Many have tried to capture the magic of Nintendo’s adored kart racing series and only a handful have succeeded. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing was Sega’s first attempt at the genre and it ended up being an approachable and playable title. Not content with being in second place, Sega’s follow-up title Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is gearing up to overtake that Italian plumber with ambitious redesigned gameplay and solid multiplayer offerings.
The prominent new feature this time is terrain shifting tracks and transforming vehicles. It’s not just your fellow racers you need to watch out for, as the roads crumble beneath you, or rivers runs dry, creating new routes for you to quickly adapt to. Unlike Mario Kart games in which the change of terrain has little impact on driving beyond its speed, All Star Racing features different driving models to help you navigate these constantly changing environments.
Over 20 legendary All-Stars are back. Players also have an option to play as Ralph from the recently released Wreck-It Ralph movies as well as playing as their Mii in the Wii U version or as their avatar on Xbox 360. Each character is equipped with their own unique vehicle that can transform into a car, boat, and plane once they pass through a Transformation Gate. On water, the pace slows and wave physics can be used to knock competitors off their ideal driving line, while the robust flight mechanics rewards players that continuously divebomb with speed boosts.
Each vehicle handles differently and players need to master the ins and outs of each iteration of their vehicle if they wish to take the checkered flag and master multiplayer.
Taking a cue from Jetpack Joyride, race courses are littered with gold coins which can be gambled in a slot machine mini-game during the race loading screen. Strike it lucky and you’ll be given a speed boost or some other bonus, hit a bad beat and you’ll lose your bet. Fortunately, the game also rewards you with coins for hitting fellow racers with items, and you’ll be doing plenty of that.
The usual arsenal of virtual kart racing weaponry makes a welcome return in Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, with Sonic and company able to toss guided missiles, get up close and deliver short-range shockwave attacks or plant giant bees and blowfish across the tracks for opponents to stumble into. When not on the lookout for explosive projectiles and hazardous oversized wildlife, over 25 Sega themed courses also presents plenty of environmental hazards ranging from roving whirlwinds and chomping flying beasts to pillars of lava and awkwardly placed trees.
The last gameplay wrinkle comes from the ability to customize the strengths of your character through mods. In addition to picking a character, players can also select a specific upgrade to increase a vehicle’s performance in one of five categories: speed, acceleration, handling, boost and balance. Old rivalries can be settled and new ones created in up to 10 players online. Journey through the All-Stars’ world to take on a huge range of modes and challenges, including Grand Prix, Battle arenas and an incredible world tour.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed has a lot of potential. It’s good to see Sega is making an attempt at mixing up the aging formula with more drastic changes.
Sonic and the All-Stars Transformed will be available November 18, 2012 (PS3, X360, Wii U) and December 12, 2012 (Vita,3DS).