Team Sonic Racing Review
A strange Tanuki appears to host an exciting racing tournament for Sonic and his friends! What happens when you put the fastest thing alive into what is being boasted as the fastest cars in the galaxy?
Team Sonic Racing is the new kart racing game developed by Sumo Digital and published by SEGA to be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, XBox One, and MicroSoft Windows as of 21 May 2019. Team Sonic Racing is a spin-off title from SEGA’s Sonic The Hedgehog series, and was developed by the same team that worked on the Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing games. Sumo Digital aimed on making the game stand out compared to other racing games, as it focuses a lot on cooperative gameplay, putting emphasis on efficiency as a team, instead of speed. The game features a lot of fun gameplay from third-person perspective while performing stunts, drifts, and launching powerful attacks upon picking up power-ups. How does this game stack up in comparison to other kart racing games?
Aliens Race Too
The story begins when a Tanuki named Dodon Pa from outer space arrives on Sonic’s world to personally invite Sonic and his friends, and other affiliates – allies or otherwise – to compete in a series of team-based races. His sudden appearance has Tails and Knuckles suspicious, but Sonic accepts the challenge, thanks to his usual tendencies to tackle any opportunity to show off his skills. My first question, after that, was: “Why would Sonic even need to drive a car if he’s deemed the fastest thing alive?” Unless the cars are faster somehow, which means he wants to show that he can be the fastest thing alive even when making of use of something non-living. Dodon Pa goes on to explain that the cars he builds are fitted with advanced technology that caters to their specialties, and offers a special prize to the winning team.
The races takes all of the different teams, including Amy, Silver, and Shadow’s gangs, across the world within the various zones we have explored in all of the previous Sonic games, followed on with increasingly difficult challenges. Throughout the course of the races, the teams remain suspicious of Dodon Pa and his intentions, especially since he refused to elaborate on the reason to his hosting of the races. Their suspicions rise to the point of fearing whether or not he is working with Doctor Eggman, and only proves to be worsened when they spot them both speaking with each other – after which Eggman and his Eggbots join the races, along with Xavoc and Metal Sonic later on. The investigation and story carries on after each race in chapter-format, with still images of the characters and speech bubbles with appropriate voice acting. There are a considerable amount of races in the chapters during which the story unfolds – seven chapters in total – which can take about 14 hours to finish if taken at a leisurely pace. You are also only able to progress when you have collected enough stars, which you get from completing the objectives that the race gives you. Now you may ask, “Is it worth the time?”
Boost To The Finish
To answer that question – it depends on your initial approach and mindset towards the game upon starting it up. If you expect fast-paced action-oriented gameplay, then you will be left slightly disappointed. The game was developed for the more casual gamer, and it is vibrantly apparent throughout the story campaign. The campaign mode, which is called Adventure Mode, starts off pretty exciting, with a few of the odd “Challenge” races inbetween the normal races, but then after a while becomes repetitive for the likes of people who played and enjoyed Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania (like myself). Are the levels themselves boring? Not at all. I found myself getting caught-up in every single one of them, but couldn’t help thinking, “not another one” every time I started another race against the other teams. Every race, is challenging and gets gradually more difficult, but there is still something that makes it feel repetitive. The visual variety in the amount of tracks you are able to race on isn’t all that impressive. The teams have even resorted to Mirroring the race tracks to “flip things up”, which is effective during the first lap only.
Although, if you consider that the game is aimed at casual gamers, then this approach is understandable. The game is more focused towards Local and Online play, to have fun with friends and family, or to challenge online strangers, in a speedy and chaotically fun kart race. As mentioned before, efficiency is the true key to winning the race, as you need to work together with your team members, whether AI or Player, to keep each other in the lead. Whoever is in the front of their team members will leave behind a bright, glowing Slipstream trail, and if the team member stays on the trail for a long enough period of time, they will build up momentum. When they leave the trail after building this momentum, they will gain a major boost of speed for a small period of time. If you leave your leading party member in your tracks, then you will start to generate this trail behind your kart, allowing your team members to Slingshot (which is the name of the mechanic) as well. Another fun thing is the ability to pick up power-ups called Wisps, which will be used to boost speed, attack opponents, or defend against attacks. You also get the ability to share these power-ups with your teammates, by sending them off to them at the push of a button.
