Hello gentle readers, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for May 27th, 2019. It’s the start of the final week of the month, and given how hot June is looking to be, we’d best enjoy the respite while we can. What’s that? There’s no respite? Oh dear. Well, there wasn’t much news over the weekend, so instead I’ve got a big, chunky review of Team Sonic Racing for you to digest. We also have summaries of today’s new releases, the usual list of new sales information, and… well, I’d like to say more, but that’s really it. That’s fine though, isn’t it? Let’s get into it!
Team Sonic Racing ($39.99)
Team Sonic Racing has had me on a roller coaster ride of emotions since it was first announced. I’m a huge fan of the previous Sonic & SEGA All-Stars racing games from developer Sumo Digital, and even now I’m not fully sure if that helped Team Sonic Racing or hurt it. I was happy a new SEGA racer from Sumo was announced. I was sad it was focusing solely on Sonic and cutting the other SEGA characters. I came back around to excitement again just because I was looking forward to another racing game from this developer, and now that I’ve played it pretty thoroughly, I’m not sure exactly what to say. In a vacuum, this is a really great racer in almost all respects. But this isn’t space, so the vacuum thing doesn’t do any of us much good.
Let’s start with some numbers. You’ve got 15 different racers drawn from Sonic, his friends, his associates, and his enemies. There are 21 different tracks that leverage the wild variety of art styles and themes the Sonic games have used over the years. You’ve got three main modes. The Team Adventure campaign is the main single-player mode, which works similarly to the story mode in the previous game in the series. Battle through races with different objectives and try to earn stars to unlock the way forward on the map. This is also where the story plays out, if you happen to care about that. Aside from that, there’s the Local Play mode, which contains basic Grand Prix, Exhibition, and Time Trial races that can be played in either single- or multi-player via splitscreen. There’s also a local wireless mode here if you have friends with their own Switch devices and copies of the game. The last mode is Online Play, which is where you’ll want to go for online multiplayer.
Another number is 30. That’s how many frames per second the game runs on Switch, and if you play a lot of the 60 FPS Mario Kart 8 Deluxe you are probably going to notice the difference. It’s smooth enough and pretty consistent, so once my eyes adjusted I wasn’t really bothered by it. And the game makes up for it by being ridiculously good-looking in general. The game may be somewhat budget-priced, but don’t worry, you’re getting a full-fat presentation here. Even beyond the visuals and audio, this is a lot of game for your money. The Team Adventure mode alone will keep you busy for hours, particularly if you want to chase down every star and key. If you have some like-minded friends nearby, this will easily fit into your regular gaming rotation.
They’d best be nearby, however, as the online mode in this version of the game is terrible. I can chalk up my difficulties finding a match and the rather frequent latency issues as being part of the early launch period. But the sheer frustration of trying to play online with people I know, on our preferred teams, is unreal. You either have to have the Devil’s timing or get just plain lucky, since the game assigns teams based on the order in which people join. I know Nintendo’s lack of system-level online features make it a bit harder to do this stuff on the Switch, but I can’t say I had a single pleasant experience trying to play Team Sonic Racing online, and that’s a problem.
The ‘Team’ in the title isn’t just for show, by the way. In Team Adventure and any of the Team Race modes, you’ll be tethered in a figurative sense to two other racers on the track. You can share item pick-ups with them, trail in their wake to gain a speed boost, and pull off a special team move that can make the difference between winning and losing. It’s pretty neat. On the other hand, it’s less neat when your teammates biff it up and cost you the race even if you come in first. Yes, it’s not enough for you to just take care of your own business. The results depend on the total performance of the team, so if your teammates don’t hold up their end, it doesn’t matter how good you are. This is at its worst in the Team Adventure mode where some of the stars are very hard to earn. You can pull yourself over the line all you want, but you have to rely on the CPU to do its part. That goes better generally than you might expect, but it makes for some of the most aggravating failures I’ve ever had in a game like this. And this is the genre that invented the Blue Shell, so you know I’m serious here.
