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Aug 27 2017

Late Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review

Essentially it’s Mario Kart 7 re-skinned with Sega characters, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t bring some fresh ideas to the race track and it’s certainly just as enjoyable. Don’t be blinded by the bright, fun visuals, thinking this game is just for kids, as the difficulty levels and “grown-up” rage induced fits speak otherwise.

I’ve had a copy of this game on my PS3 thanks to Playstation Plus and on my PC for a while, having given it a go when I first received it but put off by how hard I found the first race to be on the hardest difficulty available at the time, which surprised me considering that I thought this game was for kids. Well a few years on and I fancied playing a racing game as well as a bit of Sonic due to the recent excitement of Sonic Mania, luckily this came in a package I already had installed on the PC. I decided to play the game on an easier difficulty, hoping to increase this once I worked out how to make the most of boosts and tricks. After completing my first world, I had the confidence in my racing skills to go back and tackle the game on the hard difficulty.

As in any recent racing game, there’s a choice of career and multiplayer game modes. Whilst playing career, you can also competitively play co-op with friends and family by simply having another player press start, splitting the screen for upto 4 players, which I think is great and would have liked to have had an opportunity to do. In career, there’s quite the selection of modes to choose from, the first being World Tour, which involves completing each of the racetracks in the game, earning stars depending on difficulty level which are then used to unlock further tracks and new characters. Then there’s Grand Prix mode, for completing 4 back-to-back races against AI, with points accumulating to decide the winner. There’s Time Attack, a chance to race the developer’s ghosts on their own tracks and finally, Single Race for just messing around in.

The race courses are an absolute treat to look at, with great shifts in size of landscapes and obstacles. Many of the levels are brightly visual, an eye-gasm of colour that whiz past your peripheral vision as you focus on the obstacles ahead. The level designs are inspired by many older Sega games from the Dreamcast era, such as Dreams, Jet set Radio, Super Monkey Ball, Samba de Amigo (which was my favourite) and of course the zones from Sonic. Some of these levels can be made up of land, sea and air, which involves your vehicle automatically turning into either being a car, boat or plane to tackle these sections. The levels will change between each lap, so you never know what to expect when your playing a course for the first time. There aren’t any collectables on these tracks as other racing games normally would have you going off the beaten track to acquire, the entire focus here is purely on racing your competitors.

There are many similarities to Mario Kart, most prominently the use of boosts and weapons. There are boosts along the floor you can drive over, as well as being able to acquire boosts by drifting your vehicle. Drifting is quite a big part of this game, used to get around many tight corners and the mini games. You can also gain a boost from pulling stunts with your vehicle whilst it’s airborne by using the right control stick. Plus there’s a start boost that can be activated by pressing the Right Trigger just before each number is displayed during the countdown. Weapons are acquired by driving into some sort of lantern with a question mark symbol, which then randomly supplies you with either snowballs, blowfishes, fireworks, swarms of bees, tornadoes, auto-locking drones, rocket boosts, baseball gloves and the All Star boost. Most of these weapons can be fired either forwards or backwards, which could be difficult to pull off whilst flying a plane as pushing on the stick in the direction you want to fire causes your vehicle to go off course. I did find it quite an unusual looking set of arsenal, a bit unsatisfactory considering I thought they would have used objects more known to Sega and it’s individual series. The weapons pretty much do the same as those in Mario Kart, hindering enemies ahead of you, laying traps for those behind, with the All Star boost behaving exactly like the Star boost in Mario, with the added advantage that you can spam fire at enemies ahead of you aswell.

There is some originality to this game though, mostly in the mini-game design, in which you will have to complete tracks by driving through checkpoints within a certain time limit, which can involve either having to drift throughout the entire level, having to use boost throughout the entire level or having to avoid car-shaped obstacles as though you were driving down a highway in a hot chase pursuit like in GTA. There’s also a mini-game in which you would have to take on a tank, having to avoid projectiles that are fired at you whilst picking up rockets to fire back. These were fun and broke up the staleness of having to race against the discriminating AI opponents, who would only ever target you with their weapons no matter what place you was in.

There isn’t much of a campaign mode in this game, with no story of why you’re really racing other than the thrill of it. With something like 50 race tracks in the game, some of these requiring about 20 tries on hard difficulty to complete, it was difficult to remain engaged in the game for little reward, but then I guess this is true of course of Mario Kart. I would have liked an experience similar to Diddy Kong racing, which itself pulled many Nintendo characters into one place to race against one another whilst taking on the boss that plagued the world across the themed race courses. I’m sure Sonic Transformed could have pulled off something similar, but than there’s no need considering Mario Kart has never done this and that’s still going strong after 25 years now. There are many achievements to be unlocked, so there’s something to work towards if you really need some encouragement to continue playing.

By completing the initial worlds in World Tour, you will unlock an extra mirror world that mirrors the turns of the tracks you’ve just completed aswell as unlocking the Elite difficulty mode, in which you have to go back and complete all previous races now on a harder difficulty. Having just spent two full days completing this game, and coming to certain parts of the game that would have me in raging fits due to bullshit coincidences of being pummelled by enemy weapons, I really couldn’t put myself through all this again on an even harder difficulty, I’ve just got many other games to be getting on with. If I was to play the game cooperatively with my bro on the other hand, I would happily take on the challenge, hopefully being able to work together in tackling challenges without ‘accidentally’ shooting one another too often.

I had a quick go on Grand Prix, plays out as any racing tournament does, so wasn’t too bothered with this. I also had a go at online multiplayer and had my arse handed to me, being basically lapped even though I thought I’d picked up enough skills from single player; clearly I haven’t. Characters that can be unlocked in the game, many from Sega franchises with some surprising faces, especially for those playing on PC, such as the crew from Team Fortress 2, Danica Patrick, the guy from Football Manager and the warrior from Shogun. They actually gain a boost in stats over the other characters for some reason, but I found that I favoured the monkey from Samba De Amigo due to his precise handling.

As the game was released in 2012, it wasn’t able to display in ultrawide without crashing, otherwise 1080p was just fine on max settings. The Xbox One controller worked perfectly fine on the PC and the game really doesn’t show it’s age. It can be picked up very cheaply these days, so I recommend for everyone to get a copy and play, as it’s a really fun game and contains hundreds of hours of entertainment. It’s definitely a worthy contender against the de facto Mario Kart and does beg whether there would ever be a mergence of the series seeing as how Nintendo and Sega have worked together previously on Mario & Sonic games.

I think what the developers really deserve credit for is that the game was successfully ported to so many consoles, including the PS3, XBOX 360 (+ XBOX One), Wii U, PC, PS Vita, 3DS and eventually Android/iOS. Considering that Mario Kart is only tailored for one console at a time, Sega and Sumo Digital have done a fantastic job to use each of these platforms to the best of their potential, optimised perfectly. Honestly, I genuinely believe they deserve a reward for taking on such a task and achieving something I’m not sure many studios in the industry are even capable of.

 

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