Additionally, you can request these power-ups if you see your team members are not using them while you are in need of a bit of help when they are too far away. If you get hit by an offensive power-up, and your team members are behind you, they are able to skim past you, boosting your speed to the difference of you and your passing team member’s speed. This is called a “Skimshot”. All of these team actions builds up the Ultimate Meter. Once the bar is filled up, you can launch your team Ultimate ability, which grants a temporary boost to speed, invulnerability, and causes other teams to spin out if you drive through them. I would say this lasts for around 10 seconds, which is more than enough time to regain the lead if you lost it, or to gain the upper hand. You can add more time to your Team Ultimate by hitting your opponents. Additionally, you can drift around the track at various corners or slight turns. If you drift for long enough, your vehicle will give off a signal that it has built up enough power to send you off with a small boost. If you keep drifting after that, it will gain a second stack, which boosts you even further. Finally, there are multiple opportunities in the game for ramping and jumping. During these opportunities, you are able to perform stunts in mid-air, which will also boost your speed upon landing.
Faster Than Anyone
Within all of the modes, you will find various Challenge Races that you can compete in as well. Specifically, you can ride solo in challenges that require you to complete objectives within a time-limit to obtain Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Medals. There are a myriad of Challenges to enjoy, and you are able to extend your time-limit depending on the Challenge Mode. For example, during a ring-collection challenge, you need to drift while collecting rings to add time to your depleting meter. You can also find a game mode where you need to drive through rings to add points together. Driving through red rings will increase your score multiplier, which also depletes over time unless you continue driving through the red rings, and drifting adds another 20 points to the cumulative score. The closer you drive to the pole that the ring is attached to, the higher your score is, however if you collide with the ring in the process, you get no score, and your multiplier starts from scratch. You get other modes that require you to dodge traffic for as long as possible while driving through time-adding checkpoints, Eggbot destruction rounds, as well as Elimination races.
Finally, the Multiplayer is what I find to be the funnest part in Team Sonic Racing. The game allows up to 4-player Local play, where you can compete on a split-screen with friends or family on various kinds of race tracks and game modes. The same applies with the Online Mode, where you compete against other people who have gotten bored of the AI. Matchmaking has taken some time on a few occasions, and some players leave when the game mode hasn’t even been selected yet, though the times that I was able to get into a match-up and race against other players was a lot of chaotic and spectacular fun. The roster gets filled up with AI if no more players are interested in the game. The same rules from above apply as well during Multiplayer, and the amount of chaos that ensues will be dependent on the size of the map. My favourite maps so far have to be the Haunted House maps. You can either compete in Grand Prix races, Time Trials, or Exhibitions. During Exhibitions, you are able to customise the game rules. You can unlock upgrades to your Team’s cars by purchasing Mod Pods, as a result of collecting Credits from completing races during Adventure or Multiplayer modes. You are also able to unlock and customise different paint themes, vinyls, and car horns.
Team Sonic Racing is a charming kart racing game that has minimal story but is jam-packed with mechanics that I haven’t seen in other kart racing games. The Producer of the game sought to create a unique experience in this game, and wanted to replicate the team gameplay found in other game genres, and I believe that Sumo Digital found the working formula for this kart racer. The mechanics are unique and definitely provides a different kind of challenge to those who end up playing it. The key to winning is to be efficient as team members instead of focusing on speed. Your score depends on how well the team performs. If all 3 members of your team is in the lead, then victory is guaranteed, and that is only possible by sharing power-ups, providing easy Slipstreams to follow for Slingshots, and providing Skimshots when you drive past a spun-out team member. The game’s target audience is for Casual gamers who enjoy a bit of competitive fun, whether it be at a friend or family’s house on Local mode, or Online Multiplayer. At the time of this review, you can get your own copy from BTGames for R555.00 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and XBox One. Alternatively, get it on Steam for the same price.