OK, so you’re jonesing for some video game racing kart thrills, but you’re a tad tired of the same old Mario Kart tracks and buggies. You wanna new zip, a fresh zap? Well the gamemakers at Sega think you ought to turn to the king of lightning-speed and super-spinning acceleration for a little help in that area. They suggest you slam your foot (or rather, your finger) on the virtual gas pedal of Sonic the Hedgehog’s new game Team Sonic Racing.
So, what’s under the hood?
Well, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from this sort of game: lots of frenetic racing; colorful tracks that sparkle and dazzle; and tons of little extras and unlockable bits that give the speeding challenges a little more depth.
Oh, and you’ll encounter old gaming favorites such as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and this veteran franchise’s whole cast of other characters.
There are a number of ways to hit the track right away, including Time Trials and Quick Races, as well as local and online multiplayer team racing. But if you really want to get up to speed and unlock all of this game’s potential, you’ll need to play through the Team Adventure mode.
There’s a full story baked into Team Adventure: It’s a tale about a rotund, mustachioed guy named Dodan Pa. He approaches Sonic and his pals to offer them a chance to race his incredible, super-duper, high-tech autos on some fantastic tracks. (And, no, Dodan Pa isn’t really Mario in disguise; but that would have been a cool twist.) When Dodan makes his offer, some of Sonic’s gang fear he may be in cahoots with that old baddie Mr. Eggman. He’s not, but Eggman and his robo-sidekicks aren’t far behind.
The bottom line is that Dodan Pa is an automotive tycoon who has set about creating an Ultimate Energy Engine. And this advanced tech needs the power of teamwork—something that Sonic and his pals can supply in spades—to get it spooled up. And once they get things moving, Eggman starts dreaming about using the engine for his next world domination plot.
Of course, the real purpose of Team Adventure is to get you used to the game’s drifting and speed-ramp boosting moves as you complete various objectives, unlock new characters to race with and new tracks to race on, and obtain new car customizations.
Players race through seven different worlds with three tracks each, and they all have their own sense of color and pizazz, along with special challenges or obstacles. You blaze past casino spangles, icy mountain slip slides, volcanic lava flows, desert dunes and haunted spectral traps. Various track challenges include such things as taking down as many of Eggman’s Eggpawns as possible or drifting sideways through special gates without hitting them.
Teams are composed of three drivers each, one from each of the three skill classes. Sonic and his main squeeze Amy, for instance, are both in the speed class. Knuckles (among others) represents the smashing, bashing power class. And Tails has a boost to maneuver across hazards, which places him in the technique class.
Each class has its own feel in terms of speed and handling. Then, much like a Mario Kart game, there are also special items scattered across the track that help rally or boost your team or hinder opponents.
The car handling is solid: It’s accurate and smooth and makes you feel like a drifting champ. If you run off the track or speed right over a cliff, you simply reappear again to give it another go. And even at his most incensed, old Mr Eggman spouts nothing more than a “shut up” or “crap” while fuming over his plots being foiled.
Bottom line? It’s all pretty great fun. Sonic might not beat Mario at his own game, but he certainly gives Nintendo’s kart maestro a run—er, race—for his money.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.