Sonic R is a racing game for the Sega Saturn and PC from 1997. It can also be found as part of the Sonic Gems Collection for GameCube and Playstation 2, which came out in 2005. What sets it apart from other racing games is the almost entire lack of vehicles: that's right, the Sonic characters are literally running a race, putting those legs of theirs to the proper test.
There are a number of characters: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy in her amphibious car, and Eggman in his hovering egg pod thing. Eggman is an unlockable character, achieved by winning a Grand Prix race on every track. As well, each of the characters (besides Amy) has a robot counterpart, also unlockable by completing the challenge against them after placing first in their corresponding track. Each character has their own traits: Sonic is the fastest, Tails can fly, Knuckles glides. The robots can hover over bodies of water for a limited period of time, but are slower and jump lower than their live counterparts.
There are five tracks to race on: Resort Island, Radical City, Regal Ruin, Reactive Factory, and Radiant Emerald, the last of these being an unlockable. See how they all start with an R? Oh boy, Traveller's Tales, that was pretty witty of you. Each course is a sprawling map with a myriad shortcuts and secret paths, making a high score on the time trials as much a game of reflexes as it is strategy and path-planning. ("No, don't win yet! Let's go explore the map, guys!") And, when in a Grand Prix race, hidden in these paths are bonuses and things, like huge pools of rings, or, better yet, Chaos Emeralds. Place first with an Emerald, and you get to keep it: collect all seven, and something good happens...
The soundtrack is, like the rest of the game, a little odd. Some love it, some despise it, to the point of no longer wishing to play the game. The melodies that play while Sonic and friends go faster than the speed of cool are different in that they have vocals, and in fact could just as easily be songs in their own right. The music was composed by Richard Jacques, known also for the tunes behind Sonic 3D, Headhunter, and Mass Effect, and helped out with the OSTs of Metropolis Street Racer, Jet Set Radio, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The vocals are provided by TJ Davis, a British singer, who's now known for having worked with Jacques, as well as for her part with tribute band Björn Again and one-off singles with other bands. Either way, the music could be either happy and catchy, or vapid and sappy; personally, I find it's a nice lighthearted addition to the rest of what the game had to offer.
And it offers quite a lot. The courses are huge and beautiful; the characters are, despite some balance issues, interesting, and mastering their idiosyncrasies takes some skill; the multiplayer can get interesting with a suitably skilled opponent; and the bonus modes, inspired by the likes of tag and find-the-balloons, are also a nice way to enjoy the tracks.
Despite the size of this little gem, the replay value is great if this unorthodox sort of racing strikes a proper chord with you. It's all very quaint, which makes a lot of sense, coming from a Sega game made 15 years ago.