Maintaining a tight line around corners is only one part of the race experience. No kart racer is complete unless a bevy of weapons are at your disposal. Sadly, this is one area in which Sonic and co don't perform as well. For the most part the weapons are fairly generic, with new designs simply covering up the fact that we've seen them all before in Mario Kart. One that stands out, mainly due to its flashy nature, is the All-Star pick-up. As is the way in these kind of games, you'll only get it should you be performing badly, but once activated your character will perform a special move for a short period of time. Sonic uses the chaos emeralds to become a super fast gold Super Sonic, while Shenmue's Ryo hops into a forklift and zooms through the pack.
Outside of the Grand Prix mode there's a substantial Missions mode, in which you'll need to complete various challenges as you try to earn the coveted AAA ratings. Sumo Digital is following in the footsteps of its home console versions of OutRun 2 here, with a variety of challenges ranging from going head to head against another character, to drifting as much as possible. You're forced to use certain characters, too, which mixes things up a bit. With 64 missions to complete there's enough here to keep you playing for hours.
As expected, multiplayer racing is great fun in All-Stars, but it's not nearly as feature-rich as I'd have liked. For one, the eight-player online mode is limited to racing only – there's no battle mode support. To fight against friends over a handful of combative game modes you'll have to stick to the four-player split-screen option. In truth, the battle modes aren't great, with the most fun with friends coming from the standard racing, but even this isn't handled brilliantly. You can't compete in an online Grand Prix, so you're essentially just racing in single one-off races. There are options to set up private games, whether you want AI racers to join in and if power-ups and rubber-banding are on, but the whole mode seems painfully lacking.
While the multiplayer options are disappointing, the presentation is anything but. On all three consoles the visuals are excellent, jammed full of charm and character. The PS3 and 360 games clearly look sharper and more detailed than the Wii version, but the Nintendo console still pumps out an impressive looking game. There's some awesome music too, with new versions of many classic SEGA tracks, and even the in-game announcer isn't annoying. If it weren't for the erratic frame rate, which stumbles too much in all versions of the game, there'd practically be nothing to complain about.
Aside from visual differences the three versions have a few minor things to set them apart. The Wii game lets you use tilt to drive and has Mii integration, the 360 game features a Banjo and Kazooie car and Avatar integration, and the PS3 version uses the Sixaxis tilt sensor for driving. None of these are especially noteworthy and do little to elevate one title above another. More significant is the downloadable ghost data for use in the Time Trial mode. On PS3 and 360 you can use these ghosts to help improve your racing, but on Wii you can simply view the fastest times.
Whichever version of Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing you choose you're going to get a well produced, fun arcade racer, with enough tracks and unlockables to keep you playing for a long time. Yes, it has taken more than a bit from Nintendo's karting series, but it has enough of its own style to make it worth a look even if you're a die-hard Nintendo gamer. Dare I say it, SEGA has finally given us another good Sonic game.