When it comes to racing games, there are only a few different genres to choose from. Usually you have your racing sims, games like Gran Turismo or Forza. Then you have your more traditional racers, games like Ridge Racer, Forza Horizon or Burnout. Then you have your kart racers. These games have almost always been exemplified by Mario Kart. They are bright, cheerful games with several different characters and many ways to knock out your opponents and increase your speeds to ludicrous amounts. While Mario Kart may have been the Grand Daddy of Kart racers, there is one iconic character that just exudes speed and snark: Sonic the Hedgehog. While Sonic has had racing games in the past, Team Sonic Racing is the first for the current generation of consoles.
Team Sonic Racing
Developer: Sumo Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
Players: 1-4 Players Local Multiplayer, 1-12 online
As I said before, Sonic has always exemplified speed, moreso than perhaps any other video game character out there. So, it only makes sense that eventually, he and the rest of the Sonic gang would end up in a racing style game.
As far as the gameplay in Team Sonic Racing goes, the basic mechanics are fairly similar to other kart racing games out there. Hold R2/ZR to speed up, press L2/ZL to drift in the direction you hold the left stick.
Run over arrows on the track to get a speed boost. Run through boxes/cartons on the track to pick up a power up (either a boost or an attack) to gain an advantage. Sounds fairly similar to other kart racing games out there, doesn’t it?
But that’s where the similarities between Team Sonic Racing and other kart racers end. As the name implies, you’re on a team with other racers and you will have to work together with your team in order to come in first and win the various races.
There are several different ways that a player can interact with their team to pull out a victory. If either you are ahead of a teammate, or vice versa, you will see a yellow streak behind the racer. If you or a teammate drive along this streak long enough, you will get a speed boost when you come out from behind them.
If you or a teammate are at less than full speed, if a teammate drives by the incapacitated racer, they will immediately get back up to full speed. You can also share the items you get throughout the race with teammates and they can send others to you.
After enough of these team actions are performed, the player can unleash a team ultimate, increasing the teams overall speed and making them immune to obstacles and projectiles. Not only that, but if you hit an opposing racer while your team ultimate is in effect, you will increase your time in ultimate mode.
You are also able to customize your racers with different kart parts and decals, most of which are gained through a slot machine type mechanic, but some of the decals are locked behind completing various challenges in the different stages. This is perhaps my biggest issue with the customization in this game.
You will have to do a ton of different races, collecting a lot of rings in each stage and coming in first to gain enough points to get all the different parts, which are all random. You can’t just purchase the parts for your favorite racer.
All of this is well and good, but means very little without some form of difference between the different racers. While I usually don’t like to compare a game with other games, I will in this case. Take Mario Kart 8/8 Deluxe for example.
The different racers aren’t only divided by weight classes, but you can also choose different vehicles to further change up how they control. In TSR, there are 3 different class of racer: Speed, Technique and Power. Speed Racers are, obviously, faster than other racers and can dodge projectiles.
Technique Racers aren’t slowed down by going over terrain that would normally slow down a racer. Finally, Power Racers can power through obstacles without suffering from slowdown. The different parts you can get for the vehicles can either increase the stats where your chosen racer already excel at or you can offset where your racer lacks.
It would have been very nice to have a bit more variety when it comes to the racers. I kind of miss the option for different vehicles, which would have been a nice addition to an otherwise very well rounded racing game.
Graphically, Team Sonic Racing is a very very nice looking game. While Niche Gamer did receive a review code for the PlayStation version of the game, I was also able to pick up a personal copy on the Nintendo Switch as well.
On any system that you play the game on, the stages are bright and vibrant with a lot of little details. I will admit that some of the details and vibrancy is lost while playing in handheld mode, but the game still looks really good while in docked mode.
As far as how the game actually plays, I only ever came across one glitch when I had near maxed out my speed and hit a wall while in the air. But the game played about the same between the PS4 and Switch versions of the game.
I would like to speak a bit about the story of the game, but it’s near non-existant. There’s a very flimsy excuse on why Team Sonic and the others are actually participating in these different races and it’s all because a funny little guy invites Sonic to go fast in a car.
So instead, I’ll speak quickly on something I generally gloss over in most of my reviews: music. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that music isn’t something I go over, mostly because I’m fairly tone deaf and unless a track really speaks to me.
But I will say that the last few Sonic games, even Sonic Forces, have had a very catchy soundtrack and it really was fun to go through the various courses with a rock-themed soundtrack going on in the background.
While Team Sonic Racing might not be the best of the best kart racer out there, there is a lot of charm and enjoyment in the game. I still lament the fact that Sonic Team seems to have completely forgotten and continues to ignore Princess Sally and the other characters from the old comic/cartoon series, but that’s more of a personal issue.
Team Sonic Racing has just enough characters that you unlock naturally through the game on enjoyable and vibrant tracks, while a good soundtrack plays in the background. Besides, while there is a bit of rubberband AI, it’s not nearly as bad as in the Mario sports titles. So, if you’re looking for a fun and enjoyable kart racer, you could do a lot worse than picking up Team Sonic Racing.
Team Sonic Racing was reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro using a review copy provided by Sega. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.