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Sega is a company that has its ups and downs. Although, I think that applies to Sonic more than any of their other IPs. Whether they act as a developer or publisher, Sega has brought us some good stuff. Sonic, Out Run, Streets of Rage, After Burner, and the list goes on. Sega has had quite a history and one of the games to celebrate that history is Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing which was published by them and developed by Sumo Digital. It was released for PC, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and DS in 2010. I nabbed a copy for 360 when it came out but I didn’t play it much. I forget why because I remembered it being pretty good. All-Stars Racing brings many beloved Sega franchises together including Sonic, Billy Hatcher, Jet Set Radio, Super Monkeyball, Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, and House of the Dead among some others and the console versions received exclusive DLC like additional characters.
All-Stars Racing is an arcade racing game. I played the Steam version and, unfortunately, the PC port didn’t receive much love. There is no DLC for it, there’s no apparent way to change the controls in-game, and even though it supports controllers, the button icons only reflect the keyboard controls. Luckily, the game is easy to pick up and play. You can accelerate, brake, drive in reverse, drift, and perform tricks in the air. Each character has different stats in speed, acceleration, handling, and turbo-boost. Drifting charges turbo and the longer you drift, the more boost you receive. Performing tricks also provides you a boost. One of the things I always thought was cool about this game is the ability to turn the Catch Up option on or off. From what I can tell, it affects AI rubber banding and as far as I’m concerned more racing games need this option. As you play through the game, you’ll unlock or complete Challenges which are like achievements. These do offer an incentive to keep playing and encourage you to play through all of the game modes and try different things.
Drifting and boosting is the key to winning races and to help you are Capsules on the tracks that grant you items or power-ups. Several items can be launched forwards or backwards and some come in sets of three. If you’ve played other racing games like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, a lot of these items should be familiar. You can launch Rockets, Speed Shoes grant you a boost, you can unleash bowling bombs, fire K.O. Gloves, and lay down mines. If you leave a Pocket Rainbow on the track and a racer drives into it, their view is obstructed. If you get hit by a Confusion Star, your view is flipped upside down. An Energy Shield will protect you for a brief time and you can cause nearby racers to spin out by blasting the Mega Horn. In addition to these items, each character has their own unique All-Star move which can be a big help if you’re not doing so hot.
There are three difficulty modes to select from depending on the game mode. Single player modes include Grand Prix, Single Race, Time Trials, and Missions. There’s also a Split Screen mode which supports up to four players. I was a little surprised to see that there’s no online multiplayer component. Most of the characters and courses or tracks need to be unlocked or purchased with Sega Miles and Miles are earned by basically just playing the game. You’re rewarded with Miles at the end of races, Cups, Time Trials, and missions. Not only can you purchase additional characters and tracks but also music and when starting a race, you can switch between any of the songs you’ve purchased for the track. You can view a collection of all your unlocked content and it comes complete with history on the franchises which I thought was pretty neat.
When setting up a Single Race, there’s not many options to configure which I find disappointing considering some of the race types available in the Missions mode like knockout races for example. I do like the Time Trials mode in this game because you can just keep going around the track and it’s a great way to earn Sega Miles. The goal is to set record lap times and beat the staff ghosts which isn’t hard. You can race your own ghosts and the game says you can download ghosts from other players around the world although I didn’t try it. Grand Prix is where you race for Cups and you’ll earn a good amount of Miles for winning. The Missions mode is the real standout here. There’s over sixty missions to complete, each with different objectives. You need to unlock most of them and can do so by earning A ranks or higher. Out of all the single player modes, it offers the most variety in terms of gameplay. You’ll have to compete in Cup races, rival races, knockout races, and there’s even some battles where you drive around an arena and collect items to use against a big boss character. Some missions have you collecting things like rings and emeralds, others have you driving through time gates, you’ll have to use items to attack other racers, and some missions require you to drift or boost as often as you can. I found most of the missions to be pretty easy. It wasn’t until the last ten or so that I had to retry certain missions multiple times to earn an A ranking or higher.
All-Stars Racing includes a variety of tracks from all the different franchises represented. Boost pads, jumps, and inclines are scattered around the tracks and you can utilize shortcuts. A good way to memorize a track layout or practice is in the Time Trials mode. Although, the track would need to be purchased or unlocked first. Whether you’re playing through the Missions or Grand Prix modes, the early tracks are easier to navigate than some of the later tracks. The Super Monkeyball tracks are easily the most difficult ones because of all the sharp turns and branching paths. However, once you memorize the layouts of these, they’re not so bad. You will have to avoid hazards like fire, things that push you off the track, creatures, and objects falling onto the track. You can boost through some obstacles like creatures and not spin out and if you’re ever hit during a jump, you don’t just fall down. You’re not screwed, basically. You keep going. I like that. Needless to say, I do think the game leans towards the easy side. The AI can be challenging if you don’t have the mechanics or track layout down but I never felt like the game was trying to punish me in an effort to balance things if I was doing well.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars racing is a colorful game with a good amount of environmental variety and plenty of detail. I did notice some jaggies here and there but the characters and vehicle modes look good and the animations are solid. Although, I do think Opa-Opa is too animated. Some of its animations made it seem like I wasn’t drifting when I was or drifting in the wrong direction. It threw me off a few times. As you drive around the tracks, you’ll be exposed to beautiful backdrops and creatures and mechanisms moving around in the backgrounds. There’s some nice Sega details throw in like Chao near the finish line of Seaside Hill and Nights is the flagman. On the audio side, there is a good selection of music from the different franchises. Some of the songs I like, some not so much. And I still say Amy’s song sounds like it’s from or belongs in a porno. The vehicles sound okay, the power-ups sound better, and with the volume levels set to default, the music can sometimes drown out the sound effects. There is a commentator that comments on what’s going on during the races and he’s both informative and humorous. On the technical side, I did encounter some issues. The game crashed on me a few times and every now and then the audio would just cut out.
Ultimately, I had fun with All-Stars Racing. I haven’t played all of the games from the franchises represented here but I have played some. Out of all of them, I’ve played more Sonic games than anything. Racing as BD Joe brought back some memories of my Crazy Taxi days on Dreamcast and racing around the Curien Mansion tracks made me want to fire up one of the House of the Dead games. I think some more single player game modes and/or options would have been welcome especially considering the gameplay variety in the Missions mode. The lack of an online multiplayer component and DLC in the PC version makes the console versions look pretty good. I found the Missions mode to learn towards the easy side but there is a lot of them and throw in the Grand Prix cups, Challenges, and unlockable content, and the game should keep you coming back for a little while.
I would recommend Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing to fans of arcade racing games and Sega. It’s nice love letter to Sega. I think for the time this released, it was a good alternative to Mario Kart and is very accessible. It is a bit tame but there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Definitely check it out.