I was a huge fan of the original Sonic & All-Stars Racing game when it launched. Combining my love for classic Sega franchises, with gameplay that rivals Nintendo’s best, is a match made in Shibuya-cho. When Sega and Sumo Digital announced a sequel was in the works, my first thought was how they could possibly improve on the original. Sure they could add more characters, tracks and nostalgia, but how far does that go? Thankfully, the Transformed moniker is more than a subtitle. This new game has a slew of new tricks while still retaining the formula that made the original successful.
The big change this time around is, of course, having more than road racing at your disposal. Track design takes on a whole new meaning with Racing Transformed. Various areas will suddenly dip you into water segments for boat racing, while others take you to the skies. The dynamic works, and it’s a ton of fun. Like any good kart racer, things are skewed to keep all races close, and a lot of it relies on luck, but having to trek back through tracks is never a chore thanks to their wonderful design.
Fans of Sega games are in for a treat. Whether you are scaling across an aircraft carrier in Afterburner or rolling down the hills of Monkey Ball, this game delivers fan service. Every track is a treat with unique design and plenty of shortcuts to discover. It is almost overbearing at times how much content there is to see. Track design is an important part in keeping players interested in these types of games, and Sumo Digital has nailed it.
Characters also play a large role here. The roster is massive, featuring plenty of Sega faithful along with special cameos from Wreck it Ralph, and even professional driver Danica Patrick. There are plenty to choose from, but what makes it really special is the mod system. Each character you play as has their own abilities and traits. As you race and earn XP, you can purchase new mods for any racer to alter their play style. For example, Sonic is fast, but his handling is loose. You can modify it so he handles both attributes better, making him a more well rounded character. It gives you incentive to play with multiple characters and ups the replay value dramatically.
There are also plenty of unlockables to find throughout the game. Collecting coins, leveling up drivers and unlocking more tracks and racers are all part of the fun. Collecting stars based on difficulty is a cool idea, and collecting them all will take some serious patience and skill. The game is chock full of stuff to do, and the best part is most of it never gets old. This is definitely my favorite kart racer of the year, and may have even replaced a certain plumber’s outing going forward.
The career mode is pretty unique, offering up various ways to move down a linear path. Get stuck on a difficult challenge and you can sometimes skip it. You collect stars depending on difficulty and use them to unlock new paths, and even new characters. The range of modes here is also great. You have standard races and battles, but also various challenges such as drifts and the return of the mission modes. All keep the racing fresh and let players really test out the various ways to enjoy the game.
Having three different types of vehicles means they play styles definitely feel unique. It took me awhile to adjust to the boat portions, while the flying segments felt like second nature. Drifting is also a huge part of the strategy. You can still drift around corners and build up various levels of boost. Releasing it at just the right moment can mean the difference between first and last place. Power-ups are also not as dominating as they are in certain other racers. While cool, they range from annoying to mostly useless. They are still fun, but none of them make a huge difference in how the races play out.
In addition to the substantial career mode, you also have online and split-screen play. Depending on which console you play on, the game feels quite different. On Wii U you can play up to five players locally, with one person using the Gamepad screen. I will note that if you don’t have four Wiimotes with nunchuks though, this is not the best option. Motion control with the Wiimote is questionable at best. Online is available on all platforms as well and consists of pretty standard modes. Battle and racing take center stage, and the game runs relatively smoothly. None of the online communities are booming, but 360 and PS3 definitely edge out Wii U in that department.
Visually, the game is a delight. The colorful visuals are complemented by the superb frame rate and excellent track design. This is one fine looking game. I really cannot stress how much I love the design of the tracks. The nostalgia poured into them is admirable, but overall the game just looks and runs great. Sound effects are equally impressive with a host of recognizable tracks and sound effects. The library was obviously open to Sumo Digital for Transformed, and they used every bit of it.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed may have the most unfortunate name in gaming’s recent history, but that doesn’t stop it from being truly fantastic. This is easily my favorite kart racer of the generation, slightly outdoing its predecessor in both form, and sheer content. Sega fans will love it. Kart racing fans will have a blast, and gamers in general should really appreciate the love poured into this game. The price is right, the game is fun and anyone who enjoys a good time should definitely check out this amazing racer.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.