We’ve been racking our brains recently, trying to figure out if there were any decent kart racers on the PS3 or Xbox 360 and the conclusion we’ve come to is that there aren’t any. So when Sonic vs. Sega All Star Racers was announced last year excitement was high, but now the final version is here was our enthusiasm wasted or well and truly justified?
Although this review is based around the Xbox 360 version, the differences between the two are few and far between. It’s worth mentioning though, because the 360 disc comes with a few extras: an exclusive Banjo-Kazooie racer and kart and also the ability to use your Avatar complete with their own kart. While these are not groundbreaking by any means it’s still something worth considering for those who own both consoles given everything else is roughly equal.
Now, when gamers think of Kart racers we think Mario Kart and so, it seems, did Sumo Digital. From the power-ups you pick up around the track, the bespoke karts for each character and of course the fast paced racing action, it’s all rather familiar. In this case that is almost certainly a good thing. Although this game borrows heavily from the classic franchise it does bring plenty to the genre itself including some excellent and challenging single player modes and a decent, if not groundbreaking, multiplayer mode.
Starting with the single player section, players have the opportunity to take part in a single race, a Grand Prix or try something a bit different in the game’s excellent and well designed Missions mode.
The Grand Prix obviously explains itself: here you choose your racer from one of the many characters in the wonderful world of SEGA and race your way through four SEGA-themed tracks before eventually standing on the podium with a beaming smile, or in my case cursing those sharp corners which see you spiraling off the edge of the track.
At the end of each race in the Grand Prix mode you are awarded points dependent on the position you finish the race in. The higher you finish the more chance you have of getting gold at the end of the tournament. Winning races also gains you Sega Miles, which will count towards improving your license and can also be used as currency in the game’s store to buy new characters, music (such as the brilliant Carnival) and race courses.
Of course the Grand Prix mode would be more than useless if the actual action on the track didn’t come up to scratch. Thankfully though, it does and in serious SEGA style. The beauty of Sonic and SEGA All-Star Racing is that the SEGA-themed courses are always fast-paced, challenging and very well designed. From the moment that flag goes down to start the race you will be gripped to your seat and will not move for a second.
As in Mario Kart, when you are racing around the track you will gain power-ups. The effects of these vary, allowing you to rocket your opponent, gain speed, lay traps or go All-Star. While the All-Star power-up is fairly rare, it is a good one to get since it practically has the effect of all the other power-ups put together and can make the difference between last place and a serious attempt at a podium.
As well as the power-ups you also have the ability to drift your way around the tracks, you do this by pressing the accelerate and drift buttons together (much like Sumo’s recent Outrun Arcade) with the effect being a boost to your speed should you pull this off correctly. Drifting is really well done and is absolutely crucial in the game’s later levels (and the addictive Time Trial mode).
The track design is also another important feature in any racer and again the developers have really done themselves proud here. Each of the tracks are based on popular SEGA franchises from the likes of Jet Set Radio, Samba De Amigo and of course, Sonic himself. However, no matter what track you find yourself on you will be challenged thanks to the gravity defying bends, mind boggling jumps and fast paced action. There is no doubt that Sumo Digital have pulled a diamond out the hat with the track design and gameplay in Sonic & Sega All-Stars because it works well and is a joy to play.
The Missions mode takes the fun gameplay of the Grand Prix mode and adds a unique twist, whilst also living up to its name. Here you are met with 60+ challenges to complete, most of which are locked so you will need to win a certain number of challenges before moving on. Tasks in this mode range from drifting your way around tracks, shooting at targets, knockout modes and even Cup matches which culminate in a medal at the end if successful. This mode is the main meat of the game and given the wonderful design of the tracks and the brilliant ideas included here, it works extremely well.
To their credit, Sumo Digital have also added a multiplayer mode which helps add some longevity to the game. During the multiplayer mode you can race against up to eight players online, with the host having the ability to choose the track and decide whether to allow other options such as catch up mode, weapons and so on. Playing online also allows you to earn SEGA Miles which, as mentioned earlier, helps you to improve your licence and unlock new items.
Finally, the developers have also included an offline multiplayer mode, this allows you to play in various modes such as Race, Capture and King of the Hill, in two or four player split screen. This is great for when you have friends round or would like to play with the rest of your family. This mode works extremely well, although it obviously helps if you have a large TV.
- Looks wonderful
- Fast paced and highly addictive
- 2-4 player split screen multiplayer is a rare treat
- Time trials are wonderful
- Not really original
- The framerate is inconsistent
- Lacks a variety of modes in online multiplayer
There is no doubt that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars borrows from Mario Kart heavily, however in this case that is no bad thing because this game has depth, it works well and most important of all, it’s great fun. The visuals are great, staying true to their associated franchises, the audio is superb and the classic music works a treat. The framerate’s iffy, though, but we’re hoping a patch can come through to at least lock it down to 30fps, but apart from that this is pure SEGA brilliance.