Game Review

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Mighty morphin power racers

SEGA may no longer be the same company that bloodied Nintendo’s nose during the glorious days of the 16-bit console wars, but it still has a keen fan base and a truly amazing legacy within the games industry. Even so, there have been numerous occasions over the past few years where it's struggled to emerge from Nintendo’s shadow, even choosing to slavishly ape the ideas of its Kyoto-based rival.

For example, Super Mario Kart was followed by Sonic Drift on the Game Gear. Mario Tennis was emulated by SEGA Superstars Tennis, and in 2010 this pattern seemed to come to a head as Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing attempted to capitalise on Mario Kart Wii’s runaway success. However, this time around SEGA’s offering - coded by super-talented UK studio Sumo Digital - seemed to offer an alternative rather than a clone. It was excellent rather than derivative, but even so, it was impossible to shake the impression that it was merely treading on ground already broken by The House That Mario Built.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing was popular enough to ensure a sequel, but this time around it would seem that SEGA and Sumo have finally been able to assert their own unique take on the racing genre. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed may have a tongue-twisting title, but it’s arguably one of the best kart-style racers we’ve played since Mario Kart Wii.

As the title suggests, the karts you pilot in this outing don’t remain in one static form; when you pass through blue gates on the course your vehicle magically morphs into either a car, boat or plane. Initially it feels like a gimmick, but when you realise that all three modes handle entirely differently and are subjected to totally contrasting physics, you realise what a master-stroke it is.

Cars handle as you might expect, but boats are at the mercy of massive waves and are generally slower than the other two forms. Planes can rise and fall as well as turn, opening up the game in a way that’s reminiscent of the race sections in Pilotwings Resort. It’s not just the modes of transportation which transform in this game, either; the courses on which you race are constantly changing from lap to lap. A good example of this is the Skies of Arcadia track, which begins as a mixture of solid ground and mid-air racing, but by the final lap is totally confined to the air as the Blue Rogues’ floating island base is pummelled to bits by hulking Valuan aerial battleships.

Drift control is at the heart of the Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed control system. Tapping the RZ trigger will activate your brake, but if you push either left or right then your vehicle will go into a slide. Like Mario Kart, the longer the drift the more powerful the boost you receive upon its conclusion; holding a drift for the full length of a corner can give you a massive burst of speed, creating a risk versus reward mechanic which encourages players to drive as creatively as possible. There are other methods of scoring boost power, too; whenever your car or boat is in mid-air, tapping the right analogue stick will spin it, charging up a stunt boost bonus when you eventually land. When you’re in plane mode, the right stick executes fast evasive manoeuvres, and pulling these off to avoid danger triggers a Risk Boost. Finding ways to link together these boosts forms a major part of the game’s addictive framework.

Graphically, the Wii U of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed maintains parity with its Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts, and offers a real visual feast. During some of the busier tracks there’s a slight drop in smoothness as the frame rate fluctuates. It never comes close to infringing on your enjoyment, but it’s noticeable all the same. Given the complexity of the courses it’s amazing Sumo Digital managed to achieve an agreeable level of performance in the first place; the ever-changing landscape and incredible designs make these some of the best circuits we’ve ever seen in this type of game.

Right from the moment you hear the opening “SEGA” chant (which was first uttered in Sonic the Hedgehog way back in 1991), you know that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is going to be packed with delicious fan-service. It doesn’t disappoint, either; Sumo clearly knows its SEGA history and has included some obscure faces among the obvious candidates of Sonic, Tails and AiAi the monkey. Vyse from the aforementioned Dreamcast/GameCube RPG Skies of Arcadia is not someone that will be instantly familiar to most casual players, while Gilius Thunderhead is a character who has been largely reduced to cameo roles since making his arcade debut in the original Golden Axe way back in 1989. There are also some oddball non-SEGA inclusions such as Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and the most successful female in the history of American open-wheel racing, Danica Patrick. While Ralph’s addition just about makes sense - SEGA characters are featured in his recent movie outing, which focuses on the world of video games - Patrick’s appearance feels jarring and utterly out-of-place. Predictably, there’s a commercial reason for this - Patrick’s car in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is based on her range of Hot Wheels toys. Mercifully, it’s the only misstep made in the character roster, and is relatively easy to ignore.

