Sonic and his friends are back this year with a brand new racing game but, this time, they’re taking the racing to land, sea, and air! The question that remains is can Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed succeed with such a big transition to the series while still retaining the core mechanics that made the first game successful?
I missed out on the the first game in the Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing series and I’m somewhat disappointed that I did. I’ve always been an avid racing game fan from games like Mario Kart to Need for Speed to Gran Turismo. There’s nothing like cruising around a track or a city and knowing that there will be one definitive winner with no dispute.
This year, developer Sumo Digital really decided to change their game up and gave it a bit of a Diddy Kong Racing transformation with a little twist. Instead of having a sea level, a land level, and an air level, players will have to drive, fly, and ride the waves to the finish line in one race. I hadn’t really been watching very closely on what was new in this version of the game and I was surprised as ever to have my car turn into a boat right before my eyes and then turn into a plane just as quickly.
Obviously, there will be comparisons to the long-standing Mario Kart series with this game and in my opinion those comparisons are unfounded. This is a completely different type of racing game in speed, style, and execution. The action is so much faster and more frantic, the karts and characters are a lot more aesthetically pleasing, and the levels are really well-thought out and given the proper treatment.
The levels themselves are wonderfully crafted and based on many of Sega’s iconic franchises like Golden Axe with its orange lava, After Burner letting you soar through the skies and onto aircraft carriers, and Sonic the Hedgehog with its familiar looking scenery. There’s even levels from sleeper hits like Panzer Dragoon and Burning Rangers. The game looks amazing even as you’re blazing through the levels at incredible speeds, the frame rate stays steady even with everything going on around you. I did run into a few problems where I got lost in the shuffle and missed turns or ran into different hazards. Even the reset is pretty quick and forgiving and doesn’t leave you far behind the pack which is a nice change of pace from most racing games that pretty much end your race with any mistake.
I was very impressed by the game’s career mode, it’s not just a simple mode that you go through and beat and get nothing for it. There are actually branching pathways that unlock with a certain star total from the race. Regardless of your star total, a pathway unlocks if you’re successful during a race so even novice players can go through the mode and complete it but, they won’t get the unlockables that players of a higher skill level will receive. There are tons of different events to play through from races to drifts to boost challenges with ring races and traffic attack modes, with new characters unlocked by beating their fastest lap time. This time there are even some wars to be waged with modes like Pursuit which lets you bring down a tank with missile pickups as it fires rockets back while Battle mode allows you to use your weapons against your opponents.
The game supports split-screen multiplayer in some game modes including career mode which is a great addition that I wish more games would take advantage of. Why not be able to take your friend with you on your journey through a career? It’s not like these modes have to be single-player only experiences. I had a lot more fun playing with my girlfriend through the campaign than I would have alone and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Online multiplayer is in and supports most of the game modes from the single-player experience.
The weapon set is inventive and incredibly fun to use unlike the standard stuff you see in other racers. There are things like baseball gloves which catch incoming weapons from opponents and even a drone that shocks opposing players. There are also things like the whirlwind which switches the players controls to the opposite directions while swarms of bees go to the front off the pack. There’s a weapon for everybody’s tastes and you can tell that the developers took a lot of care to make sure that their game used a lot of exciting weaponry.
Online or offline, this game is a joy to play and should be experienced by any racing or Sega fan, every major Sonic franchise of the past 15-20 years is represented by either a character or a level. There are 29 characters overall although many are from various Sonic games which is a bit of a disappointment but, there are still plenty of different characters to go around. Ristar even makes a cameo waving the checkered flag. There’s also a bit of a surprise character that I’m not going to go into but, Dreamcast fans will get a kick out of it. This was a great second effort from Sega and Sumo Digital.