Despite being pretty dated, I still have a fondness for and have recently played Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed. It’s a game which has stood the test of time despite being outshone multiple times by its biggest competitor, Mario Kart. So With the launch of Team Sonic Racing, does Nintendo’s acclaimed Kart racer finally have a worthy competitor? Does Team Sonic Racing act as a good successor to Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed? To save you reading this entire review… No.
Team Sonic Racing is what you get if you removed the All-Stars and Transformed from Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed and shoehorned a bizarre “team” system into the game which in reality does very little to bulk up what remains of the lackluster gameplay.
So what is Team Sonic Racing? It’s a kart racer, we’ve already established that one, but instead of simply taking a tried and tested formula, Sumo Digital has tried to inject something unique into the game in the form of teams. Rather than simply racing against a handful of other characters from the Sonic universe, you’re bundled into teams of three who “work together” to complete races.
While this, in theory, sounds like an interesting spin on the kart racing genre that’s dominated by Italian plumbers, in practice it’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors to make you think the game is something more unique than it is. While the team aspect does have its benefits, like the ability to draft your teammates to slingshot yourself ahead of the pack or share picked up items, it really adds very little to the overall gameplay.
Team Sonic Racing doesn’t just have you racing with your Sonic universe buddies, familiar race types from Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed return, albeit with a slightly different spin. The first is drift challenges which have you attempting to drift to earn points before the timer runs out. Instead of attempting to follow a drift line, you’re asked to drift past posts with red and yellow arches coming out of it, with red offering the most points and a timer bonus.
Next up is collecting rings, as it’s a Sonic game, you have the chance to pick up rings throughout the race. In team races they essentially stop you from getting instantly screwed over by pickups, in the Ring Collector race, you’re challenged to collect as many rings as possible before the time runs out. There’s the added challenge of drifting while you collect in order to add more time to the clock.
Finally, there are Traffic challenges, but rather than the track being populated by vehicles, the track is littered with little robots. Much like the Sonic & All-Stars mode, there are also vehicles with barriers you can pass in order to gain points and a bit more time on the clock.
While these modes do a lot to break up the team racing gameplay, they are, for the most part, optional when it comes to progression. If you really want to keep pushing and unlocking more Sonic characters, completing the team races is key. It’s just a shame that, despite the variation in tracks, it’s just incredibly tedious.
There is one redeeming element to the team element in Team Sonic Racing, and that is that you have two other chances to win, even if you personally don’t come first. This is because the game takes into account team position and awards points based on that position, so if your team happens to fall into second, third, and fifth, chances are you’ll still be crowned first depending on who fills the first and fourth position, for example.
This mechanic, in a sense, is great for those who aren’t that great at kart racing games as it allows them to enjoy the game a little more knowing that their efforts could still be rewarded despite coming in a podium position. However, it also takes all of the fun away from a challenging gameplay experience.
Adding to this, each member of a team falls under one of three skill types and if you wanted to, you can change the character you main depending on the race or challenge you face. There’s Speed – Overall well balanced with a focus on speed; Technique – More tailored towards handling with better acceleration and steering; and Power – has good boost and defense, can smash through obstacles without being stunned.
This obviously has its plus side as you can pick characters based on the challenge ahead, but’s also a bit of a handicap if you just want to play with your favorite character from the Sonic universe. It’s even worse if you want to play the game locally, which actually pushes me onto my next point quite well – the main Team Race mode cannot be played with multiple players locally, despite a focus on team play.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed was, and still is brilliant, as you can jump into the game with up to three other players locally and smash through the game’s various races and progress through the game. In Team Sonic Racing, local multiplayer is a completely separate entity. Sure, it lets to complete Grand Prix races and more on maps from across the game, but it kind of defeats the point of the whole team aspect of the game which I find baffling.
Ultimately, Team Sonic Racing feels like a stripped back game with very little to keep you interested. With seven chapters each consisting of their own set of races and a Grand Prix to round it all off gives you plenty of content, but nothing really changes as you progress aside from unlocking more teams. But even then, you can’t mix and match team compositions and it all feels quite static.
There are customization elements in Team Sonic Racing which can be acquired with credits you earn during play. This random loot system will have you spending credits to acquire balls which have car parts, sprays, wheels, and booster items within them. The car parts themselves are also given rarities which bling out each part with gold and offer higher stat changes when equipped.
It’s definitely an interesting way to customize your vehicles, plus there’s a pretty robust color and livery editor so you can get really deep into customizing the looks of your vehicle, which is nice. But it would also be good if you could switch out your vehicle itself much like Mario Kart.
Overall, Team Sonic Racing is an empty shell of its former self that tries to add something new whilst also removing everything that made Sumo’s Sonic kart racers great. The maps are a mess of different themes, feature twists and turns that make no sense, and are overall chaotic to navigate, which more often than not was disorientating.
The team mechanic could have been a little more thought out too, with perhaps more of a focus on coming together as a team, rather than just using each other for boosts and pick ups. Maybe the ability to combine pickups, or race in formations to get ahead of opponents. Either way, seeing as the game is named “Team Sonic Racing” this concept is somewhat underutilized.