Team Sonic Racing was released back on May 21, 2019, so you better be ready to go fast! It was developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sega. The last entry in the series was published back in 2012. Which means Team Sonic Racing is the first Sonic racer this generation. It’s fortunate that they waited, since the game has now been released on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. The game comes with plenty of action and will only cost you $39.99 USD.
The Adventure of Sonic
One of the biggest advantages of Team Sonic Racing is it has an actual story mode. Many Kart Racers are fairly bland when it comes to the single-player experience. Although this isn’t what most people look for in one, it’s still nice to see that the effort was put in.
Unlike other Kart Racers, where you just have a series of Grand Prix, the game has seven story chapters. In these chapters you advance through winning various types of races and challenges. There are branching paths which offer more challenge and Mod Pods for upgrading your Karts.
The story is simple. An alien tanuki named Dodon Pa sends invites to various Sonic characters asking them to participate in a series of races for a cash prize. The races are all team based, and he built the Karts for the racers to utilize this. Everyone remains suspicious of Dodon Pa the entire time, believing that he’s in league with Doctor Eggman.
That’s basically it. The story isn’t a meaningful or emotional tale that will redefine the industry. It’s a simple, fun story, that serves as a delivery method for the gameplay. In that way, it rises above many of its competitors. Even if the dialogue can be poor at times, and Rouge continues to make me uncomfortable with his constant innuendos and adult nature.
They introduced new and unique mechanics into the series with this instalment. Instead of having transforming vehicles, you work in three person teams. Performing different kinds of boosts off of each other such as the slingshot. When you drive in the trail of the teammate farthest ahead you receive a boost. You can also give items to teammates in need.
Doing these tasks builds up a meter that will give you a Team Boost. It’s a super boost that your whole team uses and it makes you semi-invincible. This makes the game a lot harder than say Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The people in last can zoom to first with one of these. It keeps the racing tight and makes you more vulnerable to items. This means that utilizing drifts, boosts, and teamwork are extremely important to maintain a lead, even on easier difficulties.
Also, every position earns a different amount of points, and every team has their points added up at the end. Meaning if you place first, but your teammates take the last two spots, you’re toast.
There’s three different vehicle types. With 15 racers in the game, that’s five racers per type. They all have different stats, but racers of the same type have similar stats. These types are Speed, Technique, and Power.
Speed is obviously about being able to go fast. Their top speed is high but their acceleration is low. Technique types are all about utilizing drifts, tricks, and boosts. They have a low top speed, but high acceleration. Power is different; they have generally balanced stats except for lower handling. You can go fast and get up to speed without worry, but if you’re not careful, you’ll be going fast right off the track.
There’s a lot of different modes in the game. You have your basic team race, mirrored races, survival races, and Grand Prix. They’re all self explanatory, and the game does a good job of spacing them out to help keeps things interesting. There’s also a lot of challenge modes. Coin challenge, Eggpawn destroyer, Daredevil, and more. They’re all pretty hard too. Not just for getting the Platinum medal either. Even getting the silver medal needed to continue is often difficult.
That said, the game never manages to become too irritating or repetitive. You’re not being bombarded by items so often that you want to rage quit, but often enough that it isn’t a drag. There’s always the ability to choose what kind of mode you want to play at any time. This helps keep the repetitiveness down, and since it has such great variety it doesn’t feel forced either.
Online Play is different. Custom games gives you plenty of freedom, but matchmaking is a bit restricted. You only have Quick Play, Team Racing, or Standard (solo). The last two have options for casual or ranked play, but they’re essentially the same.
Ranked is a little odd. There’s different medals that show what tier you are, but the game has no real measurement system. It will never show you when or why you ranked up, and you can go from Bronze to Emerald in one race, even if your team didn’t place first. It has little-to-no meaning or initiative for doing better. Which is a large reason many people are looking into this game.
Another issue is how bad the frame-rate drops and lag can be. Sometimes the game will go from 60fps to closer to 15fps in the middle of a ranked match. It’s very jarring. Certainly something that should be a priority for future patches.
Inside the Garage
The Customization is both good and bad. Vehicle upgrades for better stats are great and there’s not just one set that’s the best. You gain new parts by buying Mod Pods with currency you get from playing matches. They’re little RNG boxes. It also offers you the ability to change your Karts colors, color pallets, add vinyls, and change your horns! Which can also be gained from Mod Pods, although far less often.
