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Please Rate This Review: Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed (PC)
Planes, Hedgehogs and Automobiles: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed Review
The unavoidable comparisons for any cart-racing game tend to come by way of Nintendoís perennial Mario Kart series. Whilst, at least in the thoughts of this humble reviewer, the most recent offerings from Nintendo have succeeded mostly on name rather than merit, it is hard to move away from the inevitable comparisons that tend to follow. Despite the rivalry between Mario and Sonic having calmed down in the past few years like two embittered old men finally settling their differences due to age, Sumo Digitalís second offering in the cart-racer series after 2010ís, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing sees them once again test their luck at breaking into a cart-racing market which Nintendoís hands are firmly gripped upon.
With Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed, Sumo Digital has opted to focus on a more traditional cart-racing game rather than opt for the party-racer approach. The game takes aim at perfecting its racing-core first and foremost and in many ways builds upon their previous established efforts within the genre. Though the game will be likened to Mario Kart simply by genre alone, the truth is that it has more in common with Rareís relatively under-appreciated Diddy Kong Racing than any of Nintendoís offerings.
Being able to choose to race as one of over 20 Sega favourites, the single-player portion of the game is split mainly between World Tour and Grand Prix mode. Despite the lack of an external narrative arc, The World Tour mode is arguably the story mode in itself and features a wide variety of challenge types, including traditional 3 lap races, checkpoint challenges, battle modes, traffic-attacks and time-attack modes. For each of these you have the option of choosing between bronze, silver and gold star challenges, each which increasingly difficult targets. As you progress and earn stars, you unlock you new challenges and characters to use throughout the game as well as building on getting your license from grade C all the way to grade S. In between you are able customise your license with a host of stickers unlocked through various racing ventures.
Of course, the challenge of single player is sure to appeal to some but many will come to Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed for its multiplayer components. The game features typical local multiplayer, including single races, battle-mode and Grand-Prix mode, as well as online multiplayer, which follows in the same footsteps of the local multiplayer except omitting Grand Prix and instead pushing the limit up to 8 human players per race.
The most obvious gameplay aspect which sets Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed apart is in its split between being able to use car, boat and plane equally. Having the ability to race on land via conventional automobile means, soar through the skies (of Arcadia) or knuckle down to confront the seas allows the game to progress merely beyond conventional racing means. Though land vehicles dominate the game, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed uses its full advantage to focus individually on allowing the player to experience the uniqueness of each vehicle type separately. For some tracks this means following the usual three lap loop with individual parts significantly designed for each type of vehicle, but for others this allows the track to transform, paving the way for dynamic and creative design built through the qualities which each type of vehicle allows for.
Both the tracks and the vehicles work well in tandem and make each lap feel frenetic in the constant shifts. Despite the length of each lap taking only around a minute or so, the constant transformations are enough to maintain that each track has enough interesting parts to last dozens of plays. Though Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed isnít doing anything particularly new in this respect, the fluidity of the game stands out greatly and the creativity of each track always remains high. The game features a high number of playable characters and remarkably, despite having individual attributes that set them apart, they are well-balanced and though the game leads with Sonic in its title, the characters are split evenly through a myriad of Sega-published titles both old and new which brings a good, if somewhat eclectic, mix. Each of the gameís tracks has been designed with Sega games specifically in mind which allows a drawback to pleasant nostalgic moments.
Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed has much to admire about its racing-core but, despite being great on the track, elsewhere the game can be slightly lacking. World Tour is certainly interesting and takes a good amount of hours to work through but once itís done and dusted, and youíve unlocked all of the characters, thereís no real reason to go through and replay it again. You can move to Grand Prix mode but after mastering the gameís tracks, the challenge isnít really there anymore. Of course this type of game demands playing with others rather than against the AI but unless youíre able to find a group of local friends to play with, the online multiplayer is unable to sparkle completely. The game has omitted the inclusion of AI players in addition to human ones so unless you are able to find a near-full lobby, which at the time of writing has been a hard task, it ends up being a bit of a jackpot. When you are able to find others to play against, online races are tremendous fun but the exclusion of an online Grand Prix mode sorely sticks out.
Sonic and All-stars Racing Transformed is a very enjoyable cart-racer which sits highly within a somewhat niche genre. Whereas its racing-cousin, Mario Kart has a tendency to feel as much about luck as it does about skill, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed firmly plants itself in the skill category demanding that a player pay close attention to mastering the ever-shifting tracks, rather than just relying on pick-ups. It has much to offer both as a racing game and as a traditional fun-filled weapon-based cart-racer though the gameís challenge impact is greatly diminished by its lack of difficulty curve.
The only real over-arching complaint remains with the lack of care paid to the gameís online mode. Filling out a lobby in order to get the best race experience possible can be a real pain and the lack of an online Grand Prix mode means that many wonít stick around after a raceís conclusion for the next one.
All in all, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed is likely to appeal mostly to those jaded by Mario Kartís focus on humorous theatrics. It manages to draw retro nostalgia, as well as recent admiration, for Segaís games catalogue into a cart-racer that is more than just a competent Mario Kart clone.
Rating 7 out of 10
Highs Ė Going from car, boat to plane in about 30 seconds as you soar through the retro-tinged Afterburner level.
Lows Ė Online is too minimal. Once youíre done with World Tour there isnít much more to do as far as single-player goes.
WTF Ė Remind me again which famous Sega game Danica Patrick is from.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the PC. Approximately six hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Three hours of play were spent in the multiplayer mode.