Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed screenshot
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed screenshot

A worrying and terrifying fact I realised the other day is that those of us who grew up playing the original Sonic the Hedgehog are now more than old enough - in age, if not maturity - to be raising children. These blue-blooded progenies could quite conceivably be at the age where they fancy a kart racer, and both parent and child (in my hypothetical world, at least) could connect over UK developer Sumo Digital's second attempt at the genre. This is actually possible.

I'm not so sure SEGA is as confident in its rich and glorious legacy as I am, however, and much of its attempts at garnering popularity here are spent riding the coattails of Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, with the upcoming film's titular character taking a starring role here alongside Sonic, Tails and 19 other racers. But Ralph is a positively seamless fit compared to the roster addition of NASCAR star Danica Patrick, who no doubt has nurtured a lifelong passion to go bumper-to-bumper with Gilius Thunderhead in a digital version of a not-cynical-at-all car she helped design for toy maker Mattel. Ahem.

I know what you're thinking and, yes, I'm gutted too: Danica Patrick gets to feature and neither Vectorman nor Sketch Turner get a look in. But, hey, at least Ristar is the flagman, and the game's finale has you racing as a floating Dreamcast controller. I'd buy a copy for that fact alone, but then I'm a bit weird and often wear a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt to bed. And despite SEGA's attempts to bring in a wider audience than those who fondly write poems to their old Mega Drive, there still remains plenty of loving fanservice devoted to the publisher's lifelong fans. Like I said, floating Dreamcast controller.

Still, and I will admit this opinion comes from someone who believes that food tastes better when eaten off a Sonic the Hedgehog plate, this is actually an extremely formidable kart racer that lifts itself above the rest of the genre with a buoyant charm, deft handling and a string of rich, vibrant courses which light up in a way that only SEGA knows how.

There's only so much excitement to be had from such a well-worn and exhausted genre, but Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed often manages to be impressively adventurous, conjuring up courses that twist and contort around the game's central conceit that its vehicles can cover land, sea and air at scripted points during each race. We saw a similar idea in Mario Kart 7, but here the cars actually inherit different mechanics and controls when they turn into boats and planes. SEGA also cheerily nicks the robotic converting sound of the Transformers, modifying the noise just enough to avoid any legal ramifications from Hasbro.

The expectedly drift-heavy steering model feels like a slightly springier version of Mario Kart, and while the game doesn't fascinate in concept it manages to impress in its execution and lavish, luscious visuals. This is a zippy, detailed experience, easily the most visually sumptuous kart racer on the market, but one that's occasionally marred by some pretty unpleasant frame-rate hiccups in some of its most packed areas and a depressing loss of fidelity when played split-screen.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed screenshot

Noticeable effort has also been spent sprucing up the ornate tracks. Even the game's bread-and-butter Sonic stages manage to thrill in their construction, and plenty of other SEGA titles - including Panzer Dragoon, Skies of Arcadia and Jet Set Radio - get their chance to shine with lovingly designed courses. One slight problem, however, is that power-ups and boost pads tend to blend in with the environments; perhaps the art team were too worried about unsightly track markings ruining their pristine environments.

The power-ups themselves are also a particular delight, including controller-reversing whirlwinds, time-sensitive speed boosts and attack-catching baseball gloves. Then there's a swarm of wasps, an attack which homes in on the leader of the pack but affects multiple players and can be dodged with skilled driving or tactical weapon usage. I'm not sure why it's wasps exactly, but it makes Mario Kart's contentious Blue Shell seem archaic by comparison.

This is a smart and engaging kart racer, then, but it makes a particularly dumbfounded choice by locking many of its characters and courses into the lengthy Career mode, with players knocking off multiple event types as they progress across a series of worlds and branching pathways. It's a standard and moderately entertaining bit of single-player racing, but it's a shame to see such an innately multiplayer game require a tricked-out save file before it can be fully appreciated by a group of people huddled around a sofa.

That flaw isn't nearly enough to put a serious dent into Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, however, which mixes some wonderfully loving nostalgia and ambitious design to create the first credible Mario Kart alternative since Crash Team Racing in 1999. Fact.

