Team Sonic Racing Review
At its core, Team Sonic Racing is a standard kart racer. You compete with other kart racers to be the first to complete three circuits of a track while grabbing power-up items to give yourself a boost or to knock your competitors out of the race for a few precious seconds. However, Team Sonic Racing has several things going for it that help it stand out from your average kart racer.
First, there are the tracks. The game has 21 different tracks drawn from seven different themed worlds which play on diverse themes from the seaside, to the desert, to the skies, to casinos. Each of the tracks can also be run in a "mirrored" mode, adding additional variety to the track selection. The tracks are very much inspired by the Sonic universe, featuring split paths, loops, twists, and jumps, and bending your perspective on the world that will have you feel like you're in a race right out of Inception or Doctor Strange. Adding to the challenge are environmental hazards on the tracks that range from obstacles on the track itself to jumping fireballs and swinging sawblades. If you look carefully, you'll also secret shortcuts on the tracks that will help you get an edge on the competition. The track environments are all colorful and detailed, and there's so much packed into them that you'll have to take the time to watch someone else race just so that you can sit back and take it all in without worrying about the race.
Another difference is that Team Sonic Racing is, as the title indicates, a team-based racing game. Events are run with teams of three racers each, and the team that wins is based on the combined finish times of each team member. But the team aspect goes beyond just the final standings board, though. Each of the three racers on each team has a specialty, speed, technique, or power, which basically correspond to top speed and acceleration, handling in turns and over different surfaces, and the ability to knock opponents around and crash through obstacles without slowing down. The different specialty classes are better suited to some tracks over others, so you'll need to pay attention to who on the team might need a little help.
That help can come in a few different ways. If you see an opponent stopped on the track, you can race close to them to give them a boost back into the race. If you're behind someone on your team, you will see their tires leave a glowing track in their wake. Follow the trail and you can give yourself a slingshot boost - and then return the favor to your teammate. Power-ups can also be traded between players, so if you're in first and not in need of a missile or turbo boost at the moment, you can offer it to someone on your team that can immediately make use of it. Each of these actions that you complete will go towards filling your team's turbo meter. Once it's filled, you can give everyone on the team an extreme turbo boost that will also make everyone invulnerable to damage. A well-timed team turbo boost can make the difference in a race.
The game's campaign has you making your way through an overworld map on which each node represents a race or event. Each of these has a set of goals that if achieved award you with the stars and keys that you need to advance to new areas of the map. Some nodes represent single races, while others are grand prix events that will require your team to place first in the overall standings after a series of races. In addition to the race events there are a number of challenge type events that you'll run solo against the clock. The challenges emphasize different aspects of racing in the game, and include collecting coins, driving close to slalom poles, and eliminating bot vehicles. The challenges are indeed challenging, and reaching the silver medal level you'll need to clear the challenge from the map will take some skill.
There is a story behind the campaign, but it's rather thin and goofy. Basically, Sonic and friends have been whisked away to another planet to participate in kart races, which they do enthusiastically the whole while they talk back and forth about the possible evil motives behind the race. This is all relayed through short conversations between static character cut-outs, and can thankfully be skipped. Who needs narrative inspiration to play a kart racer anyway?
After each event you'll be rewarded with in-game currency that can be spent to open capsules that will award you with randomly selected kart parts, customizations, and boosts. The first two can be enabled in the game's pit stop feature, and you'll find that the parts actually make a difference in the game beyond the appearance of your kart, affecting the kart's stats in different ways. The parts have differing levels of rarity, and if you equip your kart with the top parts in each category your kart will become golden. While the part drops are random, it does seem that the game will bias that randomness towards the racer you tend to use first, the rest of the team second, and then finally to the other racers available in the game.
The game supports multiplayer racing both locally and online. The game has two tiers of online competition, ranked and casual, so you can enjoy racing for the fun of it or for the competition. Matchmaking is quick and painless, and the online matches are just as fast and smooth as the races in the single player mode.
I really enjoyed Team Sonic Racing. The team mechanics make the kart racing feel fresh and help the game stand out from the other kart racers out there. The track design captures the fun and spirit of the Sonic universe, and the races are every bit as fast as they should be. If you're looking for fast and fun kart racing, take Team Sonic Racing out for a spin.
Final Rating: 85% - Just the kind of kart racer you'd expect from Sonic.