It’s hard to be a kart racer in this day and age, no matter where you go, what platform you’re on and what characters you have in the game, you’re going to get compared to Mario Kart. It’s the king of the karts, but what happened if a game came along that while it was a kart racer, it was something completely different and comparisons would be simply foolish. Then you would have Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, now try saying that really fast five times.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed once again comes from the great minds at Sumo Digital who have some great racing heritage behind them. However, none of their games in the past have had you racing in a car, boat or a plane (or some form of flying ‘thing’) before. This is the point of difference that makes Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed worth checking out.
In Diddy Kong Racing, you could control three different types of vehicles: one on the ground, one watercraft and a plane. In Mario Kart, you can go underwater now and glide but never has there been a game that allows you do to all three, in the one race with three separate types of controls. Each mode of transport is a different beat to control as well, the car is straight forward as you would expect, but hit one of the transformation rings and you’ll take to the skies and the game literally opens up, down on the road or water for those guys who missed the ring, but up in the air you’ve got to learn the new controls fast. Meanwhile if you chose the water, then you’ve got to not only battle your fellow racers but the water and everything in it.
This new Transforming gameplay also opens up the tracks to a whole lot more variety. In most of the tracks, the world will also transform and you’ll have to take a different route. The Sonic stages are the most vanilla tracks as you would expect but can get crazy later on, the favourite track we had though was the Afterburner themed ones, taking placing in the ocean and atop of Aircraft Carriers and in the skies above during a battle, it simply doesn’t get more frantic than that.
The tracks are not just filled with fan service and nostalgia though, the line up of characters is filled with Sega’s modern heroes but also some of the more forgotten and classic characters like Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, Joe Musashi from Shinobi, Nights into Dream and Space Channel characters you’ve probably never seen before and even Ralph from Wreck It Ralph makes an appearance. You’ll have to work hard to unlock all of the characters though, the selection at the start is pretty slim.
Playing through the game’s career mode isn’t just racing like some other kart racers. Transformed mixes up races, pursuit moves, battle races and more. To progress through the story, you’ll need to collect stars by completing events, the higher the difficulty the faster you will speed through the career mode. Hard mode is actually hard as well, you will likely have to attempt the event multiple times to learn the tracks and what all the weapons do. Unfortunately by the end of the game, you will have played multiple events on the same tracks over and over, a bit of a bummer.
Arcade mode is the more traditional ‘GP’ mode you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever played Mario Kart, but the game’s Time Trial mode is actually quite different from usual games. Instead of three laps to set your best time, the race is never ending and you’re immediately put up against staff ghosts. You start on an easy ghost beside you but as the laps tick over, you’ll get hard and harder ones. It’s quite refreshing and allows you to tune and focus your methods around the track without having to drop back to the menu.
For as good as the single player is, multiplayer is where the game really shines. Up to 5 players can duke it out in any mode with a multitude of controller combinations. While only one player can play with the GamePad as per usual, the the rest of the players can play with the new Wii U Pro Controller or the Wii Remote. All of the multiplayer modes, racing, battling and the mini games can all be not only played split screen but also online while playing split screen. The Wii U exclusive modes of Ninja Tag and Banana Heist are nice little additions as well. However, trying to find someone to play online was hit and miss, when the US is awake and weekends were the only times I could find someone to race and even then it wasn’t a full compliment.
Graphically the game is on par with the other console versions, not surprising given it’s a launch title. Early reports of the game’s framerate troubles are ill founded with the game maintaining a steady framerate, the vast majority of the time even when there’s a lot on screen.
As well as the game being a treat to look at, it’s also a treat to listen to. From the initial traditional Sega boot noise, to the classic tracks and remixes of those tracks it’s a total fan service. For those who like a storied history with Sega games, it will be a nostalgic trip as well.
Sumo have taken the middling kart racer and transformed it into something that’s unique and exciting in the genre. Not only have they made a good game but they’ve made a terrific Wii U version of the game. Playing by yourself will last a while and there’s endless fun with your friends both locally and around the world. Five player is so much better than just four.
One to consider, it’s a blast.