If you are a kid of the 90’s, loved Sega and its hedgehog mascot Sonic, and enjoy racing games, then no doubt you are familiar with the Blue Blur’s original speedy offerings with Sonic Drift, as well as Sonic R. However, a few years ago Sumo Digital stepped in and created a racing game actually worthy of not only Sonic but Sega as well. The game was known as Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and it still remains to be the best kart racer of the generation in a fair number of gamers’ eyes — this writer included. Sumo has now followed that terrific karting experience with another one in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Does this sequel accelerate past its competition, or does the game need to take a pit stop?
What You Need to Know
The two main single-player modes within Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are Grand Prix and World Tour. Grand Prix should not be a stranger to any kart racing fan. It is a series of four races where the all-star with the most points at the end of the series is deemed the victor. There are five cups in all, with the final cup being comprised of tracks from Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, the game which preceded Racing Transformed.
World Tour is the star attraction to the game. It has you competing in various events for stars. The higher the challenge level you choose, the more stars it is worth. You can simply go through the World Tour selecting easy for every event. The AI will be less arduous to defeat, for timed events you are given a more generous helping of seconds to work with, and for races you need only finish in third place as opposed to first. However, World Tour has various locked gates that can only be opened through getting the required amount of stars. These locked gates house alternate paths with new challenges and new playable characters.
Such events include typical three lap races; knockout races, where after every time the clock hits zero the person in last place is eliminated; boost challenges, where the clock stops every time you come across a boost pad or pull off a drift boost; and Pursuit, which has you chasing after, dodging the attacks of, and taking on a tank within three unique stages. World Tour mode has a myriad of different event types to play through, each getting progressively harder than the last.
What is so insanely awesome about the multiplayer in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is how up to four players (five on the Wii U version) can team up together to take on the trials and tribulations of both the Grand Prix and World Tour modes. Back in the original Sonic & Sega racing game, modes similar to these were limited to one player, so it is astounding and exciting to see the fun (and frustration) can be shared with multiple friends locally.
If you lack anyone to play locally with, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed can be played online as well. Races are relatively lag-free and the competition, at least on the PlayStation 3 version, is quite talented and will put up a good fight.
Eerily similar to Mario Kart 7, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed features the ability for your character’s kart to transform into one of three forms. For land racing there is the standard vehicle form. When the track is flooded there is the ability to transform into a boat. Finally, for aerial acrobatics there is — you guessed it — the plane to transform into. Now, you can’t just transform freely. No, when you pass through a special blue ring, your vehicle shifts into one of the three forms. There’s a bit of strategy in finding a place to turn into a plane as quickly as possible, as planes travel much faster than cars and boats.
As for the handling, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed sports excellent controls. The game follows the Mario Kart Wii design of drifting. As you initiate a drift, you slowly gain boost energy. The more you drift, the bigger your resulting boost will be when you let go of the drift button. An invaluable piece of advice, and one that some players totally forget about, is to tap the acceleration trigger when drifting to make tighter turns. This made races much easier, as the game features some rather devilish, but seldom cheap, AI.
No kart racer would be complete without wacky items to unleash on the field, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does little to disappoint in this category. From balls of ice that can freeze opponents, to a swarm of life-size bees that cover the track, making the leaders of the race struggle to avoid them, the item list is rather balanced. No blue shell equivalent certainly helps in this regard! Perhaps the only complaint with the items is how they have no relation to what Sega is and their grand history at all. The items seen here could be put in any generic kart racer and no one would bat an eye.
Not only do the karts transform in Sonic and friends’ second racing outing, but so do the tracks. For instance, in the Dragon Canyon stage, one lap you are racing along the mountainous roads in your standard car. Then the next about a quarter of the way through, you are shifting into boat form, riding and racing along the rapids. Finally, the third lap takes you in a speed contest in the air as you soar above the water and pass along the rustic canyon walls.
The tracks of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are absolutely well-designed. Each feature clever shortcuts, alternate paths, and tricky twists, turns, and corners. While Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing provided players with wonderful track design in its own right, the tracks were limited to representing a select handful of Sega franchises. In Racing Transformed, the amount of games and series represented are much more varied and extensive. Whether you’re racing through an aquatic base in the Burning Rangers track or touring the colorful sights and sound of Samba Studios, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has you covered in brilliant track design and charming references.
Not all is perfect with the tracks in the game, however. A lot of times there is just too much going on the screen at the same time. It gets incredibly difficult to see which way you’re supposed to drive, making learning the tracks a must if you want to look anything resembling good at this game. There were plenty of instances where I made a left turn when I should have made a right turn, or flew right into a wall, killing any shot I had of making it to a worthwhile place in the standings. It’s quite anger-inducing to constantly smash into walls simply because you cannot see what’s going on.
Why Did I Fly Through That Building?!
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is also a pretty glitchy game. Without a doubt the worst offender is the Jet Set Radio Future track, Graffiti City. The neon lights, deadly turns, and poor collision detection make for an effort in aggravation. It doesn’t help that there are a multitude of places to fall off, places where the game does not put you back on the track for a long while. There are also numerous bugs and freezing issues with the game as well. When you take the polish of a game from the Mario Kart series and then compare it to the polish of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, it’s no contest.
An imperfect but still worthwhile kart racer, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed properly tributes Sega with a great game that is full of fan-favorite franchises and references. The game lacks the polish of its competitor in Mario Kart, but the track design and how many races have each lap as an entirely different beast, make for a game that won’t get old easily. Sumo Digital has delivered a game worthy of being compared to the games produced in Sega’s golden age. I can’t think of any praise greater than that.
PS3 copy was purchased from Amazon.com
Played every track, unlocked the majority of stars in World Tour mode, cleared every grand prix on Normal mode, and unlocked every character.
Total play time: 15 hours