Published on November 21st, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U [Reviewed]
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: November 18, 2012
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
Kart racing games each have their respective homes. Nintendo is probably the most notable with its Mario Kart series.
Each generation of the console has hosted its own first-party version of the game. Others out there have introduced their own ideas on what the ideal karting experience may look like. Games like Crash Team Racing and Sonic & All-Stars Racing have delivered different flavors of the micro racer, but what will own the next-generation? At this point, it looks like Mario Kart may finally have some major competition for first place.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed brings to light a different approach to the racing genre. While the power-ups and speeds, not to mention the racing, may be essential pieces to the kart racing puzzle, there always needs to be something more. What will make this game different than others out there? Sumo Digital decided to take classic SEGA characters and introduce them into the kart racing realm. This time around, the racing has taken on a new look.
Racers often focus on either one of three areas: the ground, the sky, or the air. Games like Hydro Thunder are known for high octane racing through wakes and river settings. Other most recent titles like SkyDrift offer up some aggressive aviation. As mentioned before, Mario Kart is the current king of the cartoon street.
So, who is out there to roll all of these elements into one and bring us a grandeur racing experience? That is where developer Sumo Digital and SEGA come in.
There are obvious notes where the game had drawn previous inspiration from. Areas like the spinning whirlpool of Temple Trouble will remind you of levels from Hydro Thunder, especially considering the speed boat that you come barreling in on. These bits and pieces of inspiration are not a bad thing at all.
The game offers some of the most fast-paced action in racing. Players will experience a variety of racing landscapes. Not only are there multiple terrains to explore, but they cover some of the most iconic titles in the company’s history. Such games as Skies of Arcadia, Jet Set Radio and of course Sonic Adventure, are beautifully rendered.
The game is represented well on the Nintendo Wii U. The level designs are sharp, colorful and the game doesn’t skip a beat while you are tearing through the tracks at top speeds. Areas like the Skies of Arcadia level Rogue’s Landing change in landscape as a firestorm of artillery crashes into the ground. Other areas might present highway traffic as an obstacle, or even aircraft carriers.
The transformations of your vehicle come into play throughout each level. The transformations are not something that you can trigger on your own, rather, they are triggered when reaching a transform point. For example, on the After Burner level your speed boat transformation occurs when you hit the water and blue portal. Launching into the air and hitting the next portal will send you to scrape the skies in your new set of wings. Sonic has a sleek and speedy jet that no doubt reaches sonic speeds.
The transformation part of the game is its core mechanic. One of the biggest fears that I had prior to playing the game was that the vehicle change would slow down racing speed, thus becoming more of a burden than a bonus. This is not the case when it comes to the action. The metamorphosis is streamlined and occurs without even the slightest hiccup.
Aside from the changeable vehicles, there are also a slew of power-ups in the game. Such weapons as the Blowfish become obstacles for other players to hit and items like the Hot Rod can be used as a boost and then exploded to hit opponents. Items like the Firework, are more offensive type weapons and can be used for a dead straight shot.
Players also have the use of specials which bring you an “All-Star” mode. These can be enacted, and based on the character, deliver some over the top hits or boosts to get to the front of the racing pack. These are really fun to use, but do fall victim to some tracks that don’t have guardrails and allow players to spill over into space.
The game offers a lot of content as a racer. There are unlockable levels, characters, and stickers. These are a form of achievement type medals earned in the game. Things like getting the “Fastest Lap in a Multiplayer” game will earn you a sticker to slap on your license, or “licence” as the format for the language in the game didn’t quite make the translation. Your sticker collection also boasts quite a few characters in Sega history.
The game hosts many references and nods to games in the company’s history. This is where the game truly shines on any HD console. I was in utter surprise with the NiGHTS into Dreams… level “Dream Valley.” The colors and sounds are reminiscent of the series and even brings players to fly through rings and soar through the air as NiGHTS would. There are plenty of areas to unlock either through the exploration of World Tour or Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix opens up to five basic cups: The Dragon, Rogue, Emerald, Arcade and Classic Cups feature familiar names and places. If you journey through the World Tour, locations are unlocked through the use of Stars. Stars are earned by completing each mission type level. Such events as Boost, Race, Ring Race, Traffic Attack and Drift Challenges offers up something more than just the “get out and race” modes. These challenge areas are truly a challenge as some, even on the easy difficulty, were tough as nails to complete.
The rewards for the challenges are new levels to race and new characters to race with. Wreck-It Ralph comes readily accessible, but others such as Danica Patrick must be unlocked over time. Players can unlock these during the World Tour, but they can also upgrade their status with current characters as they collect XP points. These XP points deliver Mod unlocks which are used to tune your racers’ Speed, Handing and other such attributes to better tackle a given race. Each tier of experience points earned unlocks a new mod for your car.
If you are looking for something in the multiplayer department, the game also hosts options for multiple players. This is also where the Wii U performed extremely well, but also reared its flawed and frail software skin.
The multiplayer can be played local or online. The online racing most are pretty standard, while the local can be done in both a battle type arena or through your standard racing games. The GamePad can display a single player race, but it can also split up the screens to add a fifth wheel. The game reacts well with all different types of controllers, even motion controls. The only crashes that occurred weren’t so much in the racing department, but with the game itself.
After the first frozen screen, I thought it would only be a one-time kind of crash. But it happened again during an online multiplayer match. The game screen distorted and a loud beeping sound overtook my surround sound. These occurrences were outside the local Chase the Chao and Arena battles that were attempted to be played.
During Chase the Chao in the Curien Mansion level, the Chao was continuously spawned outside the gates of the map, unable to reach it. Local games such as Ninja Tag or Banana Heist were done before the game even started declaring the first player the winner. It was these strange occurrences that kept me wondering what the heck was going on under the hood of the game, especially as these instances weren’t secluded to Local Only play.
In a match at Dream Valley, the transformation portal left my flying vehicle change to slide off into the pillars on the side. This was an essential portion of the match due to the checkered line not being too far off from where this was happening. One small move could cost you the race and this was one such misstep.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a valiant and ambitious effort for the Wii U, not to mention other HD consoles. The game features a slew of unlockables and showcases some of the best racing among kart racing games, and can even be compared to other racing titles out there.
The levels are worth every bit of your attention as they are beautifully showcased and an all-around pleasure to play. The game provides an exceptional Grand Prix experience and shines on the Wii U in its use of the GamePad screen. The second screen does dip a small amount in visual quality, but is still amazing to play.
The only downside was the frequent multiplayer crashes and times the game simply froze. A huge patch is a must to fix these things, but they can be expected on a brand spanking new console only a few days after launch.
Players will be pleasantly surprised to find the speed, level designs and mechanics a blast to play. The Wii U only makes this experience that much more fun.
+ Online Modes
+ Fun Factor
+/- Local Multiplayer Modes
– Bugs (Fixable)
– Unbalanced Difficulty