Team Sonic Racing
According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar 2019 is the year of the pig. What does this mean? I do not know. From a gaming perspective though I think it would be fair to say that 2019 is the year of the Mascot Racer. Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot are back in the driving seat after a hiatus. The genre titan Mario Kart might not have a new Switch title on the horizon — although there is a smartphone game looming.
The point is this, it’s a good year for those who love to race. Or at least it will be if the first racer off the post is any good and that racer is Team Sonic Racing. One of the more peculiar things about Team Sonic Racing is the fact that it exists in this form. It has been seven whole years since Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed was released. It was met with overwhelming praise and was formed with characters from all of Sega’s IPs. Ditching Ulala, Gilius Thunderhead, and Alex Kidd isn’t the strangest of choices, after all when was the last time you played Golden Axe? It’s the seven year wait that seems most bizarre to me. Weird business decisions aside, the burning question must be answered: Is Team Sonic Racing worth the wait?
It isn’t easy to set yourself apart when making a racing game. The fact of the matter is that changing the formula too much would feel like reinventing the wheel; some racers like Diddy Kong Racing let players take to the skies or seas, Double Dash had players team up, and Team Sonic Racing does what it says on the box: it lets you race as a team. Each race features 12 players and each team is made up of 3 characters. Items can be swapped, coins collected build up the ultimate boost ability and you can even ‘slingshot’ by driving in your allies slipstream.
As far as gimmicks go, the team racing in Team Sonic Racing is one of the best I have encountered. It’s not so impactful that when you opt to do a race without team mates the game is radically different, but it certainly puts a nice twist on the classic formula. Playing offline with CPU players doesn’t do the system justice, but with friends working together it really opens up for a lot of skilled racing and strategy. Chaining together slingshot boosts and swapping items strategically enables players to really get an edge of over unorganized teams and those who make good use of these mechanics will speed ahead of the competition by their skill and not blind luck.
Characters, Courses and Cars
For a game that has 12 players in each race you’d think Team Sonic Racing would have aimed for a higher number than 15 characters. So numbers wise it is a little underwhelming, but overall the characters that made the cut make sense- bar Zavok. Racers fall in to one of three categories: Speed, Technique, or Power. Each type has its own pros and cons. Technique drivers aren’t slowed down by going off road and Power types can drive straight through obstacles without slowing down. No individual class stands out as being unfair with its unique abilities, but keeps the game feeling fresh when you want to have a different approach to a race.
The game boasts 21 tracks spread over 7 zones with 12 of these being totally new and the other 9 taken from previous titles. I suppose the most important thing to keep in mind is that Team Sonic Racing is launching at $40. So whilst the numbers seem a bit off putting this isn’t a full priced title. Design wise every course is good, but aesthetically it is a bit of a let down. There’s a vast amount of themes to choose from in Sonic games so why they limited themselves to 7 zones, I do not know. Visual disappointment aside the tracks are filled with multiple routes, dangerous obstacles and hidden shortcuts to take advantage of and I can’t think of any that I truly didn’t enjoy.
Cars & Customization
One nice aspect of Team Sonic Racing is the ability to customize your cars performance and design to help you get ahead the pack and stand out. You can unlock new parts for each racers vehicle by spending cash earned from races. Parts are unlocked randomly, but cash is handed out generously. You want to max out speed, but in exchange of defence? Go for it! Then once you’ve selected your parts players are offered a fairly extensive selection of cosmetic choices. A variety of paint palletes that are themed after the racer or ones themed after classic zones like Green Hill. A number of vinyls which can be altered and even unlockable horns. You can come up with some pretty unique designs for your car and being able to stand out with your own design online is nice.
Team Sonic Racing is made up of three major modes. Team Adventure, local play, and Online. Team Adventure functions as a story mode where players must beat racers with certain conditions to advance and unlock more characters. I was actually surprised at how difficult the offline is. The CPU’s do offer a fair bit of challenge and the ring, drift and other challenges aren’t a walk in the park either. Local play simply lets you choose to race with or without friends, but does offer wireless for Switch players. Then online allows you to play online! It isn’t the most robust of system, but you can play co-op online with a friend, opt for team, single or quickplay matches and play ranked. My only major issue with the online is that the time between each race just feels too long especially when doing team race as it tallies up all the scores one by one.
Can You Feel The Sunshine?
Mega Sonic fans only need to read this part. So skip ahead if that isn’t you. Less of a complaint and more of an observation is the link to the original Sonic R that is present in Team Sonic Racing. The “R” in the logo is the same design as Sonic R. In fact Team Sonic Racing features instrumental versions of some Sonic R songs. Despite this the reference and acknowledgement of Sonic R never goes beyond this. There’s no Tails Doll character nor do we get a stage. It’s a real shame, but it is what it is.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Team Sonic Racing or this review.