But it's not a foregone conclusion – many of these moves require aiming, timing or some other form of skill to pull off correctly. Further, it won't push you from 8th to 1st, but it will place you in a good 4th or 3rd for you to build your momentum from. This nice balance extends to more than just the items and special moves, with each of the available tracks building a polite difficulty curve too.
The tracks themselves, far from forgettable, feature some great twists and turns and allow for plenty of face-offs and drifting opportunities (more on that later). Stages are inspired by past franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog
, Jet Set Radio
, Super Monkey Ball
, Samba de Amigo
, Billy Hatcher
and House of the Dead.
It might seem like a limited number – I'd like to see some Streets of Rage
-themed tracks or a remake of the Daytona USA
circuit – but what is there covers a large range of landscapes, timezones and obstacles. And with retro SEGA music playing in the background (with a rather grating announcer that you can – thankfully – turn off), the atmosphere fills your heart.
Now, it's not all about taking cues from the kart genre. Sumo Digital has applied some of its knowledge from past work on Outrun 2
ports to the drift mechanics in Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
, and the result is a boost and cornering system that works so well we wonder where it's been all our lives.
As part of the simplified control scheme, the Left Trigger acts as a trick, brake and drift button – press while driving to brake, apply while turning to drift, and press while airborne to perform stunts. The latter two activities will earn you boosts at the right time, but the drifting in particular is sublime to engage and control.
You position yourself with the analogue stick, and adjust your turning angle by tapping the accelerator pedal (Right Trigger). For the more difficult Super Monkey Ball
stages – especially Monkey Target
, which asks you to take corners so sharp it borders on 180-degree reversals – this technique will be your saviour, and just another example of the depth that can be found.
Speaking of depth, there's a wealth of modes and options that you can try out in either single player or multiplayer – it's just a shame that it's all over so quickly. There's the usual Grand Prix, Time Trial and Mission modes along with split-screen multiplayer in races, battles, emerald snatching and king of the hill.
Playing any of these will earn you Sega Miles, which can be used to purchase new characters, music and tracks – the fact that you don't even need to play single player to unlock anything using this method is a plus.
In fact, my only gripe with Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
is in the limited options in the online multiplayer; you're limited to creating and joining single race matches. Of course, the races are buckets of fun – even more so online it should be said, with a higher framerate compared to splitscreen – but it would have been nice to be able to play a Knockout or Battle match with pals over the internet.
As Mario Kart has become more and more underwhelming over the last ten years – Sumo Digital's effort picks up the sunshine and addictive gameplay where Mario left off in his N64 heyday and improves upon it. And excellent addition to Kart gaming for all.
SPOnG Score: 86%