Mario Kart is a series that has dominated the kart racing genre for years. Many have tried to break that stranglehold to varied success.
From Donkey Kong to Crash Bandicoot, there’s been a cavalcade of characters looking to take on the kart racing throne. Now, in 2018, Sega and Sonic are looking to make another run at it with Team Sonic Racing, and if the demo I played at Pre-E3 was anything to go by, they might have a real chance this time.
Picking up the controller for the first time in Team Sonic Racing and you will be amazed at how familiar everything feels. Ten minutes into the game and I was already having fun with Sonic and the gang. Somehow the team at Sumo Digital has managed that delicate balance of breathing new life into a genre while maintaining the feel that keeps people battling their friends for hours.
The big things to take note of for Team Sonic Racing are, as the name suggests, the teams. You and two other characters of you or your team’s choice battle it out against the opposing team. You can share abilities and even do special moves that involve the full racing group. Think of it as TheFast and the Furious only with less Vin Diesel and more Shadow the Hedgehog.
Honestly, hearing about this concept, it sounded more like a gimmick than a genuine new feature that would draw in new players. But after racing two maps with it, I was hooked. There is something oddly satisfying about being able to share powerups and calling on your team for help. It meshes with the Kart Racing formula well, and judging by how critics were enthralled in the races, could be a winning formula for the series.
But as with any game, if the core feature set of the game did not work, all the gimmicks in the world will not save it. Thankfully Sumo Digital built a game that feels tight. While it may not have the same feel as a Mario Kart, it was fun to play, and even better to master.
The power-ups in Team Sonic Racing are what one would expect from the genre. Speed boosts, mines, projectiles, and AOE attacks round out the roster of effects. As with many games in the genre, it is how you use these abilities that will determine who sits at the podium position. It is hard to say if the full selection of powerups was on display during the demo, but I never felt like a type of attack was missing or that I was falling behind the pack due to anything beyond my own lack of skill.
Visually Team Sonic Racing carries through the bright and colourful tradition of the sonic franchise. All characters have the aesthetic you would want from Sonic, and the tracks are intricate and filled with character. If you demand a rainbow vomiting joy from all aspects of your kart racer, you should be in good hands with this installment.
I should make it clear that I am personally not a huge Sonic fan. Sure, I have played many of the past games, I used to own a Dreamcast, I even have “Escape from the City” stuck in my head at least once a month, but I never cared about Sonic lore. So while Team Sonic Racing offers 15 playable characters all with a range of types from speed, technique, and power, I had no idea what one offered over another. It does not have that nostalgic feeling for me. That being said, if you are one who does care about the lore, there is plenty to like in the odd fur-covered characters. It has a personality all its own, and that is something the series has been lacking in recent years.
Team Sonic Racing is the light dose of fun this E3 needed. While it is not particularly deep, and will not paint a story that will stick with you for days, what it does offer it does well. The kart racing mechanics work great, at least from the two races I managed, and the cast and crew of your favourite animal-based franchise are all present in their mascot-like glory. If nothing else, Team Sonic Racing is a fun romp for friends and in a sea of shooters and Battle Royale games, that is a welcome change. With the limited Sonic roster, I don’t think we need to worry about Sonic Battle Royale anytime soon—at least I hope not.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Frye’s work such as his interview with EA Motive about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and his in-depth look at the Equifax Hack!