Review: Team Sonic Racing
Sonic kart games have never been bad but usually haven't turned heads either. With Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Transformed), SEGA showed that they can still provide a solid competitor for the Mario Kart games. Does this also apply to Team Sonic Racing?
Team Sonic Racing is completely different from Sonic & All-Stars Racing. Firstly, this one really revolves around the world of Sonic, so no characters from Crazy Taxi and Monkey Ball for example, the same goes for the circuits. Furthermore, the game goes back to the 'kart basics'. Racing and power ups, that's it. Obviously I can't write this review without mentioning Mario Kart. But despite checking most of Mario Kart's checkboxes, the game does have its own identity. Unlike Mario Kart, the game often feels less unfair and skill plays a more important role than luck. Moreover, you do not need a Nintendo system to play this game.
Of course there is a new gimmick and this is already revealed by the title. You can play in a team of three racers. Points are awarded after a race. It is not the player with the most points that wins, but the team with the highest score. It is therefore important to perform well with the whole team. You do get certain bonuses if you play well together. The front racer of a team leaves a trail behind for teammates to follow. If you stay on this track long enough, you get a big boost. If a teammate is hit, you can pass right by him to give a boost as well and get back on the road quickly. You can also share items (or Wisps) and save together for a turbo for the whole team.
The team aspect of Team Sonic Racing brings much-needed innovation to the genre. That doesn't mean it always works out well. You can lose a whole grand prix because your AI team can't score. Plus, as with so many team-oriented games online, you're dependent on how well others play on a team. Fortunately, Team Sonic Racing gives you the option to race alone in all game modes, with the exception of the "story".
By scoring well you also earn credits. With these credits you can purchase expansions. These can be upgrades or visual extras for the various characters. As for the upgrades, the options are limited. If you use three gold upgrades you will be rewarded with a full gold car to show off. Where the upgrades are quite limited you can pimp the look of your kart with the use of many overprints. You can also compose the colors yourself and you can choose from different horns.
Driving your kart in Team Sonic Racing feels tight. Your spot on the track will never be wrong unless you lose control yourself, or get hit by someone else's weapon. You will encounter boosts and can drive different routes, including shortcuts. A good racing line and routes are often indicated with a row of rings that you can pick up like the coins in Mario Kart. Special moves like drifts and tricks during a jump also give you boosts. It is not innovative, but better stolen than badly invented.
Item pickups are of course also an important part of any kart game. In this case, it is Wisps from Sonic Colors who are now returning in several titles. There are the standard Wisps such as bombs and boosts. We also see pickups that serve as an alternative to Mario Kart's, such as the Green and Red Shield, Bullet Bill and Blooper. Team Sonic Racing also has a few unique power ups. There are (among others) a 'Quake' (with which large stone pillars come up from the circuit), a laser and a burning track behind your kart. If you've played similar games before, it's nothing exciting, but combined with the team aspect, you can apply new tactics.
Team Sonic Racing is a colorful and busy game. Although kart games feel at home in a bit of chaos, this can disrupt the overview in Team Sonic Racing with couch multiplayer. Where with Mario Kart in general the circuit can almost always be clearly distinguished from the environment, this is not so clear with Team Sonic Racing. However, if you have the entire screen to yourself, this issue is a lot less.
As indicated earlier, with online team races you are dependent on your teammates. You don't have to play as a team, though. You can play both ranked and casual as a team or alone. The online experience is good, except for the fact that lobbies are difficult to fill and that the game crashes remarkably often during the start or end of a race. The latter is especially frustrating because you will lose your earned credits. Perhaps this will be fixed in a later patch.
Team Sonic Racing certainly shows that, despite the strong similarities, it can differentiate itself well from Mario Kart. The game is well put together and gives you many hours of fun, both alone and with friends on the couch or online. Nevertheless, there is certainly room for improvement. If you have a Switch and only want to buy one kart game, then the choice is clearly Mario Kart. If you don't have a Nintendo system, or you're a little tired of Mario Kart, Team Sonic Racing is definitely a great choice.
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