The current state of kart racing games for the PC could be considered tolerable if the good ones came around more often; instead, what we’re usually given is depressing. But – here’s Sumo Digital to the rescue with Sega’s latest “All-Stars Racing”. It’s not a PC exclusive, but believe me, it’s well worth checking out.
Be it a good thing or a bad thing, no game developer is able to release a kart-racing game and not have it be compared to the ultimate classic: Mario Kart. That’s for good reason, of course, as the original title in the series did so many things right. It was colorful, featured characters we loved and tracks that were a blast to race around in. It was a perfect formula, and one that other developers have long mimicked – or at least tried to.
When Sega released Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing in 2010, some considered it to be a clone done right. It might not have strayed too far from the proven formula, but with tracks based off of popular Sega franchises, it had won the hearts of many before it even shipped. With the success of that game, developer Sumo Digital wasted no time getting back into the studio to conjure up a sequel; thus Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was born.
28 Minutes of Gameplay – 7 Races, 4 Modes
Like the original, Transformed is a game that prides itself on being able to trigger that awesome feeling of nostalgia in anyone who’s ever enjoyed a Sega franchise. It’s no surprise that a game like this would feature numerous Sonic levels, but who would have expected one based on After Burner or Panzer Dragoon? A particular favorite of mine is Nights into Dreams…, which upon first entry, had me grinning at the screen. The recreations for these levels is just masterful, and while the game can be enjoyed by anyone, those who have fond memories of select Sega franchises are sure to have their enjoyment taken to another level.
Transformed adheres to all of the definitive kart racer have-to-haves. The tracks are interesting, sometimes mind-bending and always colorful, chock-full of eye-candy. Things are kept interesting on the racer front, with characters plucked from Sega franchises that might not even have levels based on them in the game. Take B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi for example, or Ulala from Space Channel 5. PC exclusive racers include characters from SHOGUN: Total War, Football Manager and Team Fortress 2. In all, the game offers 29 different racers to choose from, although half of them will need to be unlocked through game progression.
“Transformed” in the game’s title refers both to vehicle and track mechanics. On the vehicle front, transformations can occur during the course of a race when the situation requires it, either for road, water or air. These transformations occur as you pass by a blue checkpoint, and the process is very fluid so as to not detract from the momentum of the race. While some races may focus on one vehicle type only, some are the opposite, where all three will be used. One example of this is with the After Burner level. You’ll start off driving along the top of a ship, then plunge to the water below and then soar in the air to land atop the next ship. This exact race can be seen in the video at the top of the page at around the 12 minute mark.
With the focus on three different vehicle types, I can’t help but be reminded of the classic kart racer Diddy Kong Racing for the N64, which did the same thing. The more I played Transformed, the more I found myself thinking back to that game, which might be appropriate since it was one of the best kart racers I ever played. But that being said, Transformed, as mentioned above, does do something else a bit unique: track transformations.
Imagine, for example, doing two road laps around a Sonic-inspired level, and then on the third lap, you plunge into the water on your speedboat or into the air in your plane and take an entirely different route. Not all tracks have this sort of mechanic, but the ones that do pull it off extremely well.
It’s the combination of both the track and vehicle transformations that helps make this game an absolute blast to play. While a couple of levels are carried over from the original title, some have been modified for consideration of these transformations. You might think you know a track, but out of nowhere, you’ll be seeing something entirely new.
You may be able to tell by this point that this is a game I recommend, and while it’s generally in bad form to reveal such a conclusion so early, it can’t be helped. The fact of the matter is, there isn’t just one thing that helps make this game become a winner, it’s a combination of things. Remove the nostalgic value and the transformation mechanics entirely, and it’d still be a great kart racer. So let’s talk about the other highlights, shall we?