The selection of racers is sure to fill Sega fans with joy, but it’s arguably the tracks themselves which most successfully channel the spirit of past glories. The usual suspects lifted from series such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Jet Set Radio and Samba de Amigo are packed with detail and provide thrilling racing action, but die-hard Sega aficionados will positively lose their minds when playing tracks based on franchises such as Afterburner, Shinobi and Burning Rangers. The Shinobi stage in particular - with its amazing remix of the second stage music for Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Super Shinobi II in Japan) - is sure to give fans goose bumps. Now seems as good a time as any to mention the game’s superb pumping soundtrack, composed by long-time SEGA contributor Richard Jacques. It’s upbeat and incredibly infections, supplying the perfect background accompaniment to the on-screen carnage.

And carnage is a suitable word to describe many of the races in this title; the single-player Career mode (which can be played solely using the GamePad by swiping down on the touch screen to "pull" the image from the TV to the controller) mixes together traditional races with unique modes, such as Traffic Attack (where you’re dodging cars), Pursuit (no other racers, but you have to destroy a tank with missiles) and Battle Race (which gives each racer three lives and the last one standing is the winner). These fresh modes add incredible variety to the experience, but that’s not to say that the bog-standard contests are boring - far from it. Just like Mario Kart, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’s competitions require a mixture of incredible pace, accomplished drifting control and - possibly most important of all - an itchy trigger finger. The weapons on offer include heat-seeking explosive RC cars, swarms of wasps, inflatable puffer fishes and fiendish hurricanes which spin the victim 360 degrees, forcing them to temporarily drive backwards with reversed controls. The selection of items is balanced almost perfectly, with the only criticism we can level being that they don’t have two decades of familiarity behind them, like Mario Kart’s iconic shells and banana skins. This means it takes a few races before you finally understand how each weapon works and how best to deploy it.

Predictably, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed really comes to life when there’s more than one player involved. Up to five racers can participate locally, with one on the GamePad and the remaining four on a combination of Wii Remote/Nunchuks, Classic Controllers and Pro Controllers. The constantly evolving circuits, potential for slick driving and - most importantly - the plethora of weapons on offer make this title a perfect party starter; it’s also surprising how much difference it makes having five players instead of four. Online, 10 player matches are up for grabs, with the option to contest basic races or take part in more aggressive arena-based courses. Sumo’s net code seems to be pretty robust; in the races we participated in, lag wasn’t an issue, although finding a suitable number of players sadly was. This will no doubt change over the next few months as Wii U sales rise and more people come online.


It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to discover that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a top-quality product; Sumo Digital’s track record speaks for itself, and the studio was recently bolstered by an influx of staff from recently-defunct racing experts Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing, Blur) and Black Rock Studio (Split Second, Pure). The result is a game which is far more focused and entertaining than the original Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.

The game’s solo mode is surprisingly deep and varied, and if you want to level-up all of the characters and unlock all of the available mods then you’ll need to invest an awful lot of time. Add to this an equally captivating local and online multiplayer segment and you’ve got a game which could enjoy the same remarkable stamina as Mario Kart Wii, which is still a firm favourite with Nintendo fans despite being almost five years old. Sega finally has a racer which not only does justice to the company’s legacy as the creator of some of the best driving games in history, but also celebrates its eclectic and colourful history.

From the web

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User Comments (96)



BenAV said:

Sounds pretty good but still don't really want to spend my money on it when I know a Wii U Mario Kart is inevitable...



akabenjy said:

This game is one of the best kart racers I've ever played. I actually think it's better than any recent Mario Kart game and is one of the best games on the Wii U right now. I'd recommend it to anyone on the fence about it because it is so much better than I ever expected. Honestly It's up there with Diddy Kong Racing for one of my favourite Kart racers of all time.



Shiryu said:

I fell in love with the game the second I played the "After Burner" stage. I would have bought the game alone for that single theme remix. Awesome game!



akabenjy said:

@Shiryu I know I LOVE that stage. I love the music in the Golden Axe and Panzar Dragoon stages too. Oh and how trippy is the Nights stage.



chewytapeworm said:

Loved what I saw in that trailer there. Wouldn't Sonic be faster if he just ran on foot though???



akabenjy said:

@Ideal_Hero Get yourself a Pro Controller, or two, I prefer using it when I'm playing on the TV although if you use a Gamepad for multiplayer at least you won't have to use split screen.



farfromsleep said:

Definitely my next purchase for sure. The first one was my favourite kart racer yet when I played it on 360, and this looks even better.

