I’ll be straight up with you on this one. I think it’s far to say that I wasn’t really expecting an awful lot from Team Sonic Racing. As much as I have a soft spot for the Hog’ and his pals, something about it via trailers and gameplay videos just wasn’t clicking for me and I was worried that it wasn’t going to have the same affect on me as the likes of All-Stars Transformed did. Sitting down to play it at EGX I was a little worried.
Within about ten seconds those concerns were quickly abolished. Team Sonic Racing is a blast.
The highest compliment I can give the game is that it feels just like Transformed. The karts handle about as well as you remember them doing from that seminal racer*, with the focus on drifting an essential component in winning races. The visuals are bright and breezy and makes you feel right at home in the world. If this is being considered a ‘spiritual successor’ to Transformed, I can get on board with that. It feels like a natural progression, even if it does take a little while to get your head around the whole Team mechanic.
As you can probably guess from the title, the focus is on team racing this time around across its single and multiplayer modes. You’ve got up to fifteen characters to choose from – though in the demo we played we had the choice of the OG’s Sonic, Tails and Knuckles – that all handle a little differently, Tails being a little lighter than Sonic so quicker around the corners and the like. I chose Knuckles, as everyone’s favourite pink Echidna is the fine balance between Sonic and Tails in terms of weight and handling. Across each track you’ll find speed boosts, some sharp corners that encourage drifting – and always feels great when you do -, power-ups that can be used or gifted to your team members and of course, a ton of gold rings that can be collected as you tear it around.
The team focus encourages co-operative gameplay, working together to make sure you get those coveted first, second and third places is an essential component. As mentioned above, you can share power-ups, rack up points depending on how well you perform and leave trails that team members behind you can follow for similar race lines. Teams also have an ‘Ultimate’ bar, which can be filled as your team works together and offers a burst of speed. Very handy.
There’s more to Team Sonic Racing than I ever expected. Its focus on team-based racing is a nice touch and gives the game a unique mechanic that must be adhered to should you expect any kind of success. I like that the teams can be any characters you like (and you can even triple-up on your favourite character if you so choose), all handling differently which adds an extra technical challenge to races. As mentioned above it feels like a hell of a lot of care and attention has been put into how the team elements work and how each kart feels somewhat different. I came away feeling far better about the game than I did before I sat down. It’s gonna take a hell of a final product for it to beat Transformed in my mind but it’s most certainly on the way.
I found myself very impressed with Team Sonic Racing. Kids are going to enjoy the racing whilst learning all about that ‘working together’ thing that we bang on about so much.
I reckon we’re going to have some fun with this one upon release, which is scheduled before the end of the year.
*okay, it’s not ‘seminal’, but it’s damn fun. Um, depending on who you ask.