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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Game Review | December 5, 2012 12:25 pm
By Meta

Genre: Racing
Sub-genre: Mascot Kart Racing
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sega
Release: November 18, 2012

If you've never played a mascot racer before, here is the general idea: you get a bunch of "famous" and/or "popular" characters together, give them some wacky vehicles and tracks that relate thematically to their respective games, and let them go at it. Of course, weapons are usually added because that makes things way more fun!

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed has all of the elements that make this gaming subgenre great. There is a wide variety of characters to pick from and the weapons & tracks feel balanced against each other.


If you HAVE played a mascot racer, chances are strong that Mario Kart was among them. There have been a lot of these games ever since Mario Kart consecutively sold huge volumes for Nintendo, but the subgenre is replete with a lot of clones that lack the spark of ingenuity and fun that the original created.

Crash Team Racing was the first quality competition as it was made by the talented Naughty Dog studio and had their whole cadre of Crash Bandicoot characters. Diddy Kong Racing on the N64 reversed the trend by having new characters/mascots introduced via the racing game first to be later stars in their own games--this is where Banjo & Kazooie came from!

When Sumo Digital released Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing in 2010, I was one of the many gamers screaming, "OMFG not another stupid mascot kart clone" only to be surprised by the quality of the gameplay mechanics & dynamic range between characters, tracks and modes.

With Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sumo Digital and Sega have delivered another well-crafted game that manages to feel thoroughly engaging and fresh by combining multiple racing types in to the gameplay.

The transformation between cars, boats and aircraft is more than just a gimmick. Each character/vehicle has its own feel like the last game, and the unique properties are even more pronounced with the different racing styles and physics that come along with the transformations.

The controls are relatively simple so that morphing between vehicle modes isn't jarring, and there is even an optional flight assist toggle and you can set the Y axis to invert only in flying mode. This transforming feature adds strategy to the game because some characters may handle better on the ground or water, and the planes are always faster than any other vehicle type.


The developers take advantage of this by giving most tracks multiple routes. Instead of just learning the specific shortcuts as in past kart racers, you choose certain paths because they let you stay in the boat form longer where your character can maneuver better, or you may take a seemingly longer route from the pack because there is a transforming gate that will let you turn in to a plane before any of the other racers, granting you an advantage.

Most of the weapons have their analogs from Mario Kart if you are familiar with them. You have a few that dumbfire and some that track, then you have some that block part of the course. What makes this title so good is that it gives you the most options possible. Every weapon can be fired forward or backward depending on what effect you want, and sometimes this even changes the properties of the attack.

This game does have its version of the notorious "blue shell"--ie a weapon that specifically targets the leader--but here you have a chance to dodge. On top of this, there is much less "rubberbanding" from AI opponents. If you get a good lead, you can keep it without the AI getting artificially faster. The "All-star" items are also toned down a bit from the previous game.

The courses in this title present a nice variety both in visuals and racing styles. Most of the tracks flow very well and present the item pickups, boost pads and alternate paths well, but a few of the later tracks suffer the same flaw as Mario Kart's--they become so demanding of racing precision that any additional action from opponents and their weapons makes it impossible to stay alive, let alone maintain the lead position.


Sumo Digital gets big marks from me because they minimize the penalty for falling off the track. You will still lose a few positions in the race but you can recover via items & well-timed boosting or stunts. You don't have to worry about that one tiny mistake ruining an otherwise perfect run....

....that is until you start reaching the endgame. Unfortunately, if you want to unlock all the characters and tracks in this game, you will have to beat staff ghosts in time trials and battle 9 genocidal AIs through 4 races at a time in the Grand Prix events. On top of that, getting the most stars & highest rank in career events like drift challenge and boost racing means you will have to perform flawless laps at high speed while juggling specific goals like staying within a narrow drift lane or dodging incoming traffic.

I am not opposed to challenge in a game but requiring top-tier performance just to unlock the last few characters seems a bit out of place in a mascot racer, as these are often appreciated by gamers as "family" titles that they can play with their kids or parents. N00b babies and st00pid old farts won't be able to hang with all the transforming and weapon-splosions while also trying to maintain a drift on B ranked events, so unfortunately this title is aimed more at the "core" audience.

The best part about this game is that, excepting a few specific online modes and mini-games, almost all of the game content can be played in local splitscreen with 2-4 players. I haven't been able to fully test what all you can do online, but it is great to finally have a kart racer where everybody can help unlock stuff, rather than having to pause career progress to actually have fun with friends.

Besides the requisite Sonic and other Sega characters, you also get Ralph from the Wreck-It Ralph movie and Danica Patrick from, uh.... GoDaddy.com commercials and Nascar stuff. You can also eventually unlock your avatar character to use as a racer.



The mod system offers a great way to tune specific character/vehicles to your liking. Say you like using Knuckles but want more speed? You can unlock and equip mods to increase his acceleration at the expense of a little handling, or make his drift boost bonuses stronger but even out his top speed. Every character has 6 regular mods, 1 mod custom-tailored to whatever their "thing" is (ie Sonic = top speed), and 1 "console mod" that radically changes how they perform.

The main reason I didn't rate this a 10 is because the single-player content demands too much too soon to unlock characters and features for the multiplayer modes. The other reason is that the visuals seem to have taken a big hit for whatever reason. I am glad the developers still support splitscreen play and I realize that requires much more resources, but for whatever reason this game still looks over-lighted and low-resolution even in single-player mode.

Visuals: 7 - a step back from last time but not bad; good sense of speed
Audio: 7 - nice unobtrusive tunes, sound effects are well-mixed, tire screech is too loud
Gameplay: 10 - the transformations feel great; the risk-reward stunt/boost mechanics excel
Playtime: 9 - lots to unlock, good variety of modes, stable online community so far
Achievements: 6 - stingy; you'll have to master every track and most characters to complete
Overall: 8 - quality, inventive mascot racer; may be too hard for kiddies & pep pep
Rating: 8.0 of 10
Reviewed: Sonic Transformed
Keywords: None

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Re: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
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Very cool, nice review. I may have to pick this one up
Re: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
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sounds good, might pick it up when it's cheaper.
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