The tag line is “it’s not just racing, it’s racing transformed…” and just to kickstart all the positivity I feel for Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed – I’ve never played a racing game that has brought back so many memories of “Sonic R” on the Sega Saturn, “Diddy Kong Racing” on the N64 – and oddly “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!” because all three feel as if they’re connected on this latest kart racer from Sega bearing Sonic’s heroic name.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is more fun that you would probably ever expect it to be. I didn’t get all that excited for it leading up to release, and my only impression prior to gameplay was that I’d be sat in a vehicle as Sonic the Hedgehog racing through bright, vivid tracks that could resemble past levels in many of my favourite Sonic the Hedgehog platform games. If I had for one moment known it was going to be every bit as fun as it is – I’d have been camping outside any gaming retailers premises just to get my hands on it, and pretty fast! Sega has taken one of the world’s best loved gaming characters; put him in a car that doubles up as a plane and a boat, and no amount of words can really do justice to the experience you have from playing a racing game that is as fun as this. They’ve taken a Mario Kart concept of bright, fun and funky, with a range of different items to collect whilst you’re racing to use against your rivals – chuck out a Blowfish, shoot some ice, or watch a whirlwind take your nearest competitor off the track, the aim as always is to remain in 1st place.
The title takes on the name Transformed because you will race around each of the tracks by taking to land, air and even water in your characters incredible transforming vehicle. Not as extreme as transformers, but you’ll get the gist as to the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” link – and don’t tell me you haven’t seen the film! It said on the box that “racing will never be the same again” with Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed and the seamless transition from driving to flying is quite literally amazing – it completely changes the tactics to winning, especially online. Even if you think you’re a pretty decent racing driver, you might find taking to the skies a little more challenging, or even on water? The dynamics and the environment change with each transition, challenging you in different ways and constantly keeping you on the edge of your seat as you try to get closer and closer to victory.
There are three key main menu options that cover an expansive Career Mode, Matchmaking and Custom Game’s. Career Mode has an additional four options that includes the World Tour, Grand Prix Mode, Time Attack and Single Race options. As you would expect from any racer, the Career Mode requires you to achieve a certain ranking before being able to move on to the next stage and so on, so forth as you compete in standard racing challenges to beat your rivals to the finish line. Other challenges break up the racing element where you have to Battle to win, Versus, Drifting and Ring Race which are spread out in small sections across the Career map which are all equally as fun to play and help unlock more content. Gran Prix mode differs from the World Tour in that it is not about progressing though a Tour of racing events, but about winning Trophies from participating in challenging Grand Prix races across the 25 different tracks and coming home with the Winning Time. Time Attack allows you to download ghost data and beat lap times from around the world, and finally Single Race will let you race again on any of the tracks you’ve unlocked from playing in the World Tour mode or Matchmaking.
If you like to take your character online – you can choose from either a combination of Race or Arena modes over Xbox LIVE with up to ten players online simultaneously. For offline local play the game will support up to four players split screen – like the good ‘ol days before the internet was in almost any home that can afford it, but trying to concentrate on a smaller area of screen is an eye-ache especially when four players are involved in the one room. Getting back to the characters again, there are more than twenty five different iconic mascots to choose from. Sonic the Hedgehog, and other known characters from the Sonic world like Tails, Amy, Knuckles, are as you would obviously expect being a Sonic game (racing or not)are present, but you can unlock other well-known faces from Alex the Kidd, Nights into Dreams, Wreck-it-Ralph, Super Monkey Ball, Goldenaxe and Crazy Taxi. Each character has their own unique vehicle and design, but this is later varied by the use of Mods which come with levelling up.
The different Mods are not as diverse as the more serious racing games such as Forza or Need for Speed, and add different options so that you can vary Speed, Boost and Handling to allow you to decide before a race if having a Mod would give you a better advantage. If you’re finding the game way to hard there is an Easy setting, but the challenges you face doesn’t require much effort and grants you just a C Class license. For a real fan of racers, you would want to play on Hard to aim for getting all the 1st positions and an A Class license – the difficulty is so hard, but winning feels like a real accomplishment.
Visually the game is just as a joy to look at as it is to play, with tracks taking on the theme of other well-known games from past Sonic levels, NiGHTS, Jet Set Radio, Shinobi, House of the Dead, After Burner, Panzer Dragoon, Burning Rangers, Outlook (in the Ltd Editon only) and more that unlock as you progress through the World Tour. Some tracks appear more colourful than others, but to race through the skies in levels from NiGHTs into Dreams was a really strange, but memorable moment if you remember every detail from the Saturn game – it’s well presented and requires you to fly through the hoops, just as NiGHTS does before transporting you to other weird worlds. Each of the tracks are very detailed and you could get lost just trying to take it all in as you soak up the memories.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is a fantastic title from Sega that most gamers would not be able to resist. It is fun, pleasing and the transforming vehicles is a great feature to change the dynamics of gameplay. Scenic tracks that will take you down memory lane as you play levels from familiar games in a whole new way. The game blew me away, so well done Sega for a smashing title that can be enjoyed by just about anyone!
A total must-own!