A Fun, Forgettable Kart Racer
Kart racers are tricky games to get right. Dwarfed by the mammoth success of Mario Kart and the recent release of Crash Team Racing, Team Sonic Racing is a surprisingly solid but ultimately forgettable addition to the genre. Taking the best elements from both of the aforementioned games, this Sega racer makes the most of its high-speed courses but is held back by some repetitive gameplay and a lack of variety with its tracks.
Along with the usual slew of multiplayer races and co-op action is an extensive Adventure mode that spans 7 Chapters of different races. There is a loose story tying it all together though, courtesy of some enthusiastic voice acting and an original script. The story itself sees Sonic team up with his friends to thwart the evil alien Dodon Pa, who invites Sonic to compete in a series of races. With Sonic’s arch-nemesis Doctor Eggman suspiciously vacant for large stretches of the story, Sonic and the others suspect he may be behind this. As the story progresses, the meaning behind just why Sonic and his friends are competing becomes clearer but to be honest the story never really rises above mediocrity, playing second fiddle to the courses and races.
The meat of the game inevitably comes from the way the races play out and it’s here Team Sonic Racing shines. The courses come thick and fast, with a great burst of speed accompany most of the different tracks. There’s clearly been a lot of effort put into this game in an effort to emulate the speed that made the original Super Nintendo titles so endearing. As you charge through the races, the usual slew of power-ups and speed pads help break up the game, but for the most part the core experience remains identical to so many other racers on the market.
Where Team Sonic Racing stands out though is in its unique approach to team worky which does help all some originality tp the game. As you drift and zoom through courses, you’re able to share power-ups with teammates, use their slip stream to gain a speed boost along with working together to finish on more points. This adds some nice strategy to proceedings as you weigh up whether it’s worth sharing your prizes or continue to decimate the competition until the end.
While the usual array of finishing top of the pack make a big difference to the number of points you earn, additional points are earned by working as a team, building into a final meter at the end of the race that shows how many points you’ve accumulated. This is especially interesting when the game throws up its Grand Prix races; a collection of courses back to back with the final points at the end revealing the winner overall. It’s a nice addition and something that does emphasise playing as a team, despite the woefully inept friendly AI hounding the title.
With 21 tracks in total, Team Sonic Racing feels surprisingly mundane through large swathes of its courses, with different Acts and Zones breaking up the colour palette but most courses, especially early on in the Adventure Mode, only utilize the same few tracks. This does stagnate the experience somewhat but the Adventure Mode offers up an array of different challenges to break up the experience of plowing through races. Trying to speed through gates without hitting robots, time attacks and even collecting as many rings as possible all offer surprisingly tough challenges, especially if you aim to try and hit the coveted platinum trophy for each of these.
While most of the meat of the game can be found in the Adventure Mode, there’s a good amount of fun to be had as a co-op or multiplayer experience. It’s ultimately this that will make or break your experience with this title but alongside such juggernaut games like Mario Kart, that manage to balance compelling gameplay with longevity, Team Sonic Racing is a fun, fleeting experience in comparison, unlikely to be a game remembered for a long time to come.
There’s nothing wrong with Team Sonic Racing though, if anything this is actually one of the better kart racers out there. In many ways its release date, in the shadow of Crash Bandicoot’s fun little racer, feels ill-timed. For half its asking price, Team Sonic Racing is well worth a play although I’d recommend renting this one before putting any money down on it.