The best way to describe Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is to say that it is a cross between Mario Kart and San Francisco Rush. It’s like Mario Kart because it’s a mascot racer with items to either help you or hinder your opponents but it’s also like the Rush series because of the speed of the gameplay, handling of the cars, and general arcade style of gameplay.
Transformed takes what worked with the previous Sonic Racing title – a surprisingly good game – and adds to it. The most obvious addition is the transformation of your vehicle. At several points on each track you’ll pass through a glowing ring that will transform your car into either a boat or a jet. Having every racer drive the same vehicle is appreciated; this isn’t a Diddy Kong Racing situation where every player can choose a different vehicle and take different routes. Everyone driving the same thing at the same time helps keep everyone bunched together and keeps the action exciting. Transformations don’t just apply to the vehicles either. As you race, many of the tracks change with each lap, giving the illusion that there are more tracks than there really are and giving some variety to the laps.
Not that the game needs to trick you into thinking there’s more to it. There is an absolute bevy of content to be found in Transformed. The game features 21 tracks (with another 2 of them for the Wii U version), 24 racers (including your Mii) and a variety of different modes that will ensure you get a lot of play time. Of course, you don’t start with everything unlocked but you receive new characters and tracks at a good pace so you’ll always have something new to see.
Even when it comes to gameplay, there’s always something new to see. The real meat of the game is what they call World Tour Mode, where you compete in individual events as you unlock new tracks and characters. While there’s a lot of racing events, the game does its best to mix things up and it presents a few different modes. While some modes – such as pursuit, where you chase down a tank to hit it with missiles – are a lot of fun, others (such as ring race) are a little more hit-and-miss and may take some getting used to. Of course, Grand Prix and Time Attack modes are present, and every mode is playable online.
Unlocking everything and seeing all of the content only takes around 10 hours if you win every race the first time – but you won’t. Transformed starts off easy but soon becomes quite difficult. Winning a race on Hard Mode requires some serious practice and memorization of the track to even have a hope of getting on the podium, and that’s before moving onto the unlockable (and absolutely brutal) Expert difficulty level. You can change the difficulty for every single event (and winning on higher levels allows you to unlock content quicker) which is nice because it ensures that you’ll never get hopelessly stuck on a stage that you find particularly challenging.
Graphically speaking, Transformed looks good but not great. The graphics are colorful and cartoonish, and the tracks are highly detailed but nothing ever makes you say “wow”. Every part of the presentation is perfectly serviceable and I found the frame rate to be rock solid even when the screen is loaded up with characters and power-ups (always important for a racing game).
Obviously, Sega fans are going to enjoy Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed more than anyone else. Transformed is to Sega what Super Smash Bros. is to Nintendo – a game celebrating the heritage of its creator and filled to the brim with details and history. Sumo Digital clearly had a lot of respect for Sega’s past, and seeing characters like Vyse, Nights, and Alex Kidd, and even a cameo from Ristar will fill any Sega fan with excitement and wave of nostalgia. Even the game’s unlockable stickers (similar to achievements) boast well over a hundred small snippets and references to Sega’s storied past. It’s clearly the Sega fans that are going to enjoy this the most.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is obviously not a perfect game but it doesn’t need to be. It takes everything that was great about its predecessor and adds more – more characters, more tracks, more modes. It’s a wildly fun racing game with a surprising amount of depth, and it may be just what you need if you need some kart racing and you need it now.