Team Sonic Racing review: Not rolling around at the speed of sound

Sega /

Team Sonic Racing mostly makes you feel like there actually is an “I” in “team.”

Title: Team Sonic Racing
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed) PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: May 21, 2019

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is arguably one of the most underrated gems of the previous generation. Kart racers are few and far between because the genre is just seemingly dominated so severely by the Mario Kart franchise that few even want to try.

But Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was like Sega’s Smash Bros. of racing, full of wild crossovers, fantastic tracks and tunes heavily referencing Sega’s long history and arguably the most fan-servicey (in a good way) game the publisher has ever made. If you didn’t buy it when it came out (and sales suggest you didn’t), pick it up now either on Steam or just about any other last-gen platform you have; it’s cheap, and you won’t be disappointed.

Still, Sumo Digital, the developer of that game, got another crack at making a racing game, and for Team Sonic Racing, they went for a very unique approach. While it does try to add in some new elements to make it feel unique compared to any other kart racers out there, the ideas really don’t work and what we are left is a competent but not especially intriguing or exciting kart racer dragged down by some of its unique aspects.

Sega /

As you might expect from the name, rather than drawing from Sega’s vast catalog of characters, Team Sonic Racing pulls it back quite a bit and strictly contains characters from the titular hedgehog’s own series of games over the years. You get everyone from Sonic himself to a team of chaos to those oh so memorable characters who debuted in Knuckles Chaotix and keep popping up in stuff no matter how hard we try to forget them. That results in about 15 racers all together, which is a kind of small roster, but if the result were quality over quantity, that wouldn’t matter so much.

I wouldn’t say the racers in Team Sonic Racing all feel the same, but I don’t feel a tremendous difference when using Tails vs. Big the Cat, and there are essentially three “classes” of racers, and the racers that fit in those classes definitely feel the same even when customizing your kart with parts.

These songs are colorful enough but feel like they’ve been in dozens of other also-ran kart racing games.

Granted, I’m not familiar with the most recent Sonic games. The last 3D Sonic game I played was probably Sonic Lost World, for example. So it’s hard for me to tell if the tracks in Team Sonic Racing are from any specific games, but honestly, they feel like generic tracks that don’t have a whole lot of life to them. These songs are colorful enough but feel like they’ve been in dozens of other also-ran kart racing games.

The one exception is arguably the Casino Park tracks because admittedly Sonic and casino themes seem to fit super well together. The music certainly sounds like music you’d hear in a Sonic game, whether or not that’s a plus might vary.

Sega /

There are a pretty standard number of modes available. There’s a “story” mode, where you can unlock new tracks for local play. Though the “story” is not just bad, but doesn’t even really involve a good chunk of the racers. For example, I can be playing as the Chaotix team, but they don’t really matter to the story, so why are they even there?

Additionally, the story mode is just structured rather poorly. You earn keys and stars that you think might let you unlock stuff and maybe skip past races you are having trouble with (especially tracks where you have objectives like hitting targets or collecting rings in a very short amount of time, those are incredibly hard).

I couldn’t take advantage of them to get past a problematic track or even one where I just kept losing because my teammates always finished poorly (I will touch more on that in a bit). The other modes are your usual multiplayer local and online varieties. There is an option to merely do a “standard” race with just a solo racer, but no unique modes.

Sega /

Honestly, the most frustrating mode might be customizing your various racers karts. Why? Because you don’t unlock parts by earning points to purchase them or achieving particular goals in racing. It’s all dependent on a machine that randomly doles out stuff.

Sometimes you’ll get a new part, but often you’ll get “bonus” boxes that give you a slight one-time boost in a race or a paint option. Granted, you don’t have to pay real money, participate in races to get credits, but at the rate things are doled out, it feels like unnecessary padding to get you to play the game more.

Sega /

Team Sonic Racing is ultimately supposedly about more than just the individual racer. The idea of a “team” in a racing game might sound odd. Why would you have a team in a sport where it’s all dependent on where you place? Well, that’s both what helps Team Sonic Racing feel a little different from most other kart racers but what ultimately drags it down as well.

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  • The setup sees you and two other racers are a team (A.I. controlled offline, and you get randomly assigned to a team online). How does that work in a racing capacity? You can ride a teammates’ drift to catch up and speed ahead, pass them items, and you can ideally help them this way. Maybe that was a cool idea on paper, but in execution, it just really feels like your team is a constant drag on you.

    At least playing on normal, I consistently was at or near number one for example, but my teammates were quite often placing near the bottom, and since your total team score is the most important thing (especially in say Grand Prix races in story mode that consists of several tracks), my team just usually was an albatross around my neck.

    The few times they weren’t dragging me down, they’d use my drift to boost past me and secure a number one slot in the last couple seconds of the race, which matters in say the story mode, but is also just a pretty jerkass thing to do. When I was doing poorly, they never picked up the slack. I never saw one race where I did poorly, and they finished even in the Top 5.

    The whole team aspect, which is the core of Team Sonic Racing, doesn’t make it feel like you really are part of a team and mostly isn’t all that fun.

    Sega /

    What you get with Team Sonic Racing is what you honestly better than you might expect from any modern game bearing the Sonic moniker. It’s a flawed but mostly competent kart racer that is budget priced and might be fine for kids who like the blue hedgehog and his furry friends.

    Maybe that’s fine for you, but when the previous effort was pretty much a masterstroke of kart racing and fan service to long-time Sega fans (also by the same developer) it’s pretty disappointing. Team Sonic Racing is at best squarely in the middle of the pack.

    . Team Sonic Racing. 6. Team Sonic Racing tries to do something new but it just really doesn’t work and what we are left with is a competent but fairly average kart racing game.. Sumo Digital

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.