Team Sonic Racing Review
Bright and bouncy racing games have a high bar to clear, and they have for decades. The Mario Kart dynasty more or less swept in and built a settlement on the throne way back in 90’s. Anyone attempting to stake that claim needs to put in some serious work. Team Sonic Racing doesn’t exactly succeed, but Sega and Sumo Digital still managed to gin up a fun, goofy racing game. There are power-ups, boost pads, gorgeous stages, and glorious tunes. What more could you ask for?
Sonic games have slowly cultivated this remarkable aesthetic over the years. The music, the voice acting, the graphics, and the sound design all vibrate with this joyous history. The voice work is just, cheese sandwiches from top to bottom, but in an earnest, heart-swelling way. Sonic and friends are overjoyed to be here, embarrassing dialogue and delivery notwithstanding. The sound effects all fly the Sonic banner with genuine pride, and the music…! I can’t overstate how delightful this soundtrack is. I caught myself wishing the load times were a little longer so I could soak up certain songs.
Stuffed With Sweet Racing Jams
The ‘team’ in Team Sonic Racing is threaded through the whole dang game. Your two comrades are an integral part of your success. If you’re lagging behind, you can build up boosts by following their trail. You can pass items between team-mates as well, sometimes turning the tides of a difficult run. Nothing changes the stakes more than the Ultimate system, however. If the three of you engage in enough cooperative behavior, your Ultimate meter fills up. This lets all three of you rocket through the race with a short but serious speed boost. If you’re sufficiently excellent to one another, you can pop off multiple Ultimates in a single race.
Of all the ways I’ve absorbed the Sonic visual philosophy, racing through it in a tiny car feels like one of the best. Not the absolute best (I’m a diehard 2D acolyte), but a very close second. You’re able to soak up all the sweet environments and fascinating level designs, all without being chained to a 3D Sonic control scheme. The casino stage is a particular delight. You feel like you’re roaring through the guts of a pinball machine, or a 22nd-century blackjack table. The cars themselves are a fun blend of stylish and silly, with each vehicle tailored to the driver. Shadow’s car looks like something a brooding teenager would sketch out in their chemistry notebook, and I am 100% on board. I only wish there was more variety to the stages.
You don’t notice the problem right away. It’s only after playing Team Adventure for a few hours that you start seeing the same stages over and over again. It seems like every level is so good, they felt the need to use it at least three times throughout the campaign. Are there not that many level environments to work within the Sonic franchise? I’m pretty confident this isn’t the case. So what gives? Admittedly, a campaign in a racing game has limits on variety and novelty. If you’re not racing once, you’re doing so four times in a row, or maybe racing with a limited health bar. There are challenge stages to break things up, but I mostly avoided them for um, skill reasons. A portentous lack of said skills, you might say. Even keeping these side missions in mind, I still felt like I was repeating myself a little too often.
Credits You Can’t Spend Fast Enough
One surefire way to stave off monotony is through customization. Kitting out your ride keeps it proper fresh, after all. While there are a lot of parts to earn for every vehicle, acquiring them is kind of a drain. You earn credits for every race you finish. A couple hours of playing will see you flush with cash, no matter your skill level. That’s the easy part. The hard part, somehow, is spending these credits. Against all expectations, opening Mod Pods in Team Sonic Racing is made monotonous and rote. You spend ten credits at a time, watching an endless succession of bonus boxes and hubcaps blast by. Spending 400 credits becomes an exercise in patience and perseverance. It’s genuinely baffling.
All of these little grievances add up to one major flaw, that of the pacing. Scattered throughout any given play session are tiny dead zones. The stack of loading screens served with every Grand Prix. The quiet stretches on every course devoid of boosts or obstacles. The tiny gaps that make up every Mod Pod purchase. Even drifting through the menus requires minute displays of patience. No single element of the gameplay feels truly slow, but a look back at my playthrough reveals a lot of flat spots. These blemishes don’t elevate the moments of speed. Instead, they isolate them. It’s a curious phenomenon that makes the game feel worse in retrospect.
Too Many Taps On The Brakes
Although I found a few cracks in the facade, I still had some decent fun with this game. The Sonic aesthetic is plastered over every surface, the songs kick you out of your chair, and teamwork system adds a lot of mileage. Some of the campaign stages landed with more grace than others, but the races themselves feel great. I’m even ready to go back and scoop up some of the completion markers I missed the first time around. I might not have the patience for any more Mod Pod shopping, however. In spite of its flaws, Team Sonic Racing is a fine and fast-paced chapter in the annals of Sonic gaming. If you’re looking for a fun romp with the Blue Blur and his pals, definitely check this one out.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Soundtrack is excellent
- Team mechanic works beautifully
- Graphics are nice and polished
- Team Adventure gets repetitive
- Pacing feels off
- Garage system feels extraneous