Everybody’s Super Sonic Racin’ To Mediocrity
HIGH That opening theme song, yo.
LOW Lacks the pizzazz and nostalgia that made the previous such a good time.
WTF Sega had one job: put Segata Sanshiro in the game. They failed.
After fifteen years of pain and misery for those of us who grew up with a Sega Genesis (or the much cooler-sounding Mega Drive), Sonic The Hedgehog has been on a decent run over the past couple of years. Sonic Mania was everything a fan of the Blue Blur could’ve hoped for, and Sonic Forces was… not horrible, which for a 3D Sonic game is a tremendous accomplishment!
While the core Sonic titles have faltered over the years, Sega did a good job keeping Sonic busy playing tennis, competing at the Olympics, and Sonic has seen some of his best work at the track with outstanding titles like Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed. It’s been seven years since that release, but now the devs at Sumo Digital have delivered a sequel in the form of Team Sonic Racing. Unfortunately, while it’s a serviceable kart racer, it leaves a lot to be desired when compared to its predecessor.
As a longtime Sega fan, Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed was brimming with nostalgia by featuring over twenty Sega-brand characters from titles like Super Monkey Ball, Skies of Arcadia and Shenmue, and it even offered deep cuts like Billy Hatcher or the Bonanza Bros. Sadly, Team Sonic Racing stumbles here — gone is the ‘All Stars‘ element, as it now features sixteen characters and 21 tracks from Sonic The Hedgehog… and that’s it. No Beat, no Ryo Hazuki, no Joe Musashi. Instead we have such videogame stalwarts as Zavok and Big The Cat.
Besides dropping the ‘All Stars‘ aspect, Team Sonic Racing also drops the ‘Transformed‘ bit. Previously, courses would modify themselves after every lap to facilitate a new type of vehicle — a bridge would collapse and turn a road race into a boat race, for example. It kept the variety of racing high, but now all we have are cars.
Another area where variety suffers is that in Transformed, each driver had a super move that was tailored to their character. Amigo (from Samba De Amigo) could use his maracas to hypnotize other racers, who would then follow behind him in a mind-controlled conga line. In Team, everyone has the same temporary invincibility/super speed ability. The items are also the boilerplate kart items, offering standard missiles, bombs, ghosts, and so on. There’s zero imagination here.
I will give the team at Sumo Digital some credit, though — while the variety in the racing has been toned down dramatically, the mechanics of the driving are the best they’ve ever been. The cars handle well, and drifting feels great when whipping around corners.
The team aspect in Team Sonic Racing is also significant as players race in teams of three to help each other win. If a member of the team is in front, they create a slipstream that will help the teammate behind them gain speed and allow them to slingshot past the person doing the slipstreaming. Teammates may also share spare power-ups. What originally sounded like a gimmick turned out to be a well-implemented addition to the kart racing formula, and it gives the multiplayer (both local and online) its own enjoyable flavor.
While that team spin is appreciated, I wish it was implemented in something more interesting — the Sonicverse just isn’t appealing or diverse enough to carry an entire kart racer by itself. This blandness is exemplified by the adventure mode. Players traverse through a grid based world map where they participate in various races and some challenges to earn parts and customization options for the cars. Every chapter is book-ended by still images of Sonic characters talking nonsense and voiced with some downright wretched acting — it’s abysmal.
The best thing I can say about Team Sonic Racing is that kids will probably love it, although that’s damning praise considering its predecessor. Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed was a wonderful title offering both nostalgia and gameplay, easily giving Nintendo’s efforts a run for their money. Sadly, while Team Sonic Racing can boast improved driving physics and a solid team element, nearly every other aspect of the experience is a step backwards.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sega. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 PRO with an HDR certified 4KTV. An estimated 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player and multiplayer modes, and the game’s adventure mode was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E for Mild Cartoon Violence. Sonic Team Racing is about as family friendly as a game can get, so any parent should have zero issues whatsoever picking this one up for their kids.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game’s story is told through voiced cutscenes with accompanying text, so they’re shouldn’t be any issues understanding the narrative, although the text is rather small and not resizable. There are no necessary audio cues that aren’t also accompanied by visuals, but given how incredibly busy the screen can get, I found myself relying on audio cues more than usual — someone with hearing issues may be too focused on driving to notice a teammate is offering an item or that a missile is locked onto their six.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable, but players can select from two available presets.