THE BEST KART RACER EVER?
Admittedly, after platting Sonic Forces and talking in my review about how cringey it was, I still somehow came away with a real hankering to play some more Sonic. As Forces is the only mainline Sonic game on PS4 and Mania doesn’t have a Platinum, I found myself looking at Team Sonic Racing. Which I then picked up for full retail price 2 days before it went on sale for half price. So that’s pretty annoying…
Sonic has a bit of a history of racing games, the first one I remember was Sonic Riders, which I loved. I was no good at it but boy did I play the heck out of it as a kid. My next memorable Sonic racing experience was with “Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed” – another great game – which pioneered multi-terrain racing by having your car transform into a plane or boat where needed, something which then found it’s way into the latest Mario Kart title.
Now, with Team Sonic Racing, SEGA have added new unique mechanics which once again set it apart from other Kart racing games making it, in my opinion, one of the strongest Kart racers ever…
Team Sonic Racing Review
Unlike “Crash Team Racing” the “Team” in “Team Sonic Racing” is there for a reason. Not dissimilar to game modes in other Kart racing games, racers are placed in teams of 3 and have points awarded to them based on how they place at the end. These points are then summed up and the team with the most points becomes the winning team overall.
Not only is this good for when your Younger Sibling wants to play it with you, because it means they can still win, but it emphasises team-play because even if one person places in first, their teammates could still place 11th and 12th making the team lose overall. To avoid this, you need to play as a team, help each other out.
That’s where this game-mode falls flat in other kart-racers because there is no way to help out your teammates if they get hit by a non-descript shell of no particular franchisal affiliation, they’re just screwed – you can’t do anything about it.
Well, in Team Sonic Racing, you can help each other out. And there’s an incentive to do so because you also benefit from being a good team player. There are 3 things you can do to help out a fellow team member:
- Slingshot – The team member who is farthest in the lead of each team will leave behind a golden trail – a slipstream – which other team members can then drive inside in order to build up a “Slingshot” boost, which will send them flying ahead at breakneck speeds.
- Skim-boost – Perhaps the smartest team-play feature here. If another team member spins out, crashes or gets slowed down ahead of you, a gold ring will appear around them. If you pass by them, entering inside the bounds of the golden ring, but without hitting them, they will get a skim-boost. This will give you both a boost, depending on how much faster you’re going than them. This helps to prevent the issues we see in other kart racers where you can get hit by 5 items in a row and have zero chance of recovery.
- Item Box Transfer – Another key, and frankly vital, mechanic of team-play is being able to pass items on to other players. If you’re in First Place but one of your team-mates isn’t pulling their weight, you can press to send them any items you pick up in the hopes it will help them out. You can also do it when a team-mate has an item and you don’t, to request they give it to you. With some items (Boost, Bomb, Missile, Eagle and Cube) you’ll get three uses of the item if it was received from another player, rather than one use.
Doing any of those above things (or hitting other players with items) in order to help out team-mates will charge a Team Ultimate meter. When this meter is full, you can press to activate the Ultimate.
When using your Ultimate, you’re extremely fast, you spin out any players you come into contact with and you cannot be harmed by rival players or the environment. This is incredibly useful for gaining a quick lead, or holding one for longer.
Of course, other players have these abilities as well, so you need to learn to predict and prepare for this happening. Don’t get too comfortable if you’re in the lead, there could be a glowing Big the Cat careening towards you at the speed of light any minute.
Difficult Learning Curve
One thing I noticed very quickly with Team Sonic Racing is that it is quite difficult to gain, and then hold, the lead in a race. Early on, within the first couple of areas on the campaign map, I was spending up to an hour re-playing the same events, just trying to get good enough on that particular map, or with that particular event’s nuances, that I could not only finish in First but also complete the various challenges applied to each stage.
It wasn’t until very near the end that I was so hilariously confident in my drift control and handling of each car that I was able to fly around the various tracks with a solid lead. Though, even then, I would struggle with staying in First or keeping certain rival racers off my back.
There are various tips at the bottom of this review for helping you handle the learning curve and understand the best approach, but for now, I’ll just say that the game is damn challenging.