But hey, the core racing experience is as great as ever. I love the ridiculous drifts, the varied goals, and the often-complex track layouts. There’s a new tuning element in this game where you can customize parts for each racer’s vehicle. As with most things Sonic Racing, it’s similar to Mario Kart yet different. Here, you’ll earn tokens as you race. Those tokens can be traded in at a machine to earn a random goodie. It might be a part. It may be a decal or other cosmetic addition. Could be a new horn. There are tons of things to unlock this way, and the tokens flow freely enough that you never feel like you’re having to grind to get it all. Once you’ve earned something, it’s no longer part of the possible prizes, so you will eventually get everything out of the machine if you’re persistent. Changing parts not only alters the parameters of the racer, but also the physical appearance of the vehicle. It’s fun.
Stepping into the vacuum room once again, I have to say that Team Sonic Racing is an excellent racer with tons of content and a really nice price. While it’s not as smooth as I’d prefer, it’s still quite the looker, and the soundtrack is just incredible. The team mechanics aren’t perfect, but they do add a genuinely interesting wrinkle to a well-worn formula. If you’re a Sonic fan you’re going to have a real gas at all the references packed in here. This is a well-made, enjoyable game that can be enjoyed by all kinds of players, and easily one of the better racers you can pick up on your Switch.
Okay, out of the vacuum room. If this is your first Sonic Racing game from Sumo Digital, very little of the next couple of paragraphs is going to matter to you. But if it’s not, please join me in the whinge lounge for a sec. While this game is good, in almost every way it differs from the other games in this series, it is for the worse. There are fewer characters here than either of the previous games. And obviously, the variety among those characters is lacking. The number of tracks is about on par with Transformed, but fewer than the first game. That was fine in Transformed because due to how dynamic the tracks were, each one felt far more complex than anything seen in the first game. That aspect is missing here. But hey, 21 tracks isn’t bad. Sadly, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is on this system too, and it has 48 tracks. Not a fair comparison, but a real one some people will be making when they choose which kart racer to buy and play.
The two biggest steps back here are the loss of the wide-reaching SEGA fanservice and the missing transformation mechanic. The former is partly my fan nostalgia speaking, to be sure, but it hurts the game on a lot of levels. Fewer interesting character designs, more homogeneous track themes, confusing power-ups, and a less-varied soundtrack are all results of that decision. The loss of transformation is even worse, though. Not just the vehicle transformation, which to be fair was a bit inconsistent and at times unwieldy, but also the track transformation. That was easily one of the more exciting aspects of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and something that gave it a genuine leg-up on the competition. It was an incredible moment when that dragon blasted through the Panzer Dragoon track, completing changing the course layout, and nothing in Team Sonic Racing matches up to that wild situation. Team Sonic Racing feels very much like the game that leads to Sonic & All-Star Racing Transformed rather than its follow-up.
At the same time, I’m not going to punish a game too heavily for what it’s not. I firmly believe the previous game was a lot better, and if I had the choice, I’d rather have that on my Switch. But that game isn’t available on Switch, and this excellent racer is. Similarly, I might wish this game was up to snuff with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in terms of content and graphical fidelity, but on its own merits, it’s more than fine. It’s also cheaper and not benefiting from building on an existing earlier release, so there’s that to consider as well. So instead what I’m going to do is give this one a couple of socks on the jaw for its awful online play and slightly dysfunctional team mechanics, then send it on its way. It’s the second-best kart racer on the Switch, one of the better racers on the system overall, quite worth the humble price tag, and plenty of fun for all. Now get out of here, you rascals, and don’t come back without Ristar.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Realm Royale Founder’s Pack ($14.99)
On a platform where Fortnite is particularly well-established, is there really room for any similar games? Well, Hi-Rez Studios is hoping so, at the very least. Realm Royale came out pretty strong when it first released, but that popularity proved short-lived. And now, like its cousin Paladins, it has arrived on the Switch, full of hope. Well, it’s actually a closed beta, but the kind of closed beta you can buy into. So not that closed, really. Your fifteen dollars gets you in the virtual door, and also gives you a bundle of Switch-exclusive goodies to show your status as an early supporter. The game itself is another battle royale-type deal, with the main gimmick here being mountable creatures and animals. This will presumably be free to download at some point, but if you’re getting bored with Fortnite and want something similar, here’s your next hit.
