A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Team Sonic Racing is a kart racing game available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game can be played both locally and online. It promotes friendly competitive and team-based social gaming among groups of players, with character avatars expressing thanks for team assists and occasionally issuing mild taunts and insults. Players can use wacky cartoon weapons -- including rockets, spikes, and lightning -- to slow down and stun other drivers. Environmental hazards include saws and lasers. It's very easy to pick up and play, though difficulty grows based on the abilities and experience of your opponents. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content to be found in the game.
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What's it about?
TEAM SONIC RACING puts a team-focused spin on the traditional kart racing formula. It has familiar elements popularized in games like those in the Mario Kart series, including disorienting, gravity defying tracks, power ups that players can collect and use to stun opponents and defend themselves, and a broad range of familiar characters with vehicles that can be upgraded and customized over time with unlockable mods. But races in both the story mode and local and online competitive matches see drivers working in teams of three, trying to help each other whenever they can so that all members of the team finish as close to the top of the standings as possible. Points are awarded based on each team member's placing and then tallied to determine team ranking. Players can help teammates in a variety of ways, from sharing power-ups they don't need to driving close to slowly moving allies to give them a speed boost. You can also follow your teammates' golden tire tracks to draft behind and then slingshot around them. The single-player story mode provides a variety of race types, from standard three-lap events to drifting and ring collecting challenges, while multiplayer focuses more on traditional competitive racing.
Is it any good?
It won't replace Mario Kart, but the blue blur's latest racer provides a fun and meaningfully different experience. While Team Sonic Racing's driving physics and car control aren't quite as polished as the very best kart racers, it's still very easy for just about anyone to pick up and begin playing. The tracks are imaginative and the vehicles can be thoroughly customized to give them a bit of personal flair. Most of its power-ups aren't original within the genre -- we're looking at you, rockets and bombs -- but there are a few standouts, such as a quake wisp that creates a maze of stone pillars at the front of the pack, and a ghost wisp that makes you invisible and allows you to steal other player's power-ups. And slight tweaks on the traditional kart racing formula -- such as vehicles falling into specific classes each with unique advantages, like not slowing down when going over rough terrain -- provide motivation to experiment.
It's the team-based mechanics that stand out most, though. Team abilities aren't much more than an occasionally beneficial curiosity when playing alone in the story mode -- it's hard to strategize with computer controlled drivers -- but they become truly advantageous when playing in groups. Sending a powerful offensive boost to an ally at the back of the pack at the right time can move them from last place to the top three in a matter of seconds. And while two allies driving alone might not be able to overtake an opponent in the run-up to the finish line, two allies cooperating as a team can work together to pull off a last second victory, with one drafting behind the other to slingshot ahead in the nick of time. Players hungry for a satisfying -- and notably less expensive -- alternative to Nintendo's dominating kart racers may just find it in Team Sonic Racing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about character strengths and life skills. When playing Team Sonic Racing with others, are you aware of how you behave while both winning and losing? How do you feel when others gloat about winning or complain about losing?
Do you pick characters based on their unique abilities? Whether or not they look or act like you? Their character traits and ethics?
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