Sonic the Hedgehog is known for speed, so it is no surprise that the series has branched into the racing game genre over the years. Recent racing spinoffs for Sonic have branched out to include multiple other Sega properties, including the likes of characters from games like Shinobi and NiGHTS. Sega and Sumo Digital decided to rein things in a bit this time though by focusing exclusively on Sonic characters in the team-based Team Sonic Racing.
As the name implies, Team Sonic Racing tries something pretty different from the previous Sonic racing games. Rather than being focused on coming in first place all by yourself, your goal now is to come in first place as a team of three instead. You obviously still want to try and come in first yourself if you can, but you also want to help your teammates place high as well or you may actually lose the race as a whole, while still coming in first place.
Team Sonic Racing is not the type of game you’d be expecting incredible visuals from, but they are pretty solid throughout the game. There are some pretty cools design layouts implemented across many of the the game’s 21 tracks, which look pretty good in action. There can be some performance drops here and there when a lot if going on within certain races, though they are pretty limited for the most part thankfully.
The basics of a general kart racer are there at the core in Team Sonic Racing, with the right trigger being used to accelerate and left trigger being used to brake or drift. Wisps are the games equivalent of items, which you can grab and use in a race. There are a number of different Wisps for you to pick up and use, with your place in the race helping to decide what types of Wisps you can get. Similar to Mario Kart, this helps you make a comeback if you have fallen back in the pack, but it also leads to some serious rubberband AI at times as well.
While Team Sonic Racing does offer the ability to race with normal non-team rules if you would like, the main focus of the game is obviously the team oriented racing style. The game comes with 15 total characters to choose from, which are broken down into five different teams. This means you cannot mix and match the characters, so you are stuck with teams such as Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles or Shadow, Rouge, and Omega. Each team is made up of a Speed-Type, Technique-Type, and Power-Type, so figuring out which of the three you want to use is very important. The teams do matter too, as the various characters have different stats to work with in the race.
Team Races themselves work very similarly to how a normal race would, though you are also trying to help your teammates place highly as well. This can be done in a few different ways, besides the obvious of taking out opposing teams with your items. If you are in first and get let’s say an Orange Rocket Wisp, you can transfer this item box to a teammate instead that could get more usage out of it. Not only can you do this, but your teammates will also be transferring items to you if you accept them as well. This adds a level of synergy into the races that can be quite helpful.
Even more useful in Team Races are the moves you can pull off with your teammates. During a race, both your teammates and yourself leave a yellow trail behind that you can ride on top of to charge what is known as a Slingshot move, which will give you a boost as soon as you leave the trail. You can also use what is known as a Skimboost to ride by a teammate that has spun out to give them a boost as well. The most effective though is that of the Team Ultimate, which can be activated when you fill up your Ultimate Meter by doing the different team-based moves mentioned above. The Team Ultimate is the most powerful move you can pull off in Team Sonic Racing, as it lets you burst past the opposition and even receives an even bigger boost if all performed at once.
The most basic Team Racing mode has you simply trying to come out on top by having the most points based on the placement of you and your two teammates. Sometimes this is based on one race while sometimes it is in a Grand Prix format where the points are cumulative across a four race set. However, there are a number of other race types you can experience as well, including King of the Hill, where points are only earned by the team who is in first, and Lightning Race, where you have to avoid being struck by lightning throughout the race. What is incredibly disappointing though is that these race types cannot be selected in the general Local Play option, but rather are exclusive to Team Adventure mode and online multiplayer for some reason. This is pretty inexcusable for a game where you should be able to start up show off these different game modes and play with friends locally at anytime. Hopefully these other race types are added in a patch later, because it really makes no sense to not have them available in Local Play.
Team Adventure is the game’s version of a story mode, though the story itself is pretty bare bones for the most part. The basic premise is that the new character Dodon Pa sends out invitations to all the racers and that is where the game kicks off. Rather than a true adventure mode like something such as Diddy Kong Racing, Team Sonic Racing splits it up into chapters, with each one having multiple stages to pick between. The stages have different completion conditions, with there being stars awarded for completing certain requirements. You can move on with only one earned star on a stage, but you will eventually need more to advance past barriers that require a certain number of stars. Team Adventure not only does a good job at introducing players to the various different race types available in Team Sonic Racing, but lets player sample the different tracks in the game as well.
Team Sonic Racing also offers online multiplayer as well, which lets you choose from either random matchmaking or using the game’s lobby system to play with friends. You also have a few different options to choose from playlist wise as well, with you able to outright select Team Race or a Standard race where teams are out the window entirely, which both offer Ranked and Casual options. The most fun of the bunch though is Casual Quick Play, which mixes in the various race types like Rocket Race and Vampire Race, with players able to vote on which they want to play. These all seemed to perform very well online, with little to no lag experienced in the multiple sessions played.
As you play through Team Sonic Racing, you will earn credits in game that can then be exchanged to purchase Mod Pods. These are essentially in-game loot boxes that thankfully are opened only by the credits you earn in game. These range from offering you bonus boxes that can be equipped before a race to give you an edge or with new parts that you can swap out in the garage on specific character karts. Rather than each character sharing vehicles like in Mario Kart, the parts earned are exclusive to a specific character’s kart instead, so you will need to keep working towards enhancing these karts by buying more Mod Pods.
Besides the parts found in Mod Pods, the main collectible in Team Sonic Racing are that of keys in Team Adventure mode. Each chapter has a set number of keys that can be earned in certain stages by completing additional tasks. You might think that unlocking the keys for an area might unlock a special stage or something, but sadly these just give you more items like new Vinyl to use on your karts. Giving the player something a little more unique would have made collecting the keys feel much more worth it in the end.
Sumo Digital already had a winning formula with the two Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing games, which made it all the more surprising when they first announced Team Sonic Racing. While the team-based gameplay is brand new, the basic gameplay you’d expect from most any kart racer is present and handled quite well. The Team Race style is also a lot of fun as well, but the fact that so many of the innovative race types are non-accessible outside of the game’s story mode and online really hold Team Sonic Racing back from being great.
While Team Sonic Racing maintains the core kart racing gameplay you know and love intertwined with fun new team-based mechanics, a laundry list of the best race types are left entirely out of local play with friends, instead being only available in Team Adventure and online modes, which partially runs what is still a good game off the track before the finish line.
- This article was updated on May 17th, 2019