Kart games are aplenty, and even though Nintendo seems keen on cornering the market with the Mario Kart series, others have been hot on the tailpipe, eager to make their way. One such game is the recently released Team Sonic Racing, which puts an interesting twist on the kart-racing genre, one that truly sets it apart from predecessors, and has raised the bar, if ever so slightly, for those that follow.
The story is pretty standard fare as far as kart races go; a mysterious creature known as Dodon Pa, an alien tanuki, wants to harness something known as Ultimate Team Energy to complete his device known as the Ultimate Energy Engine. To that end, he hosts a Grand Prix to find some of the best racers who can produce the energy to complete his engine. Of course, Sonic and his friends become involved, as does returning rotund nuisance Eggman.
For fans of the All-Stars Racing series, much of Team Sonic Racing will feel charmingly familiar. Drifting remains a bit of a chore, but tricks are still performed exclusively in midair that provide a nice boost. But the biggest change is the division of characters into three different classes; speed, technique, and power. All have their strengths and weaknesses. Speed characters, naturally, are faster, more well-rounded, and can perform a Radial Burst after a level two drift boost which destroys incoming projectiles. Technique characters can attract nearby rings, have better drifting and handling, and can move over rough terrain without experiencing slowdown. Power characters have the worst top speed and handling, but can barrel through obstacles, don’t spin out when hit, and have good boost and defense. Depending on how you ride, there’s bound to be someone who suits you.
Then there’s the customization, which comes in the form of over 100 pieces for karts, including golden legendary parts. Parts can improve or lower the stats of your vehicle, which puts heavy emphasis on figuring out what kind of road warrior you want. Parts and cosmetics (paint jobs and vinyls) are obtained via mod pods, which can be purchased for credits you earn in the seven chapter story mode or online. Interestingly, the game seems to reward parts more frequently for the character you’ve been playing more. New to the series are horns, which can be activated by using the item button when you have no items.
Now we move to the game’s main selling point. In all other racing games, it’s all about that number one spot. Not in Team Sonic Racing. Cooperation and teamwork are your best friends, and Slingshot, Skim Boost, Item Transfer, and Rival Takedown your most powerful weapons. You’re part of a team of three, and you’ve got to work together to win. It’s not just about first place, it’s how well you help each other out. Slingshot is when you’re in the lead for your team; you’ll automatically make a golden trail for them to follow, and they can stay within it to get a boost for a maximum of three levels, and catapult forward upon leading. Skim Boost is a way to get your teammate back in the race after an item strike or a spinout; a quick bump against them and they’re back at the speed they were before getting struck. Item Transfer is perhaps the most important skill; you can either request or send an item to your team members. If you send it, both teammates will get it, and there’s a chance for it to become more powerful when doing so. Finally, Rival Takedown is exactly what it sounds like, striking a rival during a race, specifically the ones ahead of you.
All these actions charge your Ultimate Meter, and when full, allow you to use a Team Ultimate, giving you a tremendous speed boost and invulnerability. You can activate it yourself at any time, but it lasts longer when all members of the team use it at once.
For all its quirks, however, Team Sonic Racing can feel like a bit of a grind, especially when you want parts for characters in particular since they’re all randomized, and occasionally instead of a part you’ll get a bonus box to use in a race. And while the story is fun and perfectly in line with Sonic style, there are times when it feels like it detracts from the actual game’s fast-paced action. Thankfully, you’re given the choice to play the stage without watching the preceding scene. There are times, however, when it feels like the game actively tries to stopgap you, with certain stages being things like skimming star posts or ring challenges, which require at least a silver to pass and progress.
Team Sonic Racing (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Overall, Team Sonic Racing is a fun and inventive racing game that puts a nice spin on it with focus on team cooperation. Cooperate with your teammates, blaze through the tracks, and work together to gear up and speed up.