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Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is an arcade racing game and a celebration of Sega’s history. It’s fun, accessible, tame, and should appeal to Sega fans. It brought franchises like Sonic, Super Monkey Ball, The House of the Dead, and Billy Hatcher together and provided some history on each series. It was followed up by Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed which was developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sega. It was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Vita in November, 2012, PC in January, 2013, and 3DS in February, 2013. Just like its predecessor, Transformed brings together multiple Sega franchises, although not every character is part of Sega’s history. Certain systems received exclusive characters and for this review, we played the PC version.
Transformed includes multiple game modes, supports local and online multiplayer, and allows you to race as different Sega and third-party characters like Sonic, Ulala, NiGHTS, and Gilius Thunderhead among others. One of the more interesting characters is Danica Patrick and I find it odd that she’s included but a character like Billy Hatcher didn’t make the cut. Each character has different stats that can be changed once the character reaches the appropriate level. Whenever you use a character, he or she will earn experience and when they level up, a mod is unlocked for that character which can be selected to change the character’s stats. You can decide on any unlocked mod before starting a race. Many of the characters do need to be unlocked which can be done by playing through the World Tour mode. You can accelerate, brake, and drift and just like in the previous game, drifting charges up a boost. Performing tricks in the air also grants you a boost and the more tricks you can perform before you land, the better the boost. As the name implies, vehicles can transform during races and it does make the races more interesting. If you drive through a transformation gate, your vehicle will transform into a boat or aircraft. You can’t avoid the transformations and sometimes you’ll have to transform only for certain portions of a track, sometimes the second and/or third lap will require a transformation, and some tracks, themselves, will even transform during certain laps to accommodate the different modes of transportation. As you play the game and complete various tasks, you’ll unlock stickers that can be applied to your license. The stickers are basically achievements.
The AI is definitely more challenging this time around and there are multiple difficulty modes to select from. Rubber-banding is present and sometimes very noticeable. Like when you boost and notice AI opponents speed up. On the higher difficulties, you’ll want to have the mechanics mastered and the tracks memorized. To aid you are capsules on the tracks that provide you weapons or power-ups when you drive into them and you can store two of them in your inventory and switch between them on-the-fly during races. You can launch some items forwards or backwards. You can slow opponents down with ice, cause them to crash with a firework, drone, or blowfish, and defend yourself and steal items with a glove. If you get hit by a Twister, left and right is reversed for a brief time. When you unleash the Swarm power-up, a swarm of wasps will litter the track and opponents will wipe out if they crash into any but they can be evaded. Then there’s the hot rod power-up which can provide big boost and if you don’t detonate it, it will backfire. Once detonated, a ring of fire is unleashed around your vehicle which is great if you want to slow down nearby opponents. Each character does have their own unique All-Star move which gives them a significant advantage for a brief time. Every now and then, you’ll come across Golden Capsules which will provide super-pickups when broken. These are just more powerful variants. The races can be challenging and the AI can use power-ups just like you. Sometimes you’ll be the target of a series of attacks or you’ll be the victim of what I’m assuming are bugs. We would sometimes slow down during a race at random. We didn’t fail a stunt, crash, or get hit by anything. We would just slow down for some reason. It’s weird.
The World Tour mode is where you unlock a good chunk of content like characters, tracks, and an additional difficulty. It can be played with others so Jeremy, Matt, and I teamed up to play through it. There are multiple tours, each consisting of multiple events, and additional tours and events are unlocked by earning stars. You earn stars by completing events and the difficulty you select determines how many stars you can earn. As you progress through each tour, you’ll unlock more tracks, and you’ll also come across locked characters and mods that can be unlocked by earning the appropriate amount of stars. The events are varied to keep the gameplay interesting. You’ll participate in races, drift challenges, there’s a pursuit event where you have to take down a tank, ring races require you to race through all the rings before time runs out, and versus races have you outrunning one or multiple opponents in succession. During battle races, you have lives and must survive the race or defeat all of your opponents. Then there’s traffic attack where you race through all of the checkpoints before time runs out while trying to avoid traffic vehicles. Some of the events are more enjoyable than others but the variety is nice and the fact that you can play through the World Tour with friends is a big plus. Furthermore, the unlockable content is a great incentive to keep going and the multiple difficulty modes ensure the World Tour has plenty of replay value. It does get more challenging the further you progress, and to unlock more content, you’ll need more stars and will eventually have to increase the difficulty.
In addition to the World Tour is the Grand Prix, Time Attack, and Single Race modes. Unfortunately, you can’t customize a single race in any way. In Grand Prix, you race for cups. Most of the Cups need to be unlocked and each Grand Prix consists of multiple tracks. You earn points based on your finishing position on each track and the racer with the most points at the end wins the cup. In Time Attack, the goal is to set record lap times and beat ghost opponents. You can level up characters in these modes which is nice and in certain modes, you’ll have the opportunity to win a bonus from the slot machine before races. Scattered along the tracks are tokens (which are also dropped by racers when they’re hit) and these tokens are for the slot machines. You can win bonuses like starting an event with a boost or a specific power-up. Slot machines are also in the World Tour mode but you have to unlock them.
Some of the tracks from the previous game are present in Transformed but most are new and you can unlock mirrored versions of them. The tracks are from different Sega franchises like Sonic, OutRun, Shinobi, Golden Axe, Burning Rangers, and more. You’ll drive off jumps, utilize boost pads for extra speed, and you can take shortcuts to trim down time. You’ll have to avoid all kinds of different hazards like various creatures that will slow you down, giant objects that can crush you, lasers, and other dangers. Most of the tracks are well designed and none of them are like the Super Monkeyball tracks in the previous game. However, tracks will often have multiple paths and some of the harder ones include multiple sharp turns and opportunities to drive off the edge so you’ll want to have the mechanics down. Winning is all about boosting. Drift boosting and performing stunts is the key. Failing stunts will result in no boost so it’s kind of like a risk versus reward system.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a very colorful game with a lot of nice details. Some of the character models look plastic but the vehicle models look good and the tracks look gorgeous. From the fiery lava in Adder’s Lair to the trippy areas in Dream Valley, all of the tracks are diverse. In the Rogue’s Landing track, you’ll see ships flying around and all kinds of action the background. It’s pretty cool. When playing in split-screen on certain tracks, it can sometimes be hard to make out what’s up ahead so the bigger the screen, the better. The soundtrack is full of tunes from the various Sega franchises and the sound effects are excellent overall. You’ll hear the characters shout lines during races, some of which are humorous, but sadly, the commentator from the previous game is absent. Instead, you get to hear some guy yell stuff when major things happen during races. The power-ups sound great and successfully attacking an opponent sounds satisfying. On the technical side, we did encounter some frame rate dips and stutters when playing in split-screen but other than that, no major issues.
We had a great time with Transformed. This is a sequel done right. From the power-ups to the tracks, everything is better or improved. There’s a good amount of content to unlock, plenty of replay value, and the vehicle transformations add a neat dynamic to the races. The tracks are well crafted, unique, and do a good job at representing their respective franchises. Furthermore, tracks that change depending on the vehicle transformation keep things interesting. Being able to play through the World Tour with other players is a great way to experience the mode and, overall, the game is a nice love letter to Sega.
I would absolutely recommend Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed to anyone that enjoys arcade racing games. It’s fun, action-packed, and blows its predecessor out of the water in so many ways. It’s an amazing sequel. Definitely check it out.