For Nintendo gamers Team Sonic Racing is releasing at an especially precarious time. Forgetting for a moment that one of the best kart racing games of all time already exists on the Switch (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), we’re mere weeks away from Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled releasing and then we also have Mario Kart Tour coming to mobile devices in the near future. That’s not to say there isn’t enough room for all of these racers to coexist, it’s just a little unfortunate in the timing of it all. Thankfully there’s enough here to separate Sonic and friends from the pack.
I was a big fan of the last Sumo Digital character racing game: Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed on the Wii U. It was a fantastic party game to play with friends. I appreciated the variety in the track designs and the ability to change from one vehicle to another. Team Sonic Racing takes a different approach, ditching the vehicle transforming for team-based mechanics. The biggest change is that you’re no longer racing alone. You are on a racing team of three and your points are tallied based on the places you finish in. It’s not just good enough for you to place first, but your teammates must also carry their weight so that your team wins.
Luckily you don’t have to leave it simply up to chance to help your teammates finish strong. One of my favorite aspects of this game is the ability to share power-ups. How many times have you been playing a Mario Kart game only for an almost useless power-up like the banana peel to show up for the fiftieth time? With Team Sonic Racing you have the ability to give that power-up to one of your teammates! Not only does this give them a newfound advantage, but it also powers up your special Team Ultimate Boost meter. If you continuously do this throughout the race you will fill up the gauge and then you can initiate a team attack where all three of you gain temporary speed boosts and invincibility. Running into adversaries while powered up will spin them out and increase the amount of time you get to stay in this mode. This creates a whole new layer of strategy that hasn’t been seen in previous racers! Other team mechanics, like slipstreaming behind a teammate to perform a slingshot boost are essential to victory, especially in later courses.
Most Mario Kart games focus on the multiplayer aspect and often offer very little red meat for those playing solo. That’s absolutely not the case here with story mode. Here you’ll have different races to compete in and they’re all placed on a map. As you earn enough stars and keys you’ll begin to unlock new routes to more races and challenges. You’ll have your standard races as well as special events where you must try and collect as many rings as possible in a time limit, or navigate through gates, drift around obstacles, etc. These are often fun to replay to try and best your previous score. It’s nice to have a variety of challenges to complete, and in fact even on normal races you’ll have a set of win conditions that will award you more stars if you can meet them. It’s often not enough to just come in first place, but you might need to fill your team meter or make sure your other teammates come in 2nd and 3rd place as well.
When it comes to these types of games, controls are vitally important to nail, and Team Sonic Racing feels great once you get the hang of things. I did end up switching the control scheme so that it matched more closely to Mario Kart, but after I made that change I was an unstoppable machine – for a while anyway! Controls are simple and intuitive and it’s fun to slide around corners and earn a boost. The tracks are very twisty and memorable, with the loops and secret paths you’d expect in a game like this.
The game apparently runs at 30 fps on Switch, but I thought it still looked great. The environments and lighting looked great on the TV and the handheld mode was smooth as well. I’m not as big of a fan as some are with the various Sonic characters, and honestly I didn’t know half of them, so your mileage may vary there. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m so used to Mario Kart, but the weapons and the icons used to display them took me longer than I’d have liked to figure out what they were. Some of them look a bit too close to others and I wish they’d just have used graphics that accurately showed what the weapons and power-ups were. I eventually figured them out, but every now and again I’d forget which one was which.
Another slight complaint is that players who have played previous games are in for a bit of déjà vu when it comes to the tracks. Despite the game featuring 21 total courses, only 12 are brand new. Also with only 15 drivers the lineup is a bit weak. I really appreciated having various Sega characters join in the fun in the prior game, but this one is relegated to the Sonic universe. This seems a bit on the anemic side, but then again the game is appropriately priced at $39.99 so it’s expected to have less content than a $60 experience.
Switch owners have no shortage of choices when it comes to split-screen racers, but for those getting tired of playing the same games over and over again, Team Sonic Racing should do a fine job of scratching that new game itch. It’s easy to learn, fun to play solo or with friends (or online), and features a nice price. If you’ve never dabbled in the series this is a good game to jump in!
Team Sonic Racing Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Team Sonic Racing is a fun alternative to other competitive racers on the Switch. It features bright and detailed graphics, easy to learn controls, and a cool team-based approach to racing not seen in other titles. It seems a little sparse on tracks and characters, but perhaps we’re just spoiled by MK8 Deluxe. It’s well worth the $40 asking price!