"Sonic's on a Boat?!"
Skipping a traditional Sonic title this year, SEGA's Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is 2012's outlet for the hedgehog to get his (italics for emphasis) swerve on. Taking Sonic (and his dozens of friends) off of their feet and into cars, planes, and boats, Sumo Digital and SEGA have created a title full of nostalgia that would be a fun title even if all of the visuals weren’t so familiar.
Being the second (third if you count Sonic R) Sonic racing title on consoles, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a character-based go-kart racing game that has a really unique twist: all vehicles transform. Most races begin on wheels, but the tracks constantly change and force the character's vehicles to transform into boats or planes and vice versa. Along the way to the finish line, characters can collect items such as homing weapons that seek out other racers and execute maneuvers that give speed boosts.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is pretty much a pick-up-and-play game. The title's main mode, career mode's World Tour, actually starts off hard, as the controls and new vehicle types take some time to get adjusted to; but gradually, the game becomes easier as players learn how to properly execute drifts in each vehicle type. While the characters have a set of base stats when first choosing them, they level up the more players race with them and gain mods, which affect their stats and ultimately the way they race. Each event in the World Tour has three difficulties initially, ensuring that everyone can get through all of the events with little effort.
While the racing in the game is pretty fun, a big part of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed's appeal is the characters and locales presented. The Sonic franchise is represented here the most, but many other SEGA franchises get love too, such as Monkey Ball, Skies of Arcadia, Space Channel 5, and even the obscure Saturn title Burning Rangers. With the deep history SEGA has, everything may not be represented in the way you may want it to be (No Virtua Fighter characters?!), but there is something here for everyone. From Ristar raising the checkered flag to begin the race to nods to SEGA’s past as a system manufacturer, this game is filled to the brim with SEGA references. There are even a few cameos in the form of Ralph from Disney's Wreck-It-Ralph and NASCAR racer Danica Patrick.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed's graphics look pretty nice. All of the locales and characters have their own art style, but they don't clash with one another, so seeing Beat from Jet Set Radio and Vyse from Skies of Arcadia doesn't look strange. The only gripe is in certain stages the graphics look a little blurry, and I couldn't tell if it was on purpose or not. The soundtrack consists of songs remixed by Richard Jacques, one of the composers that worked on many game soundtracks from SEGA in the 90s, and they are faithful to the source material for the most part. While the Skies of Arcadia remixes sound a bit too hip, creating a new vocal theme for the Burning Rangers stage was a cool touch.
Being one of the few kart racer on the HD systems, SEGA could have simply dialed in Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing's sequel and left it at that, but the effort taken to change the gameplay and introduce new vehicle types along with an interesting weapon set makes this title rival Mario Kart based on quality alone. There are plenty of modes, race types, and characters available that will make this game last a long time for kart racing fans.
GameDynamo's Score for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (X360)
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