Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Xbox 360) review

Sega's latest racing game features fast multiplayer driving action, but the air and aquatic modes aren't quite as fun as they could be.
Photo of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Xbox 360)

Longtime Sega fans believed that the House That Sonic Built simply didn’t care about anyone but the Hedgehog once the company exited the hardware business. That sentiment changed (somewhat) with the 2010′s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, an enjoyable “kart” title that gathered many of Sega’s other game heroes into a driving competition. Its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, expands the roster, with new drivers including NASCAR star Danica Patrick and Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. It also adds tons of unlockables, tracks inspired by Sega games of yore, and (as the title suggests) multi-mode vehicles. It’s a fun racer that will bring a smile to the face of old-school fans, though the lack of speed in air and aquatic sections dulls the experience. I reviewed the Xbox 360  version, but the game will appear on numerous platforms, including the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Wii U.

Old School Characters and Tracks
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed features a mix of familiar SEGA faces and those plucked from long-dormant series. Besides the Sonic family (Sonic, Amy Rose, Eggman, Knuckles, Tails) there’s also Gilius Thunderhead (Golden Axe), Vyse (Skies of Arcadia), Joe Musashi (Shinobi), Ulala (Space Channel 5), Nights (Nights Into Dreams), and many more. You start with eight characters, but you can unlock more—as well as additional racing environments—as you play.

The two most interesting recent roster additions are auto-racer Danica Patrick (unlockable) and Wreck-It Ralph, the star of Disney’s upcoming animated video game flick, who is playable from the start. Each racer has his or her own strengths and weakness. Wreck-It Ralph, for example, has killer speed, but it takes him a bit of time to reach a full head of steam. Earned experience points can be applied to a racer to improve its abilities. Danica Patrick, though a very solid in-game character, feels shoehorned in; the oter characters are video game stars, so the presence of a flesh-and-blood person is odd.

The environments and tracks pull from SEGA’s rich history. One of the most striking is the After Burner-inspired track, which sees gamers race on aircraft carriers, oceans, and in the airspace directly overhead the boats as Kenny Loggins-esque pop-rock grinds in the background.

More Than Meets The Eye
The big change here is transformable vehicles that allow you to dash for the finish line across land, air, and water. Each of the wonderfully designed levels features air and aquatic stretches that demand that you take to the sky and water. Thankfully, you don’t have to actively change modes; your vehicle does so automatically when it approaches a body of water. This keeps you focused on driving and not properly timing a mode change.

Transforming vehicles is an interesting concept in theory, but the blazing sense of speed is lost when you leave the land. Air and water travel plods along until you hit one of the boost areas that give you temporary ground-like speed.

Gameplay and Other Features
The racing action is all about jockeying for position, hugging corners for boost, and keeping an eye on incoming attacks (such as ice beams that freeze you in place). When you get friends together in multiplayer contests, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed turns into heated battles.

All-Star Moves return with a brand-new mechanic that lets your racer’s All-Star bar fill faster if you race with flair, such as power sliding around corners. In addition, you can now block or evade weapons fired at you. Sega includes 10-player online multiplayer mode, as well as Grand Prix and Battle Arena modes for competitive action. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions feature four-player local co-op, but the Wii U will support five courtesy of its innovative GamePad controller.

Racing Transformed
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a racer designed to appeal to hedgehog fans as well as fans of Sega’s old school franchises—and it does so for the most part. The air and water levels’ slow the game’s speedy pace (to its detriment), but arcade racing fans should give it a whirl.

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Specifications
Genre Action Games
Platform Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U
ESRB Rating E for Everybody

Verdict
Sega's latest racing game features fast multiplayer driving action, but the air and aquatic modes aren't quite as fun as they could be.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc