SEGA and Sumo Digital have something of a colossal goal ahead of them. With Christmas looming and the launch of a new console around the corner, they’re hoping that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed will not only clean up on the lack of a Mario Kart release, but also produce a game that’s miles better than its already-impressive predecessor.
Of course, it would be simple enough to just take the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
, add a few new tracks and gimmicks and release it for mass profit, but herein lies the challenge. Sumo has gone totally ballistic on overhauling almost every single element of the game. Weapons balancing, track variation, online multiplayer, even the XP system. The works.
It’s difficult to make changes to this degree and still come out with a coherent product, let alone one that plays as well as Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
does. I had a fair few goes on an updated build of the game and found myself enjoying the added depth that the tweaks had to offer.
For a start, the main menu is much easier to navigate, and a character’s statistics are much more noticeable when in the selection screen. The different capabilities of Sonic, Tails, BD Joe, Amigo, AiAi and co also make a greater - although still subtle - impact on your gameplay on the track.
There are less Sonic characters here, and more legends from the deep well of forgotten SEGA heroes. On top of returning characters such as Beat, Knuckles and Shadow, Transformed
adds Golden Axe
dwarfman Gilius Thunderhead, NiGHTS and Reala (from NiGHTS into Dreams...
) and ace Shinobi
Sumo has seemingly listened to feedback on the number of tracks that were inspired by a limited number of SEGA games, so has broadened its horizons for the sequel. While I played a large number of tracks, the ones I’m allowed to talk about include Ocean View (a stage inspired by Sonic Generations
’ interpretation of Seaside Hill) and Carrier Zone (based on AfterBurner
The latter in particular was a fantastic experience with both land and air vehicles being deployed throughout each lap. The track would start on an aircraft carrier, avoiding stationary planes, before taking to the skies and dodging gunfire - both from enemy AfterBurner
planes and your rival racers. As with all tracks, the course would change dynamically every lap: a pretty fresh twist that works really well without any performance issues.
An absolutely stunning space level, inspired by the Starlight Carnival stage of Sonic Colours
, puts players on a galactic purple racetrack that is strangely reminiscent of Rainbow Road... might just be me. Sumo confirmed that a few tracks from the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
game will return, tweaked for your transforming pleasure. Shibuya Downtown and Roulette Road are two such stages.
Weapons have been given a switchover as well, to make the game a bit more balanced. Case in point in regards to listening to player feedback - the new Twister power up. It’s a revamped ‘Rainbow’ attack, which originally sent the screen upside down and distorted the screen with multiple colours. This time when hit, your car gets flipped backwards and your controls are reversed for a brief period of time.
Other items include the Blowfish-designed mines - which Sumo noted was an important design feature because it allowed the mines to expand or contract depending on the type of surface it was deployed - homing remote controlled cars with sticks of dynamite in them, and snowballs. The boost item, the Hot Rod, can be dropped before it runs out of gas to cause an explosion.
I had a sit-down with the Wii U version as well - which launches alongside the console on November 30 - and it has improved a lot since I last saw it. Using the GamePad tablet controller felt natural, and the triggers were really responsive for drifting around corners. The touch screen is used as a map of the current track, along with times and positions with opponents.
Crucially, Sumo has beefed up its online multiplayer features - now, players can use the devastating All-Star moves during network matches, and splitscreen users can now head into an online game. And, it still plays great - at its core, it still feels like the same responsive, cartoon-version-of-OutRun
that was so endearing about Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
could very well be the game that knocks Mario Kart
off of its perch as the multiplayer racing game of choice. It will certainly please Nintendo fans this Christmas, at the very least. It’s looking like the perfect sequel - roll on November!