Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Hands-On Preview - On the Track With the Blue Blur
Written Wednesday, October 17, 2012 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
Sonic & All-Stars Racing returns, but this time it’s “Transformed,” building on the series blueprint by adding morphing vehicles, a whole load of classic SEGA characters and tracks, and a bunch more tweaks and fiddles besides.
As with its predecessor it’s most easily described as SEGA’s answer to Mario Kart, but while Transformed does share a number of similarities with Nintendo’s blockbuster racing series, there’s plenty here to set it apart.
The biggest new feature is your transforming vehicle, which now morphs from a car to a boat to a plane and back again. This is all executed automatically, depending on what terrain you encounter, but the key is that each discrete vehicle type handles uniquely and demands new skills of the player.
So when you’re zipping along the game’s wide tracks in a car you’ll be executing power slides and charging around in a pleasingly familiar manner. Then in a flash you’ll be cutting though the water in a power boat, battling against both waves and competitors with an entirely different set of physics.
The most dramatically different vehicles are the planes. In these sections, when your car or boat sprouts wings and you zoom off into the sky, you’re suddenly able to swoop around in 3D space. Indeed, such is the degree of control you’re afforded it’s perfectly possible to get lost.
Keeping you on the right track (fnar) are Nights Into Dreams-esque floating orb circles. Whizz through these checkpoints, of which there are plenty, and you’ll be all set for race domination. Well, that’s if you can survive the constant stream of attacks thrown your way.
In Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed the weapon system has been revamped, with fun twists on your traditional karting fare. There’s attacks that flip the screen upside down and invert your controls, there’s homing RC cars stuffed with dynamite, swarms of wasps, Blowfish mines and more.
It’s in this way that races pan out, with you zooming around the road, water and air-based tracks dodging attacks and dishing out your own. It’s all rather light, enjoyable fare. Transformed is hardly a revelation but it certainly delivers on its promise of a fun, accessible and ever-so-slightly chaotic experience.
The real draw for old farts like me, however, is the game’s set of nostalgia-tinged characters and themed tracks. There are around 30 characters in total. Alongside pretty much the entire cast of Sonic I spotted B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi, Beat and Gum from Jet Set Radio, Nights from Nights into Dreams, Joe Musashi from Shinobi and the Monkey from Super Monkey Ball.
As you would expect each has their own stats, with larger characters offsetting acceleration for strength and speed, and smaller, nippier characters offering the reverse. The planes add another layer too, with some characters like Nights lending themselves well to swooshing around around the air. Whether you’re looking for variety or a chance to experience your favourite SEGA character in a different way, Transformed has you covered.
The tracks, meanwhile, are bursting with character and colour. From Golden Axe to Panzer Dragoon, Sonic and Super Monkey Ball, each offers land, sea and air sections themed around a SEGA franchise, with dynamic changes and plenty of short cuts and alternative routes to explore. They’re a solid bunch.
A highlight for me was the track themed around Afterburner, SEGA’s Top Gun-inspired arcade shooter. Starting off an aircraft carrier it’s not long before you soar into those azure blue skies with fighter jet tracer fire whizzing past you. It may be primarily aimed at a young audience, but Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has plenty to keep older fans engaged.
It’s in Transformed’s multiplayer that you’ll spend most of your time. To that end you can play straight-up races and Mario Kart-style arena Battles both online and in split screen. The later of which proved to be great fun despite the fact I repeatedly looked at the wrong bloody quadrant of the screen. It’s alright though, I managed to claw some ground back by knocking my opponent’s controllers out of their hands.
That’s the point of games like this, isn’t it? A few of you, gathered around a screen, laughing and winding each other up as you compete. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed promises to be a decent little party game that the whole family can enjoy. It may not be bothering any Game of the Year charts come December, but it looks like it’ll offer up some good, clean fun.
You can’t really ask much more than that.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is out on 16th November in Europe and November 20th in North America.