Ring Racers

Posted on 2024/04/25

Yesterday on April 24th, the sequel to Sonic Roboblast 2 Kart (SRB2K) was released. Titled Dr. Robotnik's Ring Racers, or just Ring Racers for short, it aims to be the successor to SRB2K and cultivate a following.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to do that anytime soon.

For every positive I can say about this game, there's about double the negatives. Overall, it leaves a bitter taste of what could've been in my mouth. There's also developer reaction to the negative criticism, which is... less than stellar. I want to tackle these one by one, so, let's start with the positives!

The Positives

Character writing

When I opened up the tutorial for Ring Racers, I was surprised that there was an introductory cutscene. I love how Tails and Eggman are written. There's still a mutual dislike for each other burried under their teamwork, and you can really feel it at first. I also love how seamlessly configuring your personal settings is with this cutscene. I don't feel like I'm awkwardly shoved in the middle of the game, but rather I'm in the role of Metal Sonic, setting up my systems in order to reboot. I could practically hear the two talk, envisioning their voices from the Sonic Adventure era. I was even more excited when I saw the gameplay tutorial keep their banter, adding character portraits on top. The artwork made for the introduction cutscene and the character portraits are stellar, and I cannot get enough of them.

I think one of my favorite portraits is Eggman with the googly eyes. He's so silly... My other favorite is of Tails being incredibly grumpy. I associate it with him saying "Eggman, that's a spraycan. You didn't invent that." These already help give the game a huge personality, which is always a plus in my book.

GUI and menus

The UI is one of my favorite things about this game. Friends of mine know that I am a stickler for UI and how it should reflect the game's tone and mood. The game feels like a perfect evolution of SRB2K's UI. While SRB2K is simple, retro and gets the job done, Ring Racers does it with style. It has wonderful background art that shows itself upon selecting an option on the menus. Everything is clear and makes sense to me, and it puts a huge smile on my face.

Also, as a side note, I love the wall of unlockables!! It threw me right back into Super Smash Brothers Brawl, which had the same thing. It gives me something to work towards. I love that!

Art style

The game takes SRB2K's art style and further pushes it. Everything is more saturated without making me want to dig my eyes out. It makes the characters, and arguably some maps feel more alive. Some of the sprites from SRB2K have been updated and redone, too, further giving it a slightly different visual identity.

Unfortunately, that's where the positives end. Now, here comes...

The Negatives

Visual identity

...Speaking of visual identity, outside of some updated character sprites and the amazing UI, the game is almost visually identical to SRB2K. It reuses many sprites from SRB2K, many without even any changes. Tails and Eggman, for example, are completely unmodified from SRB2K. When it comes to gameplay, there's nothing that sticks out that separates it from SRB2K. One could argue it's much like the jump from Mario Kart: Double Dash to Mario Kart Wii, which share very similar visual styles. However, the main difference between SRB2K to Ring Racers and Double Dash to Wii is the fact that Wii adds features and characters not found in Double Dash, the main one being bikes. It's a small change in the gameplay that helps separate it from Double Dash, on top of new characters like Rosalina, Funky Kong, etc. And speaking of...


Perhaps this is the fault of the hour-long tutorial, but I felt absolutely overwhelmed with the tutorial. I was afraid that if I left, I would lose my progress, and I'd have to start all over again. I kept pushing through because of the charming character dialogue, but that didn't always save it. When the game was introducing the trick system, I got so frustrated and wanted to quit. My instinct upon playing any racing game is when I am in the air and I need to change my position slightly, I press left or right. You cannot do that at all if you bounce off of a trick spring. It will send you to the right or left, and it's incredibly frustrating. Pressing up sends you forward and pressing down sends you upward, which feels so confusing. What's worse is that it doesn't tell you that these tricks will push you in a different direction depending on what you press at all. Even worse still, I kept failing with the trick system trying to cross gaps because I needed to do them right before I hit the wall. This was not told nor choreographed well to me at all, and at some parts it didn't even tell me what trick I needed to do. And that's not the end of it.

There are some ramps you need to go up through building speed or hitting a speed pannel. Upon going up the ramps, the camera tilts what feels like uncontrollably, and I instantly lose my sense of placement in the world. Many times I was disoriented, and had to take a second to recollect myself.

On top of being overloaded with everything, the ring mechanic feels so unecessary. In order to attack, you have to drain yourself of rings, and the radius for hitting something is so small. There's multiple parts in the tutorial where you have to hit switches to proceed, but it feels impossible to get close enough without bumping into it and getting sent 50 yards away. I feel like I have to be two centimeters away from it's cock in order to be able to hit it, and that's incredibly hard to do.

Maybe it won't be so bad when the tutorial is done, right? Even though it's... an hour to an hour and a half long, it's not so bad, right?

Gameplay loop

Wrong! Basic features hidden behind an unlock.

Did you know that online multiplayer is locked behind winning a cup in single player? Not horrible but annoying. It hinders the game's accessibility as a racer. Most kart racers succeed in being able to be picked up at any time, played any way you want, and then setting it down for another time. It doesn't feel like that with Ring Racers at all. Knowing that I struggled to complete the tutorial, learning that in order to play with friends I have to complete a cup in single player felt demotivating.

Also, did you know that time trials are locked behind beating the final cup? And in order to get the cup, you have to complete EVERY cup? I can't practice the game to get better, but I have to get better in order to play the game... ohhh how frustrating.

Most of the mechanics introduced aren't even used in the first few cups, anyhow. They're introduced later, and it would've been nice to slowly introduce more complex mechanics through trickling it down. It's not that every mechanic is bad, either, outside of the ring one in my very personal opinion, but it's just so overwhelming.

Live developer reaction

I'm going to be very, very honest about this here. The developer reaction to the criticism is... bad. Here's the chatlog of the message:

Discord Chatlogs - #ring-racers-spoilers

I partially understand the train of thought here. Perhaps players of SRB2K would be too fixated on making it feel like SRB2K, but as someone who rarely plays SRB2K in the first place... this feels insulting. I don't play SRB2K competitively, only casually. I like to think I'm adaptable to change. However, I had the exact same experience that this developer talks about where they throw their friend under the bus. "Unduly salty," huh? Would they describe me like that?


This game has a lot of potential. Unfortunately the problems are its core gameplay and the developer response to it. I'm left with a really mixed feeling about Ring Racers. I want to enjoy it, I do, but... I can't. I don't hate the developers, but I really wish they'd be more understanding about the backlash. On top of that, I've seen people use this as an excuse to be ableist. The game at least has a warning screen, but it's AFTER the tutorial. That's not okay. That needs to be up front and CENTER. People can get seizures over eyestrain, and there needs to be options relating to it. There's also so much going on onscreen that it's hard to tell what's happening, which is disorienting for neurodivergent people playing the game. That was unfortunately my experience, that it was disorienting and draining.


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