I find Sumo's racers tend to be much more skill-focused and less down to random chance than the recent Mario Karts, making for a much more satisfying solo experience in particular. It's a lot more of a closer-run thing as far as multiplayer goes, but I think it still just about edges it for me.



Whopper744 said:

Glad I got this game. It really is enjoyable (Just don't try to play with just the Wii remote...the controls every other way is great...but they botched the Wii remote motion controls. It is almost unusable.).



Drake said:

I probably would've gotten this, but with the secret character(s) found in the game files which are likely to be in the eventual PC version I think I want to wait for that!



photofool83 said:

This game makes Mario Kart feel stale.

(And this is coming from a long-time fan of the MK series.)



akabenjy said:

@Drake Danica Patrick is in the Wii U version. Plus you get Metal Sonic fully unlocked from the start, not that I ever use him.



Auracle said:

This will be the crown jewel of my Christmas. @akabenjy, you seem to know a lot about this game. How well does the Wii wheel method work?



misswliu81 said:

sounds like sega have finally delivered a quality sonic and all stars racing game that does justice to the sega brand and its history.

well done sega!



Whopper744 said:

@True_Hero For me, and my family, I can say this is the first Kart racer that the Wii wheel method was terrible. Non of use could hardly even use it, and that's coming from people who have played games for years. I don't know why it's that bad, considfering the first game in this series on the Wii was great with the Wii Wheel controls. It's all I played with then.
Any other way though, seems to feel great. I prefer the gamepad myself.
It really is worth getting, even without the motion controls.



Lalivero said:

Hearing a lot of positive things about this game so I might pick it up; on top of that, it's only $39.99(way cheaper than the regular retail).




I'm glad this game has been given this amount of credit because its a superb Kart racer. The best non-Mario "kart style" racer there's been. Though this is faster. Even the Motion Gamepad controls are decent. Not sure I'd give it a 9 though, more like an 8 - it WILL appeal to all kinds of gamers - so maybe a 9 is in order considering the quality. I still prefer Mario Kart though - sorry



akabenjy said:

@True_Hero Sorry I haven't tried using motion controls for this game. Apparently you can but I'm not a huge fan of motion gaming. I've used the Gamepad and Pro Controller but I haven't tested out Wii Motes. I would assume that you can use the Gamepad Gyro also like with the 3DS but I haven't tried that either. I can give it a go tomorrow.



Rapadash6 said:

I was debating in my head whether or not to pick this up on launch day, and hearing of some game breaking glitches shortly there after didn't exactly give me any more confidence in it. However, between the recent patch that fixes those issues, the overall positive reviews of the title and the $40 price tag, I'd be crazy not to pick this up, especially sinse I love kart racing games.



TrickySx4 said:

I love this game. I love Mario Kart, but as a lifelong Sega fanboy... this is it. It brought back so many memories and It's a solid, fun racer to boot.



Cranky said:

Good review, I'm loving this game on the Wii U, the plane racing is kinda average and the fps drop does affect my enjoyment a bit but the rest is freaking awesome.



Knux said:

Great review! I'll likely get the Vita version. This one is a no brainier since I greatly enjoyed the original.



BossBattles said:

This game exceeds expectations, and is more proof that the gamepad is comfortable for all genres.



shonenjump86 said:

I really enjoy this game on 360. I like this game way more than Mario Kart Wii and 7. The After Burner and Shinobi stages are my favorite. The music is awesome. It sucks that there's no Streets of Rage character though.



Dogpigfish said:

With the exception of double dash, Mario kart feels stale. 7 has so many rehashes that it gets boring if you've played any of the old games. Nice to see something fresh on the horizon, will likely pick this up. One question, can I use the racing wheels?




This game can be picked up in the UK for between £25 and £30, and it's a steal! I DO prefer Mario Kart, however the earliest I expect any NEWS on MK U would be E3, with a release possibly next christmas. And that's me being SUPER optimistic! So any MK fans on the fence, this is a great game and worthy of your time!



defrb said:

After reading this review i was sure to get this game. Way to go sega. Good to see the good side of your company again.



