Team Sonic Racing review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Sumo Digital
Medium: Digital/Cartridge/Disc
Players: 1-12
Online: Yes

What?s disappointing about Team Sonic Racing isn?t just that it?s not Mario Kart. There?s no shame in that. After all, Mario Kart has been the standard against which all other kart racers are judged for a couple of decades now, so failing to meet (let alone surpass) that franchise is no failing on the part of any game– not even one with as stored a rivalry with Mario and co. as Sonic.

No, what makes Team Sonic Racing disappointing is that it?s not as good as Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sonic?s previous kart racer outing. After all, while that game also wasn?t quite on par with Mario Kart, it was still a pretty strong racer in its own right. It drew from from SEGA?s long and occasionally storied history, threw in a bunch of distinctive vehicles, and generally made for a pretty fun experience.

Team Sonic Racing, by contrast, is just kind of there. Where the last game (not to mention its predecessor) felt like SEGA were imagining the Mario Kart formula through their own lens, Team Sonic Racing feels like a perfunctory, paint-by-numbers affair. Rather than drawing from SEGA?s rich history, Team Sonic Racing is built solely around Sonic and the various characters who make up his bloated universe. The tracks all feel generic, and the characters have little personality beyond the occasional catchphrase.

If those were the game?s only sins, then Team Sonic Racing would merely be bland and forgettable. However, there are two problems with this game that help it make that jump.

The first is right in the name: Team Sonic Racing. The meat of this game, the story mode (which is still mainly just a bunch of races strung together — there are still traditional Cups to be won, if that?s more your thing), forces you to race in, as the title implies, teams of three. You?re awarded points not just based on how well you do, but how well your team does. While I could see the appeal of this feature in multiplayer — which, I?ll admit, I didn?t play — from a solo perspective it seems like a huge step backwards. I mean, what?s the point of trying to win the race if you could still lose thanks to crappy teammates?

The other big flaw here is that, ironically, the game feels kind of sluggish. You never feel like you?re moving all that quickly — which, considering this is Sonic the Hedgehog we?re talking about, is kind of ironic. I don?t know how to quantify this other than saying that half the time I was playing, I found it very easy for my mind to wander rather than to focus on the race I was in, and that seems like a pretty big warning sign.

To be sure, Team Sonic Racing isn?t really a bad game. It works, and even if it?s a little lacking in personality, it has polish. But there?s a vast gulf between solid (which is what this is) and good (which is how I?d describe previous Sonic racing games), and it?s very clear that this game is stuck firmly on the ?solid? side.

SEGA provided us with a Team Sonic Racing Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B-