather right in the title: teams. Your success and failure on the track is no longer tied to just your actions, but also those characters that make up your three-person team. When you first begin your racing adventure, you’ll have Sonic’s team available to play with, which includes Sonic, Tales, and Knuckles.
You’ll quickly learn that just because you finished 1st, doesn’t mean you’ll score the most points for that specific race. Finishing 1st, 5th, and 6th for example is not as god as finishing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. While your team might have had the ultimate winner, once the placement points are tallied, you’ll find yourself in playing catch up.
And this aspect of Sonic Team Racing is what really drives the gameplay for me. On the courses, you’ll have fantastic opportunities to work with your teammates to push everyone closer to success. This includes getting speed bursts for driving along the same path as a teammate who is ahead of you, and if played properly, you could slingshot each other forward throughout the entire race.
Another way to help teammates is to pass around items picked up on the course. Don’t think you’ll need the speed burst you are carrying since you are about to launch yourself past a teammate? Why not hand it off to them as you speed past, so they can get that temporary boost themselves. And even when you hit a deadly trap on the course and spin out, and quick helping hand can get you back up and going fairly quickly. Without that help, you are in for what seems a lengthy amount of time, and getting back up to speed and catching up will not be easy.
The story mode in Sonic Team racing is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the team elements of Sonic Team Racing. While the story itself is a bit blah, it is all voice acted and this acting is fairly strong throughout. Even the voices on the tracks are well done, and varied enough that you won’t always hear the same catch phrase over and over and over again. As you move through levels you will collect stars by completing various course objectives – generally 3 objectives per course – and keys. Stars are what let you progress further into the story, and keys unlock random upgrades and cosmetic items for your cars! These items can also be purchased using in game currency.
With 21 tracks to play – 18 unlocked from the start, and 3 additional tracks awarded for completing the story adventure – and 15 characters – all unlocked from the start – there is plenty to do and play in Sonic Team Racing. And like all good kart experiences, there are various modes including the ones mentioned above, free races and time trials.
Every track is carefully planned and themed on iconic Sonic levels, complete with HD touches that you’ll recognize – should you be a longtime fan – and one of the best scores to ever be included in a Sonic game; that is saying a lot, because Sonic titles have always had fantastic music.
But a good looking level will only take a game so far, and ultimately how the karts handle and how the gameplay works is what matters most. While I was skeptical at the concept when we were first told about it, I’m now 100% onboard. The driving mechanics are good enough – there were a few hiccups from time to time – the team aspect quickly grew on me, and although Sonic Team Racing won’t replace Mario Kart on my Nintendo Switch, it will definitely be an alternative option that I will continue to play for months and years ahead!
It could be a long while before another kart games lands on any of these major consoles, and you won’t be taking a chance if you decide to buy Sonic Team Racing. This is a fantastic title with lots of upside, that any kart racing fan will thoroughly enjoy!