elk's Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo-Kazooie (Xbox 360) review

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing with Banjo Kazooie Review

   It’s about time someone made a sequel to Sonic drift!

Who doesn’t like kart racing? Lots of studios have used them to show off their mascots over the years: Bomberman, Mega Man, Sims, even Mortal Kombat. This type of game tends to score quite a few more misses than hits as the various studios attempt to dethrone Nintendo’s esteemed Mario Kart franchise. As kart racers go, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing has a lot going for it, over twenty SEGA characters racing across twenty four tracks, you drift corners to boost and shoot crazy weapons. This is indeed a kart racing game.

The roster of characters is rather impressive hodgepodge of the old and the new, the well known and the obscure. Despite the omission of ToeJam and Earl the list gives the same dutiful fan service as you’d expect from the likes of the Smash Bros series. Seeing Ryo Hazuki racing the Bonaza bros, Alex Kid, B.D. Joe (Crazy Taxi) and the mice from ChuChu Rocket could melt the hearts of even the coldest gamers. Each driver has their own unique style; with their own strengths, ‘kart’ and all-star move. As you perform an all-star move the action stops to show off your character, Sonic goes Super Sonic, Ryo gets in his forklift and Virtua fighter’s Akira jumps out of his OutRun car and punches it forward for a burst of speed. Having all these SEGA characters together is a great novelty, it’s just a pitty that this doesn’t extend much beyond the racers and the missions. There are well over twenty tracks but they are only around ten different themes spread over six games: Sonic, Billy hatcher, Monkey Ball, Samba de Amigo, House of the dead and Jet Set radio, so if you’re hoping for a Bonaza or Shenmue themed level then you’re sadly out of luck.

Dispite the lack of different level themes the tracks themselves are very well designed and most importantly fun to drive around. Each track theme is vastly different from the others, with its own hazards and feel, there’s definitely no mistaking the harsh corners of a Monkeyball track with the sweeping corners and beaches of Sonic’s Seaside Hill. Drifting around the corners every chance you get is practically required if you hope for much chance of success, fortunately this has been made super easy to the point that you’ll have likely picked up drifting after playing just a handful of races, it won’t be long before you are drifting the tracks from start to finish. No kart racer worth its banana skins will have you just drift around a track without mixing things up a little so you’ll never be far from running across a capsule. Capsules are the powerups of Sonic & Sega All Stars which you’ll be familiar with almost instantly. Green boxing glove, red rocket and sonic running shoes are recognisable as green and red shells and boost mushrooms, which while derivative make the game so quickly accessible.

It’s not all track racing, there’s also time trials with online ghosts and a mission mode with 60+ missions that don’t just task you with finishing laps, but also have you using different all-star moves or collecting/avoiding things on the track. Any one of these events or any of the other modes earn you SEGA miles that can be spent to unlock racers, music and tracks which can keep you racing some more after you’ve beaten the six cups if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in the multiplayer. It’s fortunate that the single player modes are enjoyable as the multiplayer is rather bare bones. There’s room for four player split-screen and eight players online but the options don’t go much beyond selecting a track and go, with the variety in the mission mode and other kart racers one would hope that the basic options here could be expanded on. The multiplayer can still be a lot of fun and the easy accessibility gives Sonic & SEGA All Stars racing a real party game appeal.

There’s a lot to love about Sonic and SEGA All Stars racing and while the level of challenge sets it up as a game for a younger audience, the dutiful fan service and accessibility makes this a game that should appeal to fans of other kart racers. With a little more content and a few more options Sonic & SEGA All Stars racing could have been a serious contender to the Mario Kart series.

Mark Dell

Originally posted to CitizenGame.co.uk on Mar 9, 2010        

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