Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed preview

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Whether by land, sea or air, SEGA’s most celebrated icons once again set their sights on competing for racing glory, as Sumo Digital deliver a sequel to 2010’s Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing.

Whilst the developer continues to freely discuss parallels between the game and Nintendo’s Mario Kart, its new direction seemingly draws far more similarities to that seen in Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing. It was the Nintendo 64 classic that saw players able to race as their chosen character in either kart, hovercraft or plane, yet there had never been the capability to alter such decision on a whim during the race itself.

Such an idea proves the striking centrepiece of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Sumo Digital having skilfully weaved such design within the kart racer sequel, inevitably providing the game’s most irrefutable thrill.

Through passing through periodic circular rings, the player’s vehicle is able to transform between car, boat or plane, dependent on the terrain. Whilst tracks often ensure that this occurs by design, there are numerous instances in which such choice is placed in the hands of the player themselves.

Soaring overhead in a jet plane whilst competitors are driving along below you grants one of the simplest joys the game has to offer, heightened by it’s colourful vistas and beloved franchise themed tracks. Each provide an eclectic journey through SEGA’s history, with tracks inspired by the likes of Afterburner, Panzer Dragoon, NiGHTS, Golden Axe and Jet Set Radio, amongst others.

There’s an intricate attention to detail on display at every turn, especially in regard to the transformation between vehicle types. (We still continue to marvel at that).

Careful thought has been taken with item power-ups, consideration taken to ensure that they remain balanced as to provide an even playing field. Blowfish that act as mines, a Baseball Glove that can catch enemy projectiles for you to use, Snowballs that can freeze your opponents engine, and explosive RC Cars are just a handful of the new weaponry introduced, with All-Star abilities also returning for those that are finding themselves at the back of the pack all too often.

Drifting also proves a necessity. “It works exactly like Mario Kart,” a representative told me numerous times, and that isn’t exactly inspiration to criticise either. Players are encouraged to drift around corners, allowing them to acquire minor boosts that enable you to speed ahead of your rivals.

The Wii U GamePad has been effectively utilised, Sumo Digital succeeding in making entertaining use of the console’s controller. At its core, it declutters the main screen allowing the track layout and progression to be observed, with further features continuing to expand upon this.

The player can, at any point, select a rival by simply tapping their name, opening up a camera window that enables you to directly observe how well they are performing around the course. Simillarly, a window opens whenever you fire a homing weapon, tracking them as they narrows toward their target.

Gyroscopic controls are also incorporated, the player able to choose whether they wish to use them. These work well, although sudden, jarring movements proved problematic, with success being seen with a gentler approach. By vertically lifting the Wii U GamePad the player is also able to view a rear-view mirror, useful for keeping an eye on any nearby competitors.

However, with the player mainly transfixed by the kaleidoscopic graphics on their main TV screen, it once again throws up an issue encountered by the majority of Wii U software so far – freely allowing the player to comfortably divert their attention between the Wii U GamePad and TV.

What can be easily appreciated is that Sumo Digital haven’t taken the easy route by simply adding new tracks and characters to then churn out a game not too dissimilar to its predecessor. Instead, the developer has gone above and beyond, quite literally, to craft a game that can truly be regarded as a fully-fledged sequel, and something that from what we’ve seen is proving to be very special indeed.

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