johnthegoat's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Limited Edition) (Xbox 360) review

Sonic And SEGA All Stars Racing Transformed Review

Publisher: SEGA (Known For: Sonic The Hedgehog, Football Manager Series)

Developer: Sumo Digital (F1 2011, Hasbro Family Game Night)

In the modern gaming landscape, it would be true to say that SEGA as a company is a mere shadow of its former self. The heady days of the 1990′s when sonic and SEGA could go toe to toe with Nintendo and their mustachioed front man in the console wars and come out with a respectable market share are long gone. As a company, they have tried and largely failed to move into the modern day, with the recent past of Sonic franchise almost perfectly encapsulating an awareness of its once great past, but an unquestionable inability to work out how to translate that into today’s gaming world. Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, however, offers an opportunity for SEGA to look back on its past with more than a hint of nostalgia, whilst at the same time producing a product that feels modern, mechanically solid and, above all else, is just lots of fun.

When I say that Sonic & All Stars feels like a SEGA game, I mean that in the best possible sense. The menus are bold and brightly coloured, with each button press giving out a whooshing noise that will give players the impression that they have just achieved a feat of amazing skill. They are a dream to navigate, and an absolute feast for the eyes to behold. Navigating these menus will also give the player the first glimpse at the size of the game. The basic “career” mode will take players well in excess of ten hours to complete. Once that has been chomped through there are then GP modes, time attack modes and, of course, online races to compete in. It is perhaps fortunate that there is so much to do because each character in the game can be levelled up by collecting XP through competing in races, and completing this for each character should be attempted by only the bravest of individuals, because it’s a daunting task to say the least.

With so much to do, variety is always going to be key to the experience and thankfully the game largely lives up to this task. As well as the basic race modes in the career section, there are also a plethora of other tasks to keep you busy. These come in the form of drift challenges, time attacks, dodging traffic, getting through timed gates, and a strange if slightly annoying mode where players will go head to head against other characters one after the other. I must have played about twenty different races of this kind and I still have no idea what the winning conditions are. There is a timer that ticks down at the top of the screen but I had very often won and moved onto my next opponent with plenty time to spare.

The remaining game modes however, are in the main a fun little time synch. Switching things up from this particular kart racer’s last outing, the developers have opted to take the word transformed to its naturally literal conclusion. Players will race over a combination of tracks that run along land sea and air, with your selected character’s vehicle neatly transforming in front of your eyes. A nice touch about this is that each vehicle will give the player an idea of what kind of performance they can expect to receive. The major strength of Sonic is that he is among the faster racers, bringing with it the drawback of acceleration. This has his car resemble a sports convertible. Shadow on the other hand is faster than Sonic, but severely lacks in handling capabilities. Representing this sees him driving a futuristic looking tank.

The way in which the various driving environments affect the feel of the game also bring with it it’s own challenges that help to vary up the experience. During water sections, players have to be more subtle with their handling of the vehicle, as rapidly changing direction seriously affects the speed in which players can manoeuvre the course. Air sections on the other hand have to remain wary of the route they take through the sky, as its often far quicker to take slightly hidden shortcuts and missing these can really set the player adrift from the pack. Land sections on the other hand handle much like you would expect, with the characters individual strengths and weaknesses coming to the fore depending on the type of track and obstacles placed in the way.

The biggest surprise about Sonic & All Stars isn’t the plethora of characters or the sheer mass of things to do – it’s that the game can be, and very often is, genuinely difficult. As players would expect, easy mode allows you to drift through the stages without paying much attention, however this will only get you so far before you need to up the difficulty in order to earn enough coins to unlock more levels and progress. In doing this, players will soon realise that anything above easy mode will require players to sit up and pay attention, and hard difficulty presents a stern challenge to those looking for it.

Sonic & All Stars is a brilliant example of how kart racers can be done well. The weapons available are fun to use and it never really feels unfair when they are used against you. It’s also refreshing to have a kart racing game that is willing to challenge players if they want to complete the game 100%. Online mode is something that is handled well, however the lack of that Call Of Duty branding at the top creates the constant worry that it won’t maintain a large enough user base to sustain continued play. With the game being so long, it is likely that most players will burn out and lose interest before they complete the game ,which in itself is a failing, and the lack of a creation mode along with the beautiful, yet nonetheless guided, experience does set it back slightly from its other competitors. However if players just want a solid and enjoyable kart racer, then they can’t go far wrong with this.

3 Good Points:

+ Bright bold colour palette.

+ Weapons are well implemented.

+ You will never run out of things to do.

3 Bad Points:

- Almost feels like it’s too long.

- No creation tools of any kind.

- Versus mode is rubbish.

Madly bright and beautifully SEGA like.
Solid and enjoyable. Exactly how you would want a kart racer to feel. A creation mode would have been nice though.
Non existent. One moment you are racing through a war zone, the next a Mexican town. Lets be fair though, karting games aren’t built to be narratively compelling.
Is it a replayable game if most of you will never complete it? That said, there is always something for players to work towards.
Value For Money At:
Not the best in class, but certainly a high achiever.
Brutal honesty means that it has to be said that there are better kart racing games out there than this. With that in mind though, it doesn’t mean that this is a bad game. Far from it in fact. This is a mechanically sound and enjoyable experience. Never frustrating, whilst still remaining a challenge, there is plenty to enjoy, however a creation mode that allowed us to mash tracks together if nothing else, would have been a simple yet welcome addition.

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