Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed marked the first time Sonic rivalved Mario in any capacity since the Sega vs Nintendo war of the early 90’s. The 2012 racer seamlessly blended ground, air, and sea racing with fun results, providing a worthy alternative to Mario Kart’s juggernaut. Over five years have passed, and the blue blur wants another shot at dethroning Mario Kart. Enter Team Sonic Racing. Sega’s newest racer manages to stand out by offering something completely different from its rival.
You probably guessed from the title that teamwork is the name of the game this time around, and I’m not talking about multiple riders sharing a vehicle ala Mario Kart: Double Dash. Teams of three separate racers work together on the track to take out the competition and grab the gold trophy. Making sure teammates also finish strong is just as important as focusing on reaching the coveted 1st place. For example, winning the race with Sonic doesn’t mean much if his friends, Knuckles and Tails, finish at 6th and 9th place, respectively. That’s because the cumulative scores of each team member determine the overall group ranking. You may be asking: “How can individual racers cooperate?” I wondered the same thing, and I’m pleasantly surprised with Sumo Digital’s answer.
Teamwork maneuvers include transferring power-ups between teammates. Pick up a speed boost, but you’re already in the lead? Give it to a buddy lagging behind. On the flip side, getting that crucial item from a friend when you’re pulling up the rear feels like a godsend. Besides being fun, this system dramatically alters the kart racing mentality. I found myself making moves I normally wouldn’t, such as going out of my way to grab items to help my allies instead of booking for the finish line. Additionally, driving behind teammates and following their paths triggers a slingshot maneuver that rockets you forward. Drifting close to a buddy grants them a similar speed boost.
The demo of Team Sonic Racing, for as solid as its mechanics were, certainly had its limitations. Driving felt mostly fine, but gameplay overall had a noticeable lack of polish..The single, basic track available also wasn’t anything to write home about. In fact, I’m having a hard time recalling anything remotely interesting about it. Hopefully the full game features more inventive courses that take full advantage of the teamwork mechanic.
The demo only featured two playable teams: Sonic/Tails/Knuckles and Shadow/Rouge/E-123 Omega. The roster ditches the Sega crossover aspect in favor of a pure Sonic line-up. Although Sonic has plenty of critters to fill a roster with, I’ll miss the zaniness of racing alongside Shenmue’s Ryo and real-life racer Danica Patrick. This also means putting up with the inane banter of Sonic’s crew, like Shadow’s cheesy attempt at a catchphrase, “Make way for the ultimate lifeform!”.
Team Sonic Racing seems like a neat idea that I hope gets backed by equally interesting courses and a stacked roster. Sonic and pals have an uphill drive ahead of them trying to supplant the superb Mario Kart 8. At the very least, Team Sonic Racing can do what previous entries have always succeeded at: offering an enjoyable spin on the kart racing formula. Look for Team Sonic Racing when it comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC later this year.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!