Little Friends: Dogs & Cats ($49.99)
In the absence of Nintendo’s own Nintendogs series, developers are bound to try to fill the gap with their own pet simulator offerings. And this is certainly one of those. This one comes to us from Imagineer, a Japanese company with a pretty long history, if not a stellar one. But it checks off most of the boxes you’d want to see in a game like this. Six breeds of dogs and three breeds of cats are represented in very cute form, and you can own up to twelve different animals at a time, so you can easily have one of each. You can play with three of them at once, using touch controls or Joy-Con motion controls to use toys, feed them, and dress them up in some of the 600 available accessories. Take them out for walks, participate in flying disc tournaments, and build a bond with each of your virtual pets. This… is very much not my thing, but if it is yours, it certainly seems like a robust effort.
Monkey Business ($9.99)
Ten dollars for a middling clone of Super Mario Bros. with four worlds and thirty-six levels seems a little audacious to me, but that’s publisher Sabec for you. Honestly, with all the quality 2D action games and platformers available on the Switch, the only way I could see anyone bothering with something like this is if it were dirt cheap. And someday, it probably will be. Today? It is not. Keep the ten bucks in your pocket and go play Super Mario Bros. 3 again instead.
We didn’t see a ton of new sales over the weekend, but there are certainly some worth considering here. Like, for example, A Robot Named Fight. It just got a great update and is an awesome game that will keep you busy for a while. Fans of Heroes of Might & Magic-style games may want to check out the Braveland Trilogy at its discounted price, and Ding Dong XL is definitely worth a couple of quarters. As for the outbox, it’s your last chance to grab a bunch of QubicGames stuff on the cheap. These games will literally not be on sale again for at least a few dozen hours, so get them while they’re hot. All joking aside, you do get some plump discounts on new Qubic releases if you already own one of its games, so it may not be the worst idea to grab Robonauts or whatever.
New Games on Sale
A Robot Named Fight ($7.79 from $12.99 until 6/4)
Beekyr Reloaded ($4.99 from $9.99 until 6/2)
Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX ($7.50 from $8.99 until 6/2)
Bargain Hunter ($11.24 from $12.49 until 6/1)
Braveland Trilogy ($9.74 from $14.99 until 6/7)
Rogue Bit ($2.99 from $4.99 until 6/9)
Back in 1995 ($7.99 from $9.99 until 6/10)
Skelly Selest ($7.99 from $9.99 until 6/13)
Ding Dong XL ($0.39 from $0.99 until 6/3)
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep. 1 ($4.19 from $5.99 until 6/8)
Soulblight ($11.99 from $14.99 until 6/15)
Eternum Ex ($9.09 from $12.99 until 6/8)
Bleep Bloop ($2.79 from $3.99 until 6/8)
Joe Jump Impossible Quest ($2.39 from $2.99 until 6/8)
HexGravity ($1.59 from $1.99 until 6/8)
Monster Puzzle ($3.99 from $4.99 until 6/8)
Shadow of Loot Box ($5.35 from $7.99 until 6/10)
Heroes Trials ($4.49 from $5.99 until 6/10)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 28th
Brawl ($0.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons ($13.49 from $14.99 until 5/28)
Coffee Crisis ($1.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Escape Doodland ($0.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Koloro ($1.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Mana Spark ($1.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Observer ($22.49 from $29.99 until 5/28)
Odium to the Core ($0.49 from $4.99 until 5/28)
One Strike ($0.49 from $4.99 until 5/28)
Robonauts ($0.49 from $8.69 until 5/28)
Shift Happens ($7.49 from $14.99 until 5/28)
State of Mind ($13.59 from $39.99 until 5/28)
Super Hero Fight Club ($0.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Unit 4 ($2.99 from $14.99 until 5/28)
Utopia 9 – A Volatile Vacation ($1.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
Wondershot ($1.99 from $9.99 until 5/28)
And that’s all that’s good in the SwitchArcade Round-Up for today, friends. Be sure to swing back tomorrow to check out summaries of the several new releases hitting. And perhaps a review of one of them, if time allows. We’ll also have whatever news and sales come our way in the intervening hours, naturally. As always, thanks for reading!