It seems obviously natural that Sonic the Hedgehog with his hyper-speed runs would fit into a racing game easily. Unfortunately, most Sonic racing games in past were either mediocre, lame, or qualified to be one of the worst games that ever carried the Sonic franchise name. It was with some concern that Sega commissioned yet another kart racing game staring the hedgehog, his friends, and other Sega notables. This effort does deserve a closer inspection though, as within the development team is some former members of Bizarre Creations. This former game studio made its name through Project Gotham Racing and Blur. With some better credentials, the team at Sumo Digital may be able to achieve a good Sonic racing game. Read more to find out!
Almost immediately, the game is off the line to a great start beginning with the controls. It really is just gas, brake, steer, item use, right-stick stunts, and that?s about it. Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed is as easy to learn as knowing the difference between red, green, and blue; perfect for the inexperienced gamer. The great news continues with the nicely tuned controls regardless of whether the vehicle mode is car, boat, or plane. Some previous Sonic games were frowned upon for being Mario Kart clones. In this game, there is indeed an item box, boosts, and weapons to attack your opponents, but it does feel as though the game is doing its own thing. All the items and weapons feel as though they were designed for and belong in a Sega kart racer.
Taking things one massive step further, the tracks dynamically change. That first lap that was spent the entire time on ground could suddenly become a water level half way through the second lap. The change in vehicle mode is rather sudden, which can be startling and a bit confusing the first time on a track. The car, boat, and flight modes of the races do add very nice racing variety though. The sense of speed is not quite what one would expect from a game with Sonic on the title. The speed feels about the same as the blue hedgehog?s peak running velocity, which is a bit of a downer. The boat and plane modes can also be difficult for inexperienced gamers because of a lack of clear directional guidance, leading to straying off the track. Other than these two problems, the racing experience delivers surprising amounts of fun.
There are over twenty characters in the game, and just under half of them are available at the start. Characters and tracks can be unlocked through the usual racing wins and star collections. Each individual character has their own leveling to unlock mod selections for that vehicle. The character and track list does not suggest a fully-fledged Sonic-themed game. Think of it as Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed.
There are career modes, world tour and grand prix, which are pretty much what one would expect. The race modes are the usual standard race, battles (overtake and stay there), boost races (checkpoint w/ time limit), time attack, and arena. Multiplayer includes the race and arena modes. It is a good amount of content at first but feels somewhat shallow and plain. There is a sense that things could get repetitive and dull after a certain amount of hours.
Here is some more positivity. This game can be used as a way of describing the feeling enormous. No, this is not an open-world game where big means lots of square miles. This game may not be that big but it has levels that feel massive. The best strength in the visuals is its ability to give a great sense of scale. Combined with the dynamic tracks, it adds good tension to the races. Each track has a clear and definitive theme, and tracks inspired by Sega?s other franchises do somewhat feel like those franchises, such as Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon, and Super Monkey Ball. The tech and art themselves are quite nice, with vibrant colors and detail that further adds to the sense of scale.
Sadly, the music almost never makes any attempt to get noticed. It is mostly incredibly generic upbeat race music. Engine sounds sit in the same trunk, and sound effects are decent. There is an announcer that speaks menu selections and updates players on some things that are happening. He is a bit chatty but otherwise tolerable.
Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed is quite a nice surprise. It is very easy to play, is quite a lot of fun, the dynamic tracks and different vehicle modes add to the well-tuned controls, the sense of scale in the visuals is amazing, and this game feels like a unique Sega kart racing game. The main drawbacks are incredibly bland music and a lack of depth in the game modes, which affects lasting appeal. Otherwise, it is one well-designed racing game that delivers the goods.
Final Score: 8.0/10