games / Reviews

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Nintendo Wii U) Review

December 4, 2012 | Posted by Mark Salmela

Title: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sumo Digital
Genre: Racing
Players: 1 – 4
Rated: E for Everyone

Remember when everyone and their Mom had their own kart racer? Diddy Kong, Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, those guys from the M&M commercials… No seriously, even M&M’s got their own kart racer. Kart racers used to be a dime a dozen, and while no one could tell any of them apart, they were all considerably worse than Mario Kart (except Crash Team Racing, because there’s always an exception to any rule). Well those days are long over, and it’s pretty rare to see anyone actually make a kart racer, much less put any effort into one. It’s actually rather reflective of the whole racing genre in general, which I still point to the absolute travesty of releasing Split Second, Blur, and Mod Nation Racers on the exact same day in spring of 2010 as actually killing the racing genre (not dead but definitely not what it once was). Anyways, where Mario excels, Sonic is not far behind to put in an honest attempt at replicating Mario’s success. And this time, Sonic has actually bested the little plumber that could.

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed is a game that is significantly better than its awful name implies. Sonic Racing is Sega’s second attempt at a racing game featuring Sonic driving cars this generation, and it’s a night and day improvement over the original. The original Sonic All-Stars Racing was a blatant Mario Kart rip-off, and while one might be quick to pass off Transformed as a rip-off of Mario Kart 7, it’s actually quite different and better than Mario Kart 7. The big improvement in Mario Kart 7 was racing on land, sea, or air, but it didn’t actually mean anything. Sure it was kind of neat gliding in the air in your car, and yes driving underwater did slightly change your controls to make you slower, but otherwise nothing actually changed about Mario Kart. It was the same game it always is. Sonic Racing Transformed actually changes significantly depending on whether you take flight, stay on the ground, or race on water.

There are three ingredients to making a good kart racer. First, you need interesting characters to race as. Sonic Racing features a strong cast of characters, assuming you’re willing to put up with a couple of ridiculous inclusions. You’ll still find all of your favorites, like the guy from Crazy Taxi, all of Sonic’s awful friends, and AiAi, the monkey from Super Monkey Ball that no one likes. But you’ll also find a couple of weird inclusions in Ralph from Wreck it Ralph and Danica Patrick. I must say I absolutely love this, because I think every light-hearted game like this should have some absolutely ridiculous inclusions. Plus, considering how often Danica Patrick wrecks her car versus actually finishing a race, I get to enjoy the joke of Danica Patrick racing against fictitious characters on multiple levels. What’s not to love?

Alright, so Sonic Racing has a pretty awesome cast of characters to play as. The second ingredient you need in a good kart racer is a good selection of weapons. After all, using the blue turtle shell as an example, some weapons can actually make games less fun to play, rather than more fun. Sonic Racing Transformed may not revolutionize kart racers with its weapon selection, but it’s completely competent in its selection. You’ll find variations of all the weapons you expect to find, with a baseball glove taking the place of the shield, a rocket being your standard missile/green shell, a tornado projectile inverting your opponent’s controls, and so on. Some of the classics even have interesting twists on them, such as having the ability to explode your speed boost before it finishes to damage nearby enemies. Items in Sonic Racing come frequently, but not so frequently as to cause each race to boil down into utter chaos. Plus experienced kart racers will start to capitalize on a small opportunity to avoid most projectiles by executing a well-timed power boost when coming off a long drift.

So Sonic Racing has a solid selection of characters, and a healthy selection of weapons to compete with. The final ingredient to any good kart racer is level design. Kart racers need to have fun levels to race on, with lots of unique elements that keep it feeling fresh and fun to race multiple over and over again. This is where Sonic Racing completely blows the door off of other racing games. The courses in Sonic Racing Transformed are second to none, and that includes Mario Kart. Each course in Sonic Racing is well thought-out, beautiful to look at, and fun to play.

What makes Sonic Racing’s levels so much fun to play is just how much variety there is in every level. While most races start and end with normal driving, every course has something unique about it, and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll switch to flying or racing on water at some point in each course. In addition, most courses change throughout a race. While you may be flying through the air in lap 1 of the Afterburner level, you’ll find yourself racing across the waters for the second lap, before finding yourself doing a combination of both for the third lap. Most courses even offer branching paths, including some levels where you have branching paths with the vehicles as well, where you’ll have to take into account things such as flying vehicles being faster than vehicles racing on the water. There’s a tremendous amount of depth to Sonic Racing.

