Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Genre: Racing, Sports
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: SEGA              

Release Date: 31 Jan 2013
Platform: PC (Steam)
Other Platforms: PS3, Xbox360, Wii U, Vita, 3DS, Android

Kart racers have always been regarded as some of the most fun multiplayer games involving vehicles, but with several mediocre releases over the past couple of years, the genre hasn’t really been on the top of its game. That being said, a game with a long and familiar name such as Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is sure to raise some eyebrows, whether due to the weird concept of transforming vehicles or due to people thinking it may somewhat be a Mario Kart ripoff. While I've played pretty much every Mario Kart in existence (except double dash), I must say this game felt pretty refreshing and did a good job of pumping adrenaline into my veins. Let’s take a look:

Lots of stuff to do, and 232 stars to collect.
So, here we are presented with characters from many of SEGA’s beloved franchises, each one with their unique vehicle and seven different Mods (basically configurations that change things like the speed, boost and acceleration of the vehicle) which are unlocked as you level up the characters and progress in the World Tour in Career mode. This works as the ultimate fan service, since it lets you control good old characters like Vyse and B. D. Joe (this last one in his faithful, and now, transforming yellow taxi) and many others, while still having characters from recent franchises, and of course, Sonic and friends. The rooster consists of over thirty characters (if you include the DLCs), and in addition to SEGA characters, there are some special appearances, like the Team Fortress character and more recently Yoggscast (most of the characters added are exclusive to the PC version).

One of my favourite transformations, complete with sound effects and all.
There’s a lot of variety in terms of game modes, more so than in your average cart racer. All of the basics are here, Career mode, Matchmaking, custom event, etc, and inside each mode, there is yet more variety. Inside the World Tour in Career mode, you get to collect stars by completing events, and the higher the difficulty you play in, the more stars you unlock (initially there are three difficulty levels with a fourth one unlocked later). There are several types of events, like regular races, one-lap sprints against ghosts, Bosses who throw obstacles at you and must be defeated before you vehicle falls apart, boost races, traffic attacks and the list goes on.

The tracks themselves are also from SEGA franchises of course, and in none of them will you be driving on solid ground all of the time. Most, if not all of the tracks change on their final lap and even before then there might be water/lava or air sections. Here your vehicle will transform to suit the environment, and by doing this, changing the way the controls feel (driving a wheeled vehicle in the road isn't anything like driving a hovercraft on water). In addition to these three different forms your vehicle can take, one of the game’s power-ups (All-Star) changes you into a fourth appearance, granting you invincibility and a speed boost for a limited amount of time. The other power-ups are within what you might expect for this sort of game. Rockets and snowballs to throw at your opponents, boosts, homing missiles that look like a miniature version of you and the Blowfish, which works as a bomb, which you can leave in the road or launch forward. There are also baseball gloves which grab whatever others might throw at you and lets you keep it so you can then throw it back.

Enough with just describing the game, here are my thoughts:

Traffic Attacks are one of many challenges present and can be pretty insane.

  •         Having your vehicle transform into four different shapes gives the game a great deal of variety. That, combined with the fact that most of the tracks change every other lap, makes it so that you don’t feel like you’re always doing the same thing.
  •          Having seven different mods for every character makes it so you can use whatever character you like, even if you can’t deal with the way it initially plays (lack of handling / acceleration / speed / etc).
  •          Has a decent amount of tracks (and of course, mirror versions) but could use some more. One of the DLCs added an extra track, but since not everyone has it, it never gets selected in online matchmaking. In addition, the new track feels pretty bland, there aren’t many obstacles or variety at all.
  •          S class is pretty damn hard, mainly due to abusive amounts of rubberbanding. But once you master those tracks, it’s an awesome challenge and feels pretty rewarding to win. However, even S class isn’t much compared to online matchmaking, especially if you put yourself in a lobby full with players with their ranks in the 1500’s or above. S class challenges are also pretty difficult and require practice most of the time.
Seven mods p/character guarantee a good amount of customisation.
  •  The online matchmaking itself works pretty well and it’s fun, but there’s (arguably) too much time between races. Ten seconds to vote for one out of three tracks, and then forty-five seconds just to choose a character is too much. Also, don’t make me choose my character after every race. Just give me the same one I used in the previous one by default. If I want to change into another one, I can…after all, I have forty-five seconds to do it….
  •          Speaking of characters, the AGES character comes as a pleasant surprise, with its unique sounds and transformations which you’ll no doubt recognize. On the other hand, having NiGHTS and Reala in the game AS THE vehicle feels like a bad joke. At least their All-Star transformations look good.
  •          There’s a healthy amount of achievements, even though it would have been cool to see every in-game sticker have its own. Some achievements involve playing with four local players, which is not a good idea. Not many people have that amount of controllers, not to mention the fact that split-screen multiplayer is becoming a thing of the past. It would have been more sensible to make these achievements doable with Steam/PSN friends.
  •          The game runs great and looks amazing and crisp on PC, but as usual with sonic PC ports, there’s a specific zone (in this case the Samba Studios track) that tends to drop the framerate. That being said it’s still a pretty good port, but still suffers from the same problem as all the other sonic PC ports that came before it: the graphical options menu is in a separate executable and must be run before the game. Also it forces you to skip through a bunch of stuff before you get to the main menu every time you launch the game but at least on the PC, there’s a fix for that.

"NiGHTS has gone All-Star!"
As a conclusion, this is definitely an extremely satisfying and challenging game, especially if you have a couple of friends to play online with. SEGA will certainly milk this game some more by slowly adding more characters as they’ve been doing in the past. This is reinforced by the fact that the game is still selling and the online community is still pretty active.
The game isn’t expensive and has been on sale again and again, with prices reaching under 7€ at times. Definitely a good buy for any fan of SEGA and/or kart racers.
And since I don't like to read reviews by people who barely play the games either, here's some of my Personal Stats:

  • 55 hours played so far (still play occasionally)
  • 50/50 Achievements Unlocked
  • Game completion: 102%