I’m not sure if it’s the fun mechanics, the colourful maps or the nostalgic music remasters which kept me going, but for whatever reason I never rage-quit. I’d be replaying the same event for multiple hours in some cases but I would just keep at it regardless.
Aside from putting in countless hours of practice, knowing which racer to use also goes a long way to making you a great TSR player.
There are 3 racer types; Speed (i.e Sonic, Shadow), Technique (i.e Tails, Eggman) and Power (i.e Knuckles, Vector).
Speed type racers have much higher base top speed and acceleration stats but can also protect themselves from incoming projectiles using a shockwave which activates whenever they trigger a drift-boost (boosting by holding to drift for a certain amount of time and then releasing ). Perfect for standard racing conditions.
Technique type racers have excellent handling and with the right tuning, have as much control over the direction of their car while drifting, as they do simply driving forwards. Technique racers can also drive over “slow-down surfaces” such as grass, sand or water, without being slowed. They suffer in speed and boost stats though, so I found them useless except for the events which involved drifting through a lot of rings.
Power type racers have excellent base defence and boost stats, and you will see them topping leaderboards a lot. Boosting lets you exceed your top speed so, naturally, if you’re a racer who earns a lot of small boosts by drifting around every corner or performing stunts over every jump, you’ll be the fastest racer on the track by far when using a Power racer with high boost stats. They also don’t get pushed around as much and they can drive through certain breakable objects on the course which would otherwise spin out other racers.
There is one last thing you can do to help you perform better in Team Sonic Racing, and that is buying “Mod Pods”…
Time for a tune-up
After each and every race (even if you don’t win), you’ll be awarded credits. These can be used at the “Mod Pod” store, which is essentially a Gachapon machine, allowing you to buy small pods which will contain one of a few random items:
- Bonus Boxes – (common) These are small power-ups you can apply before a race, to help you out with a tricky story mission, or give yourself a leg-up against friends (some are not allowed in multiplayer). You can hold up to 5 of each and they include things like starting with a certain item in-hand or making Team Ultimates charge a little faster.
- Car Performance parts – (uncommon) Much like in the more recent Mario Kart, you can get different customisation parts. These will affect each racer type’s stats dramatically, changing the gameplay greatly. You can change the colour of these parts using paint kits in the garage.
- Legendary Car Performance parts – (rare) These are so pointless. I just do not get they they exist. They’re the exact same parts as the normal ones, with the exact same performance changes, but they are gold. You cannot change the colour of these parts.
- Credits – (very rare) Just small bundles of more credits. I think these only start appearing once the machine starts running out of things to give you, which is the only reason they’re rare.
The bonus boxes are extremely useful for tricky challenges in the team adventure mode or difficult races on specific maps. As an example, I would often use the bonus box which causes team ultimate to charge faster for any elimination races I had coming up, so that I could ensure my team had a strong lead and wouldn’t fall behind where they would be eliminated.
The best items you can get from here though is the performance parts. It is insane how dramatic of a change these can have on the gameplay and I immediately knew once I had found the perfect setup for each of the racer types just because I could feel the difference.
I’ve added a section at the bottom which details the best performance setups (in my opinion, it differs depending on your play style).
Another Messy Sonic Story
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take just a small moment to complain about the campaign’s story. It’s obviously nothing more than a few still images with dialogue exchanges because let’s be honest it’s just a racing game.
As I am sure you can imagine, though, the dialogue exchanges are overflowing with that all-too-familiar cringe which the Sonic franchise is now well-known for.
I also find myself completely lost whenever I revisit the Sonic Franchise. I don’t know if there is some sort of canon which fans are able to keep a track of, but the story is so inconsistent it makes my head spin.
In the previous Sonic title, Forces, SEGA had suddenly decided that Blaze and Big didn’t have a significant role to play in the franchise anymore, and removed all mention of them. But characters like Charmy the Bee and Espeo the fricking Chameleon were suddenly important enough?
Then, in TSR, Big and Blaze are so important that they need main roles in the game? They need to be part of the limited roster?
