Vroom, vroom, Sega style.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed is the second entry in the Sega All-Stars kart racing series, but improves on the first in many ways. Not only does it build on everything in the original, it adds plenty of content and gives some of the most memorable racing tracks of the last ten years.
Sonic & Allstars Racing Transformed has the same basic racing as before, drift heavy tracks, jumps for stunts, items, boost platforms and the often unforgiving cast of semi-memorable Sega characters, but where Transformed differs is that most tracks change through each lap; in some you’ll simply go a different route around the same track, whereas in others your kart will transform into a boat or plane to either go through water areas or fly through what is still the same track, but seen from one of these different perspectives. A few moments in the game I was in awe at some of the lunacy that was taking place as I was just playing a kart racer. Tracks in space are particularly frenetic and colorful, creating an atmosphere of complete chaos, which I feel really adds to the experience.
Now, the gameplay in Sonic Racing Transformed is similar to the original, featuring minor tweaks to make it more accessible and overall more enjoyable. The turning and drifting are both top-notch in terms of tightness, and the speed at which the game moves is faster than any kart racer I’ve ever played. How fast the game moves is really a testament to how well it controls. Never did I feel like I was losing because the controls didn’t work, if I messed up a turn then it was because I wasn’t doing it right. Unfortunately, even when I was racing perfect, the AI made me feel as if I could only win when the game wanted me to, not because I was actually better than the AI, but I’ll touch more on that later.
Racing Transformed has some of the best content in any kart racer ever, all of which can be played multiplayer. The game essentially has the Challenge Tower from Mortal Kombat in the form of “World Tour.” In which you’ll go through stages that give you stars based on the difficulty you complete them on, there are roughly eight game types, which I feel might be a little too little. Some can get to be rather difficult, but you’ll be able to see almost all of the world tour playing them on Medium. Some of the modes are games like “Traffic Attack” where you’re pretty much doing a checkpoint race, but with colored cars blocking your path. Others are ring based time trials, ghost races, battle races, Vs Races and normal races thrown in for some cool-down. But one of the best modes is when you’ll have to fight a tank while racing, the tank will be shooting out different types of bombs while you have to shoot it with missiles, it’s simple, but is probably the most different from any of the other modes.
This mode is also where you’ll unlock most of the extra characters, and while I don’t want to spoil some of the unlockable characters, I will say that most of them don’t really appeal to the kinds of kids who are into Sonic. No kid is going to want Gillius from Golden Axe, nor will the average kid even know who anyone from Jet Set Radio is, the other characters are colorful and cool looking, so even if the kids playing don’t know who they are they probably won’t really care. But they go pretty obscure with a lot of their characters, seeing Vyse from Skies of Arcadia in here was pretty damned cool, it shows how much that this was made for Sega fans. I just don‘t know who that is, or if any kids have an idea of what Sega has done. It kind of makes it difficult to see who this game is for.
Overall, this mode is enjoyable, especially since this makes up the meat ‘n potatoes of the gameplay, you can play all of it with up to 4 players, but I didn’t end up enjoying that at all since even on my big-screen TV, the game was just too crammed down. Not having the entire screen to myself immediately took away the colorful and crazy nature of the levels, which is an issue because this game is geared towards being fun with more people, but is somehow less fun with others on the same screen, though, maybe it was that the person I played it with was awful, and hated the game because he wasn’t immediately the best at it. Just like a child. So I found myself hindered by someone who didn’t really care, not even trying.
One major gripe I have with this mode is that retrying a challenge can take around 30 seconds to a minute to get going again, since the load-times can get to be pretty long, and they make you press A a ton before you get to actually try again. So I found myself knowing if I wasn’t going to be able to beat a challenge pretty early on, but knew that starting over would take awhile, which is a shame considering how difficult some of these challenges become.
In terms of multiplayer, you’ll find most of the modes you’ll expect here, normal racing, battle racing, these modes aren’t particularly interesting, but they work well for what they are. That doesn’t really matter though, because you can play through almost any part of the game with four people, which is great considering the audience Kart racers generally appeal to. The online in here is pretty good, I didn’t notice any significant lag, and the modes were all there, I just didn’t find any real incentives to keep playing.
I don’t generally care about graphics, but I have to say that this game looks great, stylistically and technically it’s very appealing to the eyes, and has a very solid frame-rate, which could have been a game breaker. I’m actually a little surprised how good the frame-rate is because of how fast this game moves and how much is going on in each track. Some of the tracks have so much detail and so much going on that I just stopped and looked around for a few minutes, just to see what was happening. If you stop for too long, you’ll see that it doesn’t actually look all that great, but in motion everything looks amazing, and the track surfaces are all top of the line.
One minor complaint I have is that no matter what a surface might look like, the sound your Kart makes on it isn’t very pronounced. After listening intently I was able to hear some slight change, but I wanted something more in my face. Not really a huge issue, just something I tend to enjoy in these games.
One other issue I had with the sound design was that each character only has a few audio-samples for each situation. Like when a character wins a race or passes someone during a race, they’ll say one of only a few things. I lost track of how many times I heard Ulala say “Space Channel 5!” And the voice acting is pretty groan-inducing, I’m not even talking about the Sonic characters, they’re probably the best actors in the whole thing, which is really saying something.
Another issue is that while there are plenty of characters in the game, each character only has one kart, which cannot be switched out with any of the other karts. I really wish I could mix and match karts, as well as the transformed versions of those karts. For example, I really like Amigo as a character, and his boat/plane karts, but his train car just looks a little awkward, it felt out of place and like it didn’t fit well. So I ended up not playing as him as much as I would have liked, because I liked other characters karts more, all of which could have been solved by just putting in secondary karts for each character, or by not making karts character specific, something I figured was a staple in the genre.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed proves to be a solid kart racer, but is bogged down by horrible AI design, long load times, boring music, limited appeal, no alternate karts and Danica Patrick. The level design and niche characters are all pretty great, and the speed at which it moves makes the gameplay super fun, but I really can’t recommend this to many people. I don’t really know who a Sega fan is, since the people who like Sega are just kids who like Sonic, and people who used to like old Sega games generally don’t like the direction Sonic has gone. This combined with the other issues make for a fun game that is kind of a shame, I wish I could recommend it to more people, but Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed is just too weird of a product for most people.