Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing wasn't expected to be much. Mascot racers were once a dime a dozen, and Sonic the Hedgehog has not had the greatest racing experiences, with Sonic Drift 2, Sonic R, and Sonic Riders all failing to live up to his traditional platformers. However, the most direct Mario Kart clone, with a surprisingly wide cast of Sega characters and tracks, proved to be a charm for Sega, producing a hit that was the best answer to Mario Kart on the Xbox 360 and PS3. At E3 2012, Sega had a number of stations dedicated to the sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, to show off some very neat game twists.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed extends the definition of Sega All-Stars to include new characters, vehicles and tracks. Characters include the fan-favorite pirate Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, and there are tracks from series with no character representation, including Golden Axe and Panzer Dragoon. The tracks may be the star in this entry thanks to two major changes.
First, levels get destroyed and modified during the course of a race. The Panzer Dragoon level had one of the titular beasts flying around, wrecking parts of the track and forcing players down alternate paths, making a three-lap race feel like one long lap with checkpoints.
The game's second change is vehicular transformations. Every player's vehicle now changes into three forms: boat, car and plane. The changes are handled automatically and without any slowdown as you progress through the track. To name a particularly humorous example, B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi turns his titular taxi into a plane. (Whether the vehicle remains crazy when it is a plane is up for debate.)
Each vehicle form behaves differently from the other two forms. It is significantly harder to turn while in boat form, but the detailed wave physics produce chances to go airborne and perform tricks. When you turn into a plane, gameplay suddenly becomes 3-D, with you being able to move up and down as well as turning side-to-side. This significantly shifts the pick-up weapon balance until you switch back to driving a car.
In the demo build, there is still no equivalent to Mario Kart's infamous Blue Shell to punish people for taking the lead. So far, the item array seems to be about the same as in the original. Whether this will change or not remains to be seen.
The game looks as good as before, with the heightened destruction highlighting the graphical engine. The sound array, similarly, just feels right, with effects helping you keep track of the racing chaos around you.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed looks to be a fine way to once again turn a wide swath of Sega's long history into a fun party racer.
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