I get it, Blaze is from another dimension or whatever, but so is Silver and they still brought him in to fight the big war or whatever in Sonic Forces.
On top of all that, the characters are so inconsistent. Knuckles – to name just one – is one of the most inconsistent characters ever written. Initially, he was a silent bad-ass type, then in Sonic Adventure 2, I remember him being a big of a Gangster, always having rap music in his levels and being aggressive. Then, in what I saw of Sonic Boom they painted him as an absolute moron who couldn’t tell his hand from his foot. Following that, he was the friendly leader of the rebellion in Sonic Forces, suddenly smart and tactful enough to be literally making strategical plans of war.
And now, in TSR, he is somewhere in-between. He’s not as mentally dysfunctional as he is in Sonic Boom, but he’s certainly not as smart as he was in Sonic Forces, made evident by him spewing out lines like “Woah! Who knew ice was slippery!?”
I have to wonder if it’s an inherent flaw of the franchise that it just cannot be well-written and the character dialogue always has to be just… awful. Or perhaps it’s just a case of bad writers. Is there a writer out there who could make a story campaign for a Sonic game which would move us and make the characters relatable and likeable? Do SEGA even think the story would be all that important?
That remains to be seen…
To summarise, however, despite the flaws to be found in every one of Sonic’s many games, Team Sonic Racing is a fantastic Kart racing game which brings plenty of new features to the table and, once again, really shakes up the genre, which has been becoming stale in recent years.
It’s more of a challenge than Mario Kart, but nowhere near as difficult as trying to get the Platinum Trophy in Crash Team Racing. A good middle-ground that anyone can enjoy with enough practice.
My Team Sonic Racing Trophy Experience
If at first, you don’t succeed…
As I mentioned in my review above, a good majority of my time in the game was spent getting good at it. I really can’t stress enough how steep the learning curve is.
And yeah, maybe I’m making myself look ridiculous to those who were able to jump right into the game and decimate the rival racers in an instant, but I truly did struggle with getting to grips with the game. Which surprised me at first because I’m phenomenal at Mario Kart – maybe that was the problem!
The trophy list isn’t a particularly daunting one, simply asking that you complete all story missions on hard, and then again on expert, picking up a few miscellaneous trophies along the way.
For the first two sections of the story, I was constantly getting stuck. Every time they threw in a new map or some difficult challenges or a new event type I would spent hours just re-playing them until I won or got all the challenges. It was at around this time I had an epiphany and a few things happened;
I had read prior to playing the game that Power racers were the best, for their boost stat, so I was trying to win with Knuckles all the time but I just couldn’t. On a whim, I decided to try on expert difficulty. I was a million times better. The faster car speeds in Expert meant that Knuckles’ increased boost stat could be used to it’s fullest and the aggressive AI were taking each other out while I sped off in front.
I thought then, are Power racers only good for Expert difficulty? I switched back to Sonic and tried again on hard. Sure enough, I did a great job.
Having hours of practice under my belt and now having a decent method of using Sonic for Hard difficulty, to unlock Expert difficulty where I would use Knuckles, I was doing a lot better, but still struggling with Challenges.
This, my dear friends, is because I am as moronic as Sonic Boom Knuckles. I don’t know why but something in my mind wasn’t clicking and I had been telling myself I needed to complete the challenge on hard difficulty. I didn’t, I could just play them on Normal as long as I beat Hard once to unlock Expert.
Well, now I had the perfect method; Play through on Hard with Sonic, Play through on Expert with Knuckles, then, if necessary complete any missing challenges on Normal.
After this point, I stopped struggling. There were still some “Daredevil” events which were an absolute nightmare but I was finally making consistent progress.
By the 6th stage, I was able to complete most challenges on Hard or even Expert and had switched to using Shadow and Omega instead of Sonic and Knuckles, just because I like those characters more for nostalgia reasons.
The only times I used a technique racer like Tails was during the ring challenge events, and in those cases, I eventually started using Silver. Just because Tails is annoying and Rouge is shockingly sexualised. No wonder the sonic fanbase likes to fetishize the characters when SEGA are doing half the work for them with Rouge’s half-moaned dialogue.