The problems come from a few different areas. First, if you want any of the Legendary sets (three per racer) your Kart has to be pure gold. You can’t customize anything but your horn. Not giving the players an option to be able to have the best parts, and still personalize their karts is rather disruptive. Secondly, there’s too few color pallet options and vinyls, but way too many horns. Your horn is never important but everyone sees your Kart.
The Way of the Hedgehog
Team Sonic Racing had to somehow maintain the feel of what a Sonic game should be like, while simultaneously transitioning it into a completely different genre. While we’ve gotten Sonic racers before, in most recent years they have all been Sonic & All-Stars. Meaning the game were not only Sonic games, but containing many of Sega’s biggest franchises.
This game had to stand on its own with only Sonic to hold it up. It did a wonderful job of doing so too. While most of the Kart Racers won’t be fan favorites for people who are more casual with the Sonic franchise, all of them are a lot of fun with big personality. Being able to customize the karts, both aesthetically and stats wise is also a great way to draw people in.
The graphics themselves are very good, running at 60fps on Xbox One. The designs are all great, from the tracks, to the karts, and even to the racers themselves. The best part is the opening cinematic. It looks great, and the music they pair it with is a perfect compliment.
The downside is it uses non animated portraits for the Adventure mode cut scenes. While it isn’t a major detriment, it’s an issue for 3D games using this technique. Animated cut scenes would have required a lot more resources and time, but it just looks a bit strange.
The music is all wonderful, which helps make up for it. Every track has music that gets your blood pumping, and even the title screen music is a jam. Audio wise, the only issue it Knuckle’s voice actor. The actor is just no good. He doesn’t sound like Knuckles, more like Eggman trying to do a Knuckles impression.
The Best of the Best
Not everything is created equal, and that’s very true of the many assets inside Team Sonic Racing. Different players are looking for various experiences from this game, that are never the same. So, here’s some suggestions based on what you might be looking for.
Most Challenging Tracks
- Final Fortress
- Hidden Volcano
- Dark Arsenal
- Clockwork Pyramid
- Roulette Road
No track is difficult enough to the point where it’s ridiculous, but these five will give you a run for your money. They have a lot of hazards, sharp turns, and enclosed spaces. If you’re wanting to race on Final Fortress and Dark Arsenal you will have to finish the Adventure mode first.
Most Enjoyable Tracks
- Sky Road
- Ocean View
- Whale Lagoon
- Boo’s House
- Wisp Circuit
All of the tracks are a fun time, but these are those quick, fast, and fun rounds of racing that won’t take much effort but still manage to make you smile. All of them are unlocked to play at the start.
The Racing Types
All of the racer types are technically even. But when it comes to pure fun, some edge out the others. Each type also has exclusive items that can only be chosen if you’re playing as that type, or you accept an item box a teammate of that type offered. Speed has the best character selection, and going fast is always fun. Power has the best items, while still having good stats and the best Karts. Technique is fun if you’re someone who enjoys using all of the mechanics in the game, but it has the worst stats, only a few good Karts, and only an okay roster.
Team Sonic Racing is an enjoyable Kart Racer that manages to stand out against even the best of its competition. While it has some deep flaws with connectivity and frame rate while online, and a useless ranked system, it delivers one of the greatest single-player experiences in the genre. An experience that can be the exact same with up to three other local players too. The game has a wonderful soundtrack, great designs, and manages to be one of the most unique games out there in terms on teamwork mechanics. It reminds me of Splatoon 2 in many ways, but as its racing counterpart.
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- THE GOOD
- Unique Mechanics
- Diverse Modes
- Stellar Soundtrack
- Great Single Player Experience
- THE BAD
- Poor Ranked System
- Frame Rate Drops/Lag Online
- Limited Customization Options
Team Sonic Racing is currently the Kart Racer to beat from the last year. We’ve had many release in that time, and still have a potentially better one on the horizon. But with it’s unique gameplay and well crafted single player modes, it manages to hold the crown for now.
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I’ve been involved with the world of video games since I was able to sit in my dad’s lap and watch him. Not long after that I started playing myself, and it’s been a naturally growing passion ever since.