Team Sonic Racing Review: Middle of the Pack Family Fun

By Mark Delaney, 4 months ago
Last generation, Sumo Digital offered SEGA fans two good arcade racers starring many of their favorite mascots from yesteryear. They're back with a third entry now, but this time only Sonic's crew comes for the ride. Thanks to some tweaks to the genre, Team Sonic Racing manages to stand out from its counterparts, though it doesn't quite cross the finish line.

Team Sonic Racing - SuperHeroArt

In virtually every way, Team Sonic Racing is a kart racer very much like any other. You drift around corners to earn speed boosts, collect pick-ups to fire off at opponents or defend from their attacks, and gather coins as you go with the signature Sonic sound effects. But Team Sonic Racing's best attribute is referenced in its title. The focus on teamplay keeps the game fun whether you're playing online, tackling the 7-10 hour story mode, or playing locally with family and friends. In each race (with the exception of one mode where you can remove the team aspect), the field of racers is broken into teams of three. Even if you're playing alone, you'll be assigned two AI teammates whom you must assist if you want to succeed.

Coming in first isn't enough. If your teammates fall far behind the pack, the points you earn for your first place finish and their back-end spots may not outscore others who fared better on average, leaving you to spectate other champions at the podium. Thus, it's important you share your power-ups with them, give them love taps called "skimboosts" to speed them up when they're slowed down by obstacles or rivals, and use drafting techniques straight out of NASCAR to slingshot each other ahead. Some power-ups can only be obtained through shared items too, so for the best stuff, generosity is key. This system also resolves a legacy issue within the genre where certain power-ups are useless in certain spots among the racers. For example, if you're in first, a forward projectile won't help, but in Team Sonic Racing you can put it to great use by sending it to a teammate. The best teams will perform these moves regularly and the results will show it just as often.

It would be a terrible time if all this team focus was let down by poor AI, but thankfully they behave reliably. If you do enough to help them, in no way different than you would any human partners, they'll hold their own quite well and the game is a success as a result. This makes the campaign fun on normal difficulty and a tough challenge for more skilled players on hard.

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While this central pillar to Team Sonic Racing holds up, several other areas let players down. For one, playing online, though lag-free in my experience, is hampered by intrusive messages which almost unceasingly inform you who has joined or left the lobby. These notifications are sprawled out across the bottom fourth of the screen in a way that blocks some of the action. Worse, these notifications seem delayed much of the time too, so even if they were better placed, they would still be pointless. This made playing online a real drag.

Local play is much better and probably the way Sumo expects most people to play. With the usual corny alt-rock soundtrack that SEGA loves to incorporate and the numerous colorful and varied tracks, Team Sonic Racing shines most brightly as a game for families. It's reliable in a way that most inexperienced players can still have fun and even succeed given the game's rising tide approach to teamplay. Still, even this mode can't escape some of Team Sonic Racing's blemishes.

The roster feels lacking given its inclusion of just Sonic characters and this is made even worse when you consider how players looking to be on the same team will have to pick from the same trio of predetermined racers. If I choose to play as Sonic but my son wants to be Dr. Eggman, he can't do it. Eggman isn't on Sonic's team — Knuckles and Tails are. He has to choose among those two only, or I would have to pick someone from Dr. Eggman's crew. In a racer like this, roster is nearly as important as the racing itself and with only a dozen Sonic characters, some of whom are even then pretty obscure, this is Team Sonic Racing's most glaring weakness. On the bright side, there is a modest array of customization options that affect each car both cosmetically and mechanically. These options don't run so deep, but they feel deep enough to entertain younger players. What players lack in drivers, they somewhat get back in making each vehicle their own.

Customization isn't so deep, but there's enough there to toy with.Customization isn't so deep, but there's enough there to toy with.

After a stylish cinematic intro, the rest of the story is told through still images of the characters with dialogue boxes below them. It's an approach that usually signals a lack of resources but it often comes off, as it does here, as a lack of care. The kids and other players who do love these characters deserve more than this throwaway story and delivery, and with the skip button featured so prominently, it feels as though Sumo maybe even agrees.

As for achievements, there are 51 in total. You'll need to complete all seven chapters of the story mode, clear several long-term milestones, and do very specific moves on the track. You'll also need to play the story on hard, which you can do right away if you so choose. Early estimates say the game will take around 30 hours to complete.

Check out our Best Xbox Arcade Racing Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Team Sonic Racing is Sumo's third race around the track with SEGA's flagship characters. It's not their best effort of the trio but because of the intriguing teamplay focus, it stands up as a worthy game for fans of the genre and families alike. The roster leaves a lot to be desired and the game needs a few changes under the hood to really play how it should, but it makes for a fun co-op or competitive game best played locally with loved ones.
3.5 / 5
Team Sonic Racing
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 11 hours with Sonic and his friends, teaming up to thwart Dr. Eggman yet again. 25 of 51 achievements were unlocked. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.