In the end, I had a whole lot of fun completing the campaign and a vast majority of miscellaneous trophies got completed naturally and I had only a few left to mop up at the end.
The game does have a few multiplayer trophies, but luckily since MrZhangetsu and I share trophy libraries, I was able to convince him to jump online and help me out.
The first of these was ridiculous. The trophy wanted me to beat a friend’s time on the leaderboard but there is no “Friends” section in the Time Trial leaderboards. I had to get MrZhangetsu to set a time and then tell me what his time was.
I then had to try and set a similar time so I could place close to him on the leaderboard, which would allow me to press to jump to my position and then move up or down the leaderboard to where he was so I could race his Ghost.
We had to set times 3 or 4 times before we were within 1,000 places of each other, then I had to move 1,000 places up the leaderboard, one by one, which took forever. There was no way to quickly skip up the list, and every 10 places it needed to load more of the list.
The other online trophies were easy, place first in a race online and .. well, race online.
So, we just played two races, each time letting the other place first. Simple as that! Online trophies, done!
The last few trophies I needed involved doing certain things with specific weapons and playing locally with 2 other players.
I’ll save the specifics of how I cheesed all of these by just playing alone with 3 controllers for the trophy guide, but these were very quick and easy.
One, for example, had me spin Sonic out 3 times as Eggman, so I just set player 2 to Sonic and then did a lap as Eggman so that I’d have a weapon upon my return to the starting line, where I dropped 3 bombs on his head, popping the trophy. Simple stuff!
Getting Good Being Good Online Cleanup
Team Sonic Racing Trophy Guide + Tips
The Best Team Sonic Racing Car Performance Setups
Below are a selection of screenshots displaying the setups I used for each racer class, I hope they help:
Speed Type Racer
Technique Type Racer
Power Type Racer
Team Sonic Racing: Driving Advice
There are a few tips I can give you to hopefully help you figure things out quicker and start winning more races sooner in the game:
- Boost is very important. To earn a boost you can drift, perform a stunt over a jump, drive over a boost pad or slingshot from behind a teammate. These boosts are the fastest you can go with any character and you will want to be doing them constantly. Always drift if you can, even on straight roads if they are wide enough.
- Stay on the inside of a turn. Some tracks will try to bait you to the outside of a turn using boost pads or coins, it’s almost always more beneficial to just stay on the inside and cut valuable seconds off your time.
- Give all your items to teammates. Unless you have a desperate and immediate need for an item, give it to a teammate. You can then ask for it back and have a chance at being given a triple-item or stronger item. Each time you exchange the items you will be building up Team Ultimate points. If you do get a triple item, use two of them and then swap it with a team-mate on the third use. You will always benefit more from charging your Ultimate than you will from hitting someone with a rocket once or twice.
- On Ring Challenge events, you will want to use a technique character, with the setup from above. They’re not very fast so you will want to be making good use of drift-boosts to get from one row of rings to the next. It’s important to note that you can pump to regain control if you start to lose control of a drift, as often pumping will make things worse.
- On the dreaded Daredevil events, don’t try and drift through the whole stage, you’ll just make it harder for yourself. Instead, use a Speed character and precision driving to get as close as possible to the pole on its red side (red sides will give you a score multiplier) and then quickly tap as you pass through. You’ll still get the drift bonus and can continue to drive normally with more accuracy.
- Eggpawn Assault events are by far the easiest, and if you don’t agree then you don’t know about the cheese/exploit for them. I’ve put a video just below here for you. Essentially, just find the nearest item box span and then stop there. The Eggpawns will respawn in front of you, and you can drive back and forth through the item boxes for infinite missiles and fire them towards the enemy. Make sure you’re doing it near a corner, though, on a road with edges – sometimes this means driving further through the stage to find the perfect item spawn.
Link to Team Sonic Racing Trophy Guide
I definitely wanted to write a guide for this one because I spent so much time getting good at the game I feel like I could do a Ted Talk about it.
Good luck, fellow Hunters!