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.
Like any self-respecting game in this genre, Transformed offers many different weapons and power-ups at your disposal. For weapons, there are homing missiles, straight-firing ice balls, a hurricane, a blowfish that acts as a roadblock, a remote-controlled car that drives towards an enemy (even in water or air) and to deflect all of this, a baseball mitt that affixes to the back of your car.
Power-ups come in the form of expected turbo boost strips and a rocket-booster. Tying in with the name of the game, you can also acquire an “All-Star Mode” during the race, based on various factors such as coins picked up and maneuvers executed. While in this mode, you’ll be immune to damage, and navigating the track is made much easier. It’s not uncommon to find yourself in first place thanks to the help of this mode.
On the topic of coins, that’s another interesting mechanic introduced here. Throughout each track there will be many coins you can pick up if you’re willing to go just outside the center of the track. Coins will also appear when an enemy is hit and stopped in their tracks. Likewise, you can lose one coin at a time if you’re the one taking the hit. These coins can then be used in a slot machine before any race for the chance of a bonus that could help make it easier. Bonuses include faster recovery, more effective boosts, the ability to start off with a weapon and so forth. The coin count caps at 99, and can only be used for this purpose, so the game encourages you to use them.
In addition to straight races, Transformed offers many bonus events that helps keep things interesting. Drift races are a particular favorite of mine, where you need to be effective at drifting through corners in order to stop the clock to allow you to progress as far as possible, and likewise, turbo races follow the same general scheme. One mode I found particularly fun and challenging is “traffic”, where the track is coated with cars that are not adverse to running into you. The cleaner your drive, the further you will get.
The most challenging mode is “Time Challenge”, where you have three laps to beat a rival’s best time. You’ll need to use every shortcut and track advantage to win these, because as you’ll be racing a ghost, there is no counting on weapons to help make things easier.
That helps tie into another important aspect of the game: drifts. Drifting is extremely easy to do here; it’s a matter of holding the brake while turning your wheels in the appropriate direction. The longer you drift, the better the turbo boost after coming out of it. There are a total of four drift levels – the highest of which requires a 10 second slide – and taking full advantage of these during the race can either make or break your win.
Introducing a bit of RPG flair, those who stick with a single racer will be rewarded. The game awards character levels based on “miles” earned – miles being wins and good performance. With each racer level you unlock both stickers (to apply to your game tag for online purposes) and mods. Mods are simple tweaks of your car configuration; the idea is that at max level, that particular racer will be very well-rounded, ready to tackle any race the best way possible. A level 10 racer is no faster than a level 1 racer, however, unless their mod happens to favor that angle.
Transformed offers different online and offline modes, with Grand Prix being the main one for unlocking new tracks and racers. Each “tour” is a world comprised of multiple tracks, and at times, you’ll be presented the opportunity to take a different path if you want to do one race before another. Every event offers you the chance to win three stars; one per difficulty, and with these stars you can unlock new tracks, racers and then gates to continue onto the next tour. It’s a simple hierarchy, but fits well with the game and Sonic in general.
If by this point in the review I haven’t convinced you that this game is well-worth picking up, then I’ve clearly failed. As a last-ditch effort, I’d recommend watching the gameplay video at the start of the review which shows off 7 levels and 4 race modes. If you’re a fan of kart racing games, you’ll likely be itching towards that wallet. If you’re also a Sega fan, you’ll have purchased it before you made it to the end of this sentence. Without question, this is one of the best kart racers I’ve ever played, and totally makes up for the fairly lackluster F1 Race Stars that I took a look at a couple of months ago.
For a handful of additional screenshots, be sure to check out the next page.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed