Seven years have passed since Sumo Digital released its previous SEGA-themed racing title, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The latest effort in this genre from the studio ditches the wider SEGA theming to concentrate solely on the Sonic universe, with a new emphasis on teamwork.
Team Sonic Racing introduces several new features, the most notable of which is the teamwork mechanic. Competitors are split into four teams of three, meaning that players are working alongside AI-powered teammates in solo play. As a result, any player who streaks ahead of the pack and forgets about their teammates will find that they are penalised, as the overall result is based on the position of the entire team, not just that of the player.
The leader of the team will produce a glowing yellow trail, which can be used by their partners to increase speed, letting those who have fallen behind slingshot up the rankings. In addition, if an ally has hit a wall or been struck by a weapon, players can skim close to them to provide an additional boost.
Items in Team Sonic Racing are represented by the alien Wisps introduced in Sonic Colours, which is a nice callback and matches the universe better than the sometimes bizarre items and weapons from previous All-Stars Racing titles. The result is that players can use orange rocket Wisps or black Bomb Wisps to take out opponents or white Wisps for a boost of speed. Swapping item boxes is also important, as players can offer an unneeded item box to a team member who is lagging behind or accept items sent by allies.
Working cooperatively with the team by swapping items or providing skim boosts builds up a meter that can be activated to provide a significant supercharge boost that barrels competitors out of the way.
Interestingly, the game also draws on an idea used in Sonic Heroes, as each racer has a speciality, being either Speed, Power, or Technique. Power characters can smash through obstacles without it costing them speed, while Technique racers can drive off track with no penalty. Each individual cooperative element does not add that much impact by itself, but combined they create an element of strategy that was missing from previous Sumo Digital racing games.
Racing itself feels refined and polished. Much of the gameplay and controls have been brought over from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, but the controls feel a bit tighter and more responsive. This slight change is particularly notable when drifting. The track design is also familiar, with some courses, including Roulette Road, making a return.
New courses have, of course, been introduced, though are in limited supply, and most have designs taken from the modern era of Sonic games, such as Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colours. The visuals looks great with the addition of current-generation lighting and textures; though the graphics are nothing mind-blowing, they are pleasingly colourful and appealing.
A new feature that has been brought in is the car customisation. Further developing the ‘Console Mods’ from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, players can now unlock new car components by gathering credits from races and spending them on a gachapon machine. Wonderfully, the game has no microtransactions; everything is earned through racing skill and luck.
Unlocked car parts can significantly alter the performance of a vehicle, which can make a huge difference in some of the more challenging races, especially if the ‘legendary’ parts are unlocked and applied. Players may spend a lot of time absorbed in the customisation garage, since the cosmetic appearance of the cars can be altered, including new paint jobs, different paint finish, and even vinyl decals.
Team Sonic Racing also boasts a great soundtrack, with the title theme “Green Light Ride” delivered by Sonic veterans Crush 40 and incidental music provided by Crush 40 guitarist and experienced Sonic music composer Jun Senoue. The result is some very catchy tunes, including an upbeat remix of the Sandopolis Zone theme from Sonic & Knuckles that adds some punchy guitar riffs to an already classic track.
Removing the wider SEGA elements such asthose derived from Nights into Dreams…, After Burner, and Panzer Dragoon is something of a shame. The courses in Team Sonic Racing are good, but lack the dynamic, changing quality offered by the tracks in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The loss of the other SEGA characters also leaves the roster feeling cut down and limited, depriving Team Sonic Racing of some of the quirky charm of its predecessors.
Team Sonic Racing does not do anything that is revolutionary, but the single-player mode is a significant improvement on previous Sumo Digital racing titles, since the teamwork and customisation options add quite a bit of depth. The result is clearly meant to promote local multiplayer, but players can still have lots of fun solo. Priced at a mere GBP£29.99 (or USD$39.99), Team Sonic Racing definitely packs enough entertainment in to be worth the cost of entry.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4.