Changing from flying to driving to racing on water requires no effort on the part of the play and feels seamless. It may sound like a small thing, but the controls change drastically depending on what you’re doing. Flying is the most obvious of the group, since you’re given full control of your movement while flying. This means that in addition to worrying about what’s in front of you, you’ll have to take things above and below you into account as well, and you’ll often be flying all over the map while trying to hit boost pads and weapon boxes. The hovercrafts also feel really different as well, and the controls most closely mimic the Hydro Thunder games.

In addition to being a fundamentally sound game, Sonic Racing offers a ton of different game modes, and basically all of them can be played either locally with friends or online. It’s so refreshing to see such a solid, feature-rich game released at a console launch. All of the standard kart racing modes are available, everything from your standard battle mode to all the variants of racing your heart could desire. There are even a few types present in the single player which are original, including a boss mode called Pursuit where you shoot projectiles at a large tank. Again, I can’t speak highly enough about such a feature rich game that has such strong fundamentals.

Sonic Racing is a solid game, but it’s not perfect. Like most kart racers, the single player is challenging at best, and impossible at worst. Some of the final races on anything other than the easiest difficulty are damn near impossible, and will give even the toughest of gamers a challenge. The reason this doesn’t ruin the experience though is because of how well-designed the single player world tour is. The game doesn’t punish you for playing the vast majority of races on the easiest difficulty like I did. You can go through and beat the game no problem doing it that way. But if you want to get every character in the game (performed by beating them in a race at set intervals of the world tour) and unlock everything in Sonic Racing you’ll need to go through and start earning extra stars by beating previous races on normal or hard difficulty.

Pros

- The land, sea, and air variants of Sonic Racing are unique, and most importantly, extremely fun to play.
- There are a ton of game modes to play, and almost all of them can be played online or locally.
- This may be the best track design in a kart racer ever.
- The graphics look great, with tons of action going on.
- The online ran rather well from my play tests.
- The selection of playable racers is fantastic.
- The weapons are fun to use, and not cheap.
- You can unlock variations of each driver with slightly altered stats through frequent use of said character.

Cons

- Just like every other kart racer, the AI becomes frustratingly cheap when playing on anything other than easy difficulty.
- There’s the occasional graphical hiccup or framerate issue.
- It can take a long time to unlock most of the roster.
- It may not be as easy to pick up and play as Mario Kart.

The 411


Pictured Above: Ralph trying to get the hell out of dodge after hearing about his upcoming sequel: Wreck It Ralph: Modern Warfare

Sonic Racing Transformed is easily one of the best launch titles of the Nintendo Wii U. I’d give it a high recommendation even if it wasn’t released at the budget price of $39.99, which is a little funny considering just how much stuff is crammed into this game. When you take into account the large single player world tour, all of the various game modes which can be played locally or online, the large cast of characters, and the extremely well-designed levels it becomes clear that Sonic Racing is not only the best kart racer of 2012, but it may be the best kart racer of the last few years as well. It’s not perfect, and some people just may not care about Sonic, but if you’re someone who grew up playing kart racers, you need to check this game out. Sonic Racing Transformed is a bright spot in the Wii U’s launch window.

Graphics9.0Occasional graphical issue aside, this is a beautiful game that has a lot going on. I’m surprised there aren’t more graphical issues.411 Elite Award
Gameplay9.0The land, sea, and air mechanics are extremely fun and offer a lot of variation in the racing. Flying in particular is crazy. 
Sound7.5There are faithful recreations of Sega classics, but I’m extremely disappointed the characters don’t talk more. What fun is having Wreck It Ralph if I can’t hear him tell Amy Rose to eat his dust? 
Lasting Appeal9.0There’s more content here than in any other kart racer I’ve seen in recent memory. Almost everything can be played in multiplayer either locally or online. 
Fun Factor 8.5Sonic Racing will bring back fun memories of all your favorite Sega franchises while winning you over on its own with an amazing game. 
Overall9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Mark Salmela

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