Developer Sumo Digital landed a hit with its 2012 kart-racing game Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Now, the developer is partnering with Sonic Team, stripping away the non-Sonic characters, and adding a new layer of team-based strategy for Team Sonic Racing.
In this new kart-racing title from Sega, the developers are focusing entirely on the Sonic universe, which means no Aiai or Ryo Hazuki this time around (sorry, fellow Shenmue fans). Instead, players get a roster of 15 Sonic characters. In the build I played, I could choose between Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Shadow, Rouge, and E-123 Omega. Each character fits into one of three classes: speed, technique, or power. Once you choose a character, you’re placed in a team of three based on the character’s alliances; Sonic was always placed with Tails and Knuckles, while Rouge raced alongside Shadow and Omega.
When the race begins, it plays out much like a standard kart racer. Characters drift around corners, acquire consumable items, and avoid zany obstacles in the push to be first. In addition to the tried-and-true formula, players can help their teammates; you can gift items, request items, and slingshot around teammates by following their path. The game will also include a solo mode that removes the team-based mechanics, but outside of an occasional pure kart-racing foray, I don’t foresee myself playing that mode much.
At the end of the race, it assigns points for your team based on where each member finished. This means you must help your team in order to actually win. In one of my races, my team finished third, fourth, and fifth, but because we were the most consistent team, we came in first in the race. In another race, I finished first, but my teammates were in the middle of the pack, so we came in second overall. I like that twist of having to keep an eye on your standing in the race, as well as your teammates.
When the game ships, it will feature stages that are both brand new to the Sonic universe, as well as familiar levels. While the developers wouldn’t spill any additional details, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka tells me that some stages will feature recognizable songs from Sonic’s past, and that Jun Senoue is composing the game. In addition, Senoue’s fan-favorite band, Crush 40, performs the main theme.
Team Sonic Racing may not have the fancy transformations or characters outside of the Sonic universe, but it makes up for it with thoughtful team-based mechanics that add new twists to the formula. Sonic Team Racing is set to launch this winter on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.