Version Tested: PlayStation 3

This review was written after spending 6 hours with a retail version of the game provided by SEGA, and the author has always believed Sonic to be a million times cooler than Mario.

8 / 10

  • Good racer released at a bargain price
  • A loving nod to the past
  • Occasional framerate issues
  • There's only so excited you can get about a kart racer

Click above for enlarged Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Screenshots

10 Comments

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

talisman72's Avatar

talisman72

I can't understand how this game is getting such high scores. I've played the demo and it feels like a 5/10 at best. Sluggish frame-rate, simplistic handling, terrible flying. It just seems to be scoring based on nostalgia. Try before you buy.
Posted 23:31 on 21 November 2012
Mickael486's Avatar

Mickael486

How did you not mention Modnation Racers? It's not even one of the 12 mentioned 'related games'.. wha??
Say what you will about the Mario and Sega cast of characters and their appeal but what Modnation Racers did was make a kart racer that actually required more skill to play and WIN than any other kart racer.
Posted 05:57 on 19 November 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Hmmm... what a topsy-turvy day for review expectation! :D

This one wasn't on my radar at all, but it seems like it could be an ideal accompaniment to forthcoming Christmas soirees. Am I recalling corrrectly that this isn't a FULL full priced title...? Thanks for the interesting review, Martin!

The inavoidable blueshell always did seem a cheap shot, so the innovations - minor though they may be within the formula - sound as though they address many of the weaknesses in the Mario Kart mix.

I also enjoyed the full disclosure, and also believe certain dishwares improve the taste of victuals. ;)

Edit: Ah, I see from another comment that it is indeed a budget title. What a lot of sense is being shown (at long last!)
Posted 15:54 on 18 November 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ CheekyLee

Sorry, I did play online. It was fine. It worked as expected, which is why I didn't mention it. Same with the All-Star moves, really. I didn't think they really needed to be mentioned - they just worked, you know? You're right though, they should be there.

And yeah, locking characters isn't a particularly uncommon annoyance but, in our ADHD-addled world of 2012, I do find it annoying.
Posted 11:36 on 18 November 2012
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

That locked character complaint could be thrown at 95% of the releases for the last 20 years. It's only really Super Street Fighter IV onwards that have given us everyone and everything upfront, with the rest of them still thinking that locking fun stuff behind grindwalls is somehow a good idea.

I assume you didn't get to play the online at all? According to the review, there is none. All Star Moves also got no mention at all. This surprises me, Martin, you're usually quite thorough.
Posted 10:08 on 18 November 2012
reynoldio's Avatar

reynoldio

I love Sonic! I grew up with him too! I have a child! *puts game on Christmas list*

Yeah, I'm 32, a parent and have a Christmas list, so what?!
Posted 22:51 on 17 November 2012
TOMBOY25's Avatar

TOMBOY25

its only £22.99 on simplygames!
Posted 21:03 on 17 November 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Good read Martin! Looks like this game has gone further up on the list. Just a reminder, that the demo for this game is available to download off the marketplace.
Posted 18:59 on 17 November 2012
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH

Quote:
...the author has always believed Sonic to be a million times cooler than Mario.

I was going to make a sarcastic or jovial comment about Martin being wrong, I'm not witty enough to think of one... But when I do it will totally put you in your place...

;D Mascot Fan boy wars aside, great review Martin. It's good to see finally a kart racer that can stand up on it's own against Mario Kart.

EDIT:... um... A couple things. In MK7 the blue shell also now flies across the track hitting any player in its way before going for the leader, and the floating console thing has been done in Mario Kart before (MKDS), where you fought on a giant DS in space... so THERE!
Posted 15:34 on 17 November 2012
DancingRhino's Avatar

DancingRhino

The locking out of characters and courses is odd, considering a major draw of this will be local multiplayer. It's no deal breaker just strange. It sounds great fun and looks good - this will be the kart racer of choice untill mario kart HD.
Posted 15:03 on 17 November 2012

Game Stats

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
8
Out of 10
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • Good racer released at a bargain price
  • A loving nod to the past
  • Occasional framerate issues
  • There's only so excited you can get about a kart racer
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 16/11/2012
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360 , PC , Wii U , 3DS , PS Vita , iPhone
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Racing
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 1,286
View Full Site