Originally, when I started playing Team Sonic Racing, I was getting frustrated. The difficulty was completely uneven, with severe rubberbanding making races less fun and more a test of patience. Grand Prixs were a nightmare because even with near-perfect driving you can end up with a rival suddenly on your tail and knocking you from 1st to 5th, wrecking your score and losing a lot of points. Losing a Prix by one point due to two races ending like that was enough to consider deleting the title from my Switch right then and there, provided I wasn’t reviewing it.
But between then and now, a lot of things happened. E3 and other events prevented me from getting the review done until after the show, and when booted up Team Sonic Racing after the first updates I noticed a few changes. The original rubberbanding and difficulty seem to be smoothed out a bit, making races less frustrating overall, though you can still have last-second upsets in later chapters. My teammates still need babysitting, but they generally don’t suddenly lose positions and end up in 10th in the last second of the race (though sometimes it still happens… looking at you, Knuckles). They also pipe up more often when a Team Ultimate is available, which I don’t think they did much before.
The tweaks are welcome, for sure, and I’m happy I got to play this version of Team Sonic Racing before my review went live. Without the abnormal amount of frustration, I can see the game for what it truly is–a competent racer that, unfortunately, doesn’t do much to stand out. Especially when under the shadow of All-Stars Racing Transformed, Team Sonic Racing just doesn’t stack up, ultimately being a forgettable experience.
The story to Team Sonic Racing is something like this–Some random character comes along and wants Sonic and crew to race on special tracks he made. Eventually, Eggman and some evil folks get involved I think, and they kidnap said random character for reasons, and you save him and the day.
This is what I gleaned from the very first cutscene, the names of the chapters, and the little notice that popped up when I completed the Team Adventure Mode. I didn’t realize until halfway through the game that pressing ‘A’ was skipping all the cutscenes for the game and cutting straight to racing. It’s a particularly baffling design choice.
Then again, perhaps that was for the best, as when I watched a cutscene in the middle of the game it couldn’t be over fast enough. Team Sonic Racing, as the name might imply, only has characters from the Sonic series in it, and having fifteen characters shoved into one game and all talking at the same time just made me realize how much I disliked most of them. Sonic’s constant quips while racing gets tiring fast, as that was the character I used exclusively to get through the Adventure Mode, but each character has a bunch of canned responses that get irksome fast.
It’s just that a lot of the Sonic characters don’t have great personalities. The spread of characters in Transformed, and having them represent their respective series, really helped in making races feel less monotonous and fun. Hearing Big saying he’s got a boo-boo for the 15th time is grating, not interesting.
But, this is a racing game. The most important aspect of a racing game is, in fact, the racing. I can deal with Shadow going off about the Ultimate Lifeform yet again if I’m enjoying zipping along tracks and enjoying it. Originally, this was the most frustrating aspect of the game, as I stated above, but a patch made things a little better. However, the core of the gameplay just isn’t appealing enough.
Team Sonic Racing, as the title again implies, is a team-based racer. This isn’t like Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, where two races control one kart and swap. The teams in Team Sonic Racing are three racers, in separate cars, each vying for high positions at the end of the race. You get points at the end of the race, and the team (not the player) with the highest point value wins. So, it’s important that not only you rank high, but your teammates rank high as well. You can still lose the match if you get 1st and your teammates are in last.
So in order to ensure victory, you need to perform team actions. You can trade items between one another, or stay behind an ally to get a speed boost. Any sort of team action will gain you star points, and once the meter is full you can unleash your Team Ultimate, which is you going really fast and being invincible for a limited amount of time.
The team aspect of Team Sonic Racing works well enough, but it doesn’t really add the depth of strategy the game was expecting you’d use. Most races boil down to just swapping items around until you get your Ultimate, then using that to push you and your teammates to a top slot. Generally, now that the rubberbanding is fixed, it’ll take me about a lap to pull ahead of the pack (except in the last chapter of Adventure Mode, where the racers are better). Once I’m in first, I have no reason to use items, especially when playing as a Speed type character. It’s better to just pass them along to my chronically lagging AI partners, anyway.
Once the patch evened out the difficulty a bit, I had little issue completing races and grand prixs in Adventure Mode and move along, although almost all of the challenge modes require frustratingly perfect play to get a Platinum medal. Thankfully, you only need something like 55 stars (out of 170 or so) to make it to the end and save the day.
But it started to get to the point that I was just playing to finish the game and just move on, not because I enjoyed it. There are coins you can use to get a random chance of new car parts and Bonus Boxes, neither of which I really messed with. There are online modes you can try, but the online aspects weren’t quite working properly on the Switch when I tried and I saw no reason to go back. I could go and play the tracks in solo mode and not have to deal with the team mechanics, but racing just feels empty then.
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It just feels like Team Sonic Racing should have been something more. It’s hard not to compare it to Transformed, which is ultimately the better game. It may be worth it if you’re a die-hard Sonic fan, but when there’s a superior (and probably cheaper) Sega racing game already available to play, it makes Team Sonic Racing a hard game to recommend.