Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

sonic_all_stars_racing_transformed_box_art
8.0 Overall Score

Extremely Fun | Good Variety Of Levels and Characters | Challenge Levels Break Up Monotony

Minor Graphical Bugs | Unlock Levels Too Fast

Written by on December 6, 2012 in [, , ]

Following the tremendous success of Mario Kart, there were a number of video game companies that were eager to try to make as quick a buck off the kart racing genre as they could. Crash Bandicoot had multiple kart racing games, Pac-Man had one and even the candy M&M’s eventually found a way to create a kart racing game. However, Sega generally avoided the concept, minus the horrendous Sonic R for the Sega Saturn. That changed a couple of years ago when Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing was released. The game was, surprisingly, well received and regarded by many as being a fairly decent kart racing game. Its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed might be some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a kart racing game outside of a Nintendo console.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed starts as a fairly simple kart racing game. The game features six circuits of races in the career mode. There are a number of races and challenges within each circuit that you must complete in order to advance. Along the way, you will gain stars for completing events on certain difficulties that will unlock extra modifications for your vehicles or new characters to play as.

Races, in general, follow a fairly simple formula. You race for three laps, attempting to place as high as you possibly can. If you select the medium difficulty, you will need to rank in third place or higher to move on to the next race. The AI isn’t terribly difficult so there’s little challenge to be had in just placing third. It’s much more enjoyable and rewarding to try your luck at hard difficulty, which will force you to place first to advance. This also nets you more stars to gain unlockables.

The additional mini-game-esque Challenge levels are fairly fun, too. Drift Challenges will have you pass though gates while drifting, in order to add time to a rapidly decreasing timer. Boost Challenges will force you to drive over boost pads and perform drift boosts in order to stop a timer from decreasing. There are also Battle Races, where your main goal is to eliminate all other competition from a race by using weapon pick-ups found along the track. These types of challenges are fairly well scattered throughout the career mode, breaking up a lot of the monotony of racing.

Racing in your kart is fairly satisfying. The controls are tight enough that, in most cases, you never feel like losing is your fault. It’s easy to drift through corners and doing so will give you an additional boost of speed. The weapon pick-ups in each level can range from nearly useless to vitally important. Weapons like the Firework, a projectile missile, will do little to slow enemies down while the Tornado pick-up will slow enemies and reverse their control. However, at times the AI feels like it isn’t affected at all by any of the power-ups, which can easily get frustrating.

What really sets the game apart, however, is the transforming aspect. As you race through a level, you will pass through gates which will either turn your kart into a boat to travel through water, or into a plane to fly through the air. Any given race can have multiple transforming points, adding a huge variety to the gameplay. When you’re racing in a boat, the game feels almost identical to Hydro Thunder, with waves throwing you around in the air. Flying through a level is more akin to Crimson Skies, except with racing. All three modes of transportation feel responsive and allow for some really fun races.

The level design is top-notch, as well, taking classic Sega franchises and creating levels specifically designed for them. The After Burner level is a fantastic mix of all three forms of racing, with a lot of sharp turns and boost points throughout the level, allowing for a very fast paced race. Similarly, the Skies of Arcadia level is a fast paced thrill ride. That said, there are a few levels that feel fairly out of place, namely the Burning Rangers level, which often times has extremely sharp turns while racing as a boat. You also run through many of the levels within the first two or three circuits, leading to you playing a lot of the same levels through the second half of the career mode.

If racing through the career mode isn’t your thing, there is a Gran Prix mode, where you compete in four races in a row, being scored on how well you do in each race. However, you can easily crank through these races in a very short amount of time, as there are only five of these sets. There is also a Time Attack mode, where you compete against ghost racers in each of the levels of the game.

Upon completing a race, you will earn experience points. When you’ve leveled up, you will unlock a new mod for the racer that you are using. These modifications will rebalance your character’s statistics. One might make them faster but have worse handling. Another might increase their acceleration while decreasing the amount of speed they get from boosts. The leveling system is handled on a per-character basis, though, so once you make any progress with one racer, it’s difficult to go to any other racer simply because you will have invested a good deal of time with them.

The characters, like the levels, span across a wide variety of Sega games. As one would expect, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles all make appearances. Characters from Super Monkey Ball, Samba De Amigo, Shinobi and Nights all make appearances, as well. The two “Guest” appearances, however, really don’t fit with the game’s theme: Ralph from the film Wreck-It Ralph and the actual racer Danica Patrick. While you might be able to justify Ralph’s appearance, Danica doesn’t fit with the theme of the game at all and ends up feeling wrong in the game.

The multiplayer mode features many of the race varieties found in the single-player game, with a few additions. Capture the Chao is, as you might expect, a capture the flag variant where you compete against other racers to capture a Chao, from Sonic Adventure, and bring them back to a designated spot on the map. There is also a Battle Arena mode, where you fight against enemies to get the most kills. The online is fairly stable, however if all of the players drop from a match, there’s no real punishment for them doing so.

Graphically, the game is fairly smooth and bright, allowing you to see everything clearly. This is crucial when there are some levels that have environmental hazards. However, the Xbox 360 version can have some texture pop-in issues from time to time. The sound design is fantastic, using a great deal of music from older Sega titles. However, the game always feels extremely loud, even when you have the in-game volume turned down nearly all the way. Even if you do have the in-game volume completely turned off, there are a number of spots where the game will still have noise. It’s an odd issue that can be somewhat frustrating if you turn the game down to listen to your own music. This likely won’t affect most players, but it is something of note.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is likely the best kart racing game available to anyone who doesn’t own a Nintendo product. The game is fast, fun and addictive. It’s a game that, by most logic, shouldn’t be as fun as it ends up being. It has a huge variety of nods to classic Sega franchises and even if you don’t have a huge appreciation for Sega’s history, you’ll still have a fantastic time playing.

A copy of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was provided to The Married Gamers for review.

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Author: Addam Kearney View all posts by

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