Team Sonic Racing (Switch) Review
A Clever Twist on an Established Genre
Blasting onto racetracks on all consoles and PC, Team Sonic Racing has arrived from Sumo Digital to take a unique spin on the kart racing genre with team-focused racing. This is the same group that has been making waves with their previous Sega racing games, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing as well as Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, both of which did pretty well with fans. Truthfully though a giant looms over any go-kart racer, Mario Kart, and on the Switch it’s undoubtedly the game that Team Sonic Racing will be regularly compared to. However, Team Sonic Racing’s team mechanics and brilliant approach to time trials just might be enough for players to give it a shot.
We played Team Sonic Racing on the Switch, which seems like one of the most appealing ways to play the game because having a fairly casual racing experience on the go is one of the best things that the Switch offers. Of course most Switch players likely already have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on hand or digitally but for those starting to get bored with Nintendo’s flagship racer, Team Sonic Racing has some differences that are fun and intuitive.
The main mechanic here is the team races that pits various teams of three racers against each other with the game determining a winning team by adding up all of the racer’s final positions. Sonic and pals are able to draft behind their team members for a boost, boost them after taking a hit from a power-up or obstacle, or pass items to each other. Doing these actions builds up an ultimate ability that grants invincibility and a major blast of speed. The ultimate can be hard to control as the speed shift is sudden but with proper timing, it can be a game changer on the track.
There are 15 playable characters with three character classes: speed, power, and technique. The cast is a pretty good spread of characters from throughout Sonic’s weird and zany history from Blaze to Eggman to everyone’s favorite fisherman Big the Cat. I found it fun to ride around as four chaos and it is hilarious to see the large Omega in a cramped buggy.
There are unlockable car parts that are unlocked by spending coins to pop open mod pods, which are basically free loot boxes without the industry crushing capitalism. Parts can then be added to create easy to select loadouts, as well as decals and colors. It’s not the tinkering found in other more serious arcade racers like some of the classic Need for Speed games but it’s a fun way to adjust styles of play.
Tracks are colorful and also capture Sonic’s history of games. I especially enjoyed the Ocean View track as it evokes the classic whale segment of Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. More ingrained fans will probably find more references than I but know that there are lots of wisps involved as power-ups from Sonic Colors and Zavok from Sonic Lost World is a playable racer.
Aside from the interesting twist on kart racing, Team Sonic Racing really nails it with its soundtrack. I got a little bored of the main theme but the rest of the music is really fun with rocking lead guitar riffs and jazzy solos. When performing specific actions like drafting the music also fades out for a moment and then comes back in when the boost activates. It’s a subtle touch that makes a world of difference.
There are a lot of modes to play within Team Sonic Racing, but it may feel smaller in scope compared to Sumo Digital’s previous games. The others were more about celebrating all of Sega, while this is a racer focused on Sonic and his crew.
I did find the game’s story mode pretty lacking. Most of the cutscenes involve cutouts of the characters with some empty dialogue. Some of the challenges can be tough and with the ranking system, those who want top marks will have quite a bit to do. There is also a reward of three extra racetracks for those that get to the end, making the total twenty-one.
Honestly, one of my favorite modes was Time Trials. Instead of loading up a few laps and using the fastest time, Team Sonic Racing lets the player just continuously make laps. Once a good time is set, simply exit the level and its saved. This saves the player a lot of time and it makes everything flow really well. I would take a few laps to get used to my loadout and the track and then start shaving down seconds. Ghosts can also be raced against and it’s still an awesome feeling when passing them up.
I can’t wait to see what top players pull off in this mode in particular.
It also wouldn’t be a Sonic game without a few rough edges. For the most part, the game runs well but I did run into some issues with collision and when landing on top of other players after a jump. The game doesn’t do well with car-on-car situations and it can lead to some funny clipping and stuttering. This, of course, can affect the outcome of some races but due to the casual nature of the game I usually laughed it off. That said, I hope to see some tweaking with some updates, as well as some additional characters and tracks.
Online play seemed to work well enough for me, although I have heard about issues from other writers and players. I rarely had trouble with matchmaking and each race ran well enough. I’m not really into online play in most games so I didn’t spend as much time with it as I did in other modes. I did enjoy the casual and ranked division and the choice of doing teams or singles.
Overall, I rather enjoy having Team Sonic Racing on the Switch. My household rarely gets together to play on one system but every now and again we’ll set aside some family time to play some games. The next time we get a chance, I want to load up Team Sonic Racing and see just how far we can get online. I think the game will shine brightest when getting three players together to tackle the world, all hooked into a voice chat to coordinate moves.
While some players will find Team Sonic Racing to be just fine, I think that for most people it’s worth giving a shot. Thankfully this release retails below the full price of an average game at $39.99 which I think is a smart move. I do hope to see a demo make its way to the various stores so that people can try it.
Team Sonic Racing won’t stand out as a masterclass entry in the genre but it’s a solid game that many Sonic fans and racing nuts will likely enjoy.
For more information about Team Sonic Racing, check out the official website. Two digital Switch copies were provided for the purpose of review and coverage.