Handy_Man said:

Out of the four Wii U games I currently own (Nintendo Land, NSMBU, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and this.) this game has got to be my favorite one. The patch that fixed the Boost Challenges was just released recently too, so there is absolutely no reason to get this version over the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions if you managed to get a Wii U.

Like @akabenjy is saying, this is probably the best kart racer since games like Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing, so if you're a fan of either of those games or like to play Mario Kart, definately give this game a shot. The eventual Mario Kart U game will have to offer a lot more than what can be found in MKWii and MK7 if it wants to top this game. It's that good!



Sun said:

I knew from the start this would be one of my choices for Wii U. It's amazing.



Sun said:

Mario Kart Wii feels chaotic and stuck, while Mario Kart 7 feels rushed and limited. I hope Nintendo works harder on Mario Kart 8, but in the meantime do yourselves a favour and buy the Sega game. It's also about novelty and variety.



bofis said:

can you do two players on one console playing online with someone else like Mario Kart allowed for?



Varia01 said:

It sounds like a close twin to Mario Kart, but no complaints. It seems like fun and maybe one of the titles I'm looking forward to. Wreck-It-Ralph seems like a nice addition. The Wreck-It-Ralph movie was AWESOME!



Rapadash6 said:

One thing I have to know before I pull the trigger on this, for those who've played with the Wii Remote/Nunchuck controls, can you shake the remote to do stunts like in Mario Kart Wii? I always felt that was more intuative than pressing the D-Pad or moving a second stick around.



bofis said:

That would be amazing, nothing on XBox Live let's you play online since only the primary controller/user has a Gold account, which is terrible. Also, does it require wiimote pluses?



Dreamcaster-X said:

@BenAV Yeah, in like 2 years. This game packs more playability into it than most games that cost $60. At $40 this game is a must-buy!!



Dreamcaster-X said:

@Luigifan141 This too has been my most played Wii U game!! The 5 player multiplayer has been a blast!!! I've said it before but this is the best kart racer in years!!! I love Mario Kart but Sega packed this game with so many unlockables and play modes that it makes the single player campaign SUPER enjoyable something that MK tends to lag on. Well done Sumo, WELL done!!!!



biggsydaboss said:

I noticed some pretty big frame rate problems when I played. Though that was before I downloaded the uber update. Has anyone else noticed that, or has the uber update sort it out, or is there any other issues in regards to Sonic ASRT that might be causing FPS drop out.



Sun said:

@ocarinadude14 This is bad, I was thinking of taking the 3DS version in case it gets same critical acclaim as the Wii U version. I am sure they have good reasons, though.
I find a bit unfair that almost everybody compares this game to Mario Kart when Super Mario Kart was the only original one and the last two Mario Kart (Wii and 3DS) are pretty poor compared to previous ones. I don't see people comparing every modern fighting game to Street Fighter II even if they all are inspired by it.



Ichiban said:

I bought this along with Zombi U this week & loving it! Im more into this than Zombi U, its just so much fun!!



TobieOBrown said:

@ReshiramZekrom (take out SPOILERS) [[SpPlOaIyLaEbRlSe]]

This game is one of the best Kart racers in recent history, although the track design is downright terrible at times. I've run in to a number of graphical and playable glitches as well, and at times they can ruin the race (invisible walls, rocketing into the air for no reason, etc.).

That said, I rented it and played for hours. It's a fun game.



SheldonRandoms said:

@ReshiramZekrom Ristar is the flag guy this time, and NiGHTS is a playable character (as the car/plane/boat), though they should have made someone like omochao be the flagman, because Ristar is way better than that.

@shonenjump86 I would have liked someone from the Streets of rage series to be represented in the game, Axel, Blaze and the gang could have been driving a police car.

@farfromsleep I thought by now everybody would have known the character roster.



HawkeyeWii said:

I heard that when you play multplayer, regardless of how many people are playing, the first player always has to play on the gamepad screen...



Oceanous said:

I'm glad to see it has a good review and a score of 9/10.
I'm waiting for the 3DS version and I can't wait.



farfromsleep said:

@SheldonRandoms I knew the character roster except for the secret xmas day character every reviewer went out of their way to avoid mentioning the actual name of. It's no biggie, but it would've been a nice surprise.



WolfRamHeart said:

Great review Damien. I wasn't planning on getting this but it sounds fantastic. The majority of the community on Miiverse seem to really enjoy it too. I will be picking it up the next chance I get.



defrb said:

So nice sega made their way to the top, i loved sega from the arcades and never bought one game from them, this will be my first sega game ever



mozie said:

Really surprised by this game, picked it up on a whim and its superb, best karting game out bar none. A huge amount of effort has gone into this,its a love letter to sega titles of old and the developers deserve credit, easiest thing would have been to simply add a few tracks/characters to the original game and release it as a sequel but they really outdone themselves with this.The courses and remixed soundtracks are truly excellent. Really hope this sells well across all platforms cause it really deserves it, the skies of arcadia stage deserves special mention. Just falls behind nintendoland as best launch title. seriously to anyone who's on the fence, pick it up!



BulbasaurusRex said:

Even the original game is a lot better for local multiplayer than Mario Kart Wii (Heck, even Double Dash and MK64 are a lot better in that regard.)



defrb said:

Played it a few days, but its a nice game for sure. Mariokart is stll my favorite. This game mix a lot of ideas from many games into one, and does a good job with that.
Real value for money and a good investment if youre into kart gaming. 8.3/10



WrongChops said:

Anyone got any insights on the controls for this game? Is motion control optional and if so, what is everyone's preferred method? I still enjoy the novelty of tilt-driving and I'm getting this game soom, so your thoughts would be appreciated.



defrb said:

motion control is optional, but not usefull in my opinion. Player 1 always play with wiiu tablet, 2nd player can choose anything. When you play together one play "on" the wiiu tablet and the other with his prefered method on the big screen. I play with the classic pro controller when i play together with my son and solo with the tablet.



bunnyking said:

this is a very slick and intensely difficult arcade racer, i dare say it's better than the last few mario kart outings in many aspects, with the exception of a weak cast of characters this game serves up a lot.

the level designs are bold and fantastic, sega was fearless in making this racer, and each vehicle style could have it's own seperate game spawning from their mechanics. 9/10 the review is dead on.



DrSlump said:

"During some of the busier tracks there’s a slight drop in smoothness as the frame rate fluctuates."
This must never happen in a racing game!! And what about fps during multiplayer game?
What a shame.



FritzFrapp said:

A very creditable and informative review.
I've found this game to be a joy to play. The true spiritual heir to Diddy Kong Racing. Races are always fair with none of the 'blue shell on the last corner' that mars Mario Kart so. It doesn't have quite the polish of Nintendo – there are a few glitches here and there, and the framerate drops a small amount occasionally, never too much though. However, the track design, music and varied gameplay are all top notch. My only real negative would be that offline multiplayer games aren't as straightforward as MK to set up due to the licences system.
A very strong contender for best kart racer ever. Beautiful, fast and truly inspired.



allav866 said:

@Banker-Style I cannot agree with that. I disliked Mario Kart Wii, but MK7 is in my opinion the best Mario Kart yet, and I'm excited for Mario Kart U. I will say, judging from the 3DS S&ASR:T Demo, that the AI is a lot tougher on hard than MK7's 150cc AI, even with their Bloopers, Lightning Bolts, and Blue Shells.



armoredghor said:

I do enjoy this game. I only have this and Nintendo land now. Its well paced with plenty of variety and great tracks. I would totally download a couple cups for $15. Great game!



macdude22 said:

@akabenjy I don't have a Wii U but I have a Wii and Mario Kart on the Wii. I picked this up for PC, absolutely amazing Kart Racer. Hands down better than how Nintendo has been phoning it in past couple of games.

Also I'm pro Sega making a top tier Kart racer for PC.



Ruthven said:

I got this for my birthday and I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m having so much fun with this game… My daughter likes playing with the real girl “Danica Patrick”.



SonicTheBluBlur said:

@photofool83 Mario Kart 7's transformation system is WEAK compared to this. Just gliding temporarily and sinking in water is NOTHING compared to the ACTUAL FLYING sequences and the boats. Seriously, Nintendo! Look at Sega for a lesson as to how to make a decent transformation system.

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