“Why would Sonic need a car? Surely it would place him at a disadvantage?” This was my opening question upon loading up Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. “Why would a hedgehog capable of running faster than the speed of sound, hinder himself in such a way?” A discussion of this nature had arisen several times between friends of mine, none of which could come to a suitable conclusion. Mario wouldn’t tie a concrete block around his ankles in a high jump contest, so why should everyones favourite blue mammal be thwarted so blatantly? “Probably because he’s injured” was the response. That shut me up.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing was always going to be compared to the hugely successful counterpart of Mario Kart. Being a kart racer which utilises weapons and power-ups, with a stylised visual appearance, the inclusion of some beloved (and some not so loved) video games characters in a wacky and enjoyable race, it was a hard comparison to avoid.
With an array of Sega characters speeding round a beautifully colourised and nostalgic track, what’s not to love. With track names yet to be set-in-stone it’s hard to actually name any tracks, however the tracks resemble a particular character rather than a part of that individuals heritage. For example, Seaside Hill is currently the name for one of the Sonic the Hedgehog tracks. Containing references from Green Hill zone as well as Sonic Adventures and a couple of other references which you’ll struggle to suppress your love for our old friend as memories from our childhood come flushing back.
The weapons, whilst seemingly very similar in actual function to those from Nintendo’s side of the water, not only fit nicely in the real world of Sega but are well balanced and avoid that instawin gameplay that the red-hatted plumper likes to take copious amounts of. In fact, it was something that Sumo Digital were keen to get across. There is no magic race-fixing Shiny Shell, or baffling included Bullet Bill which eliminates the need for hands let alone skill; just fair, yet wacky armaments. Whether it’s a Sonic speed-boot to give you a satisfying burst of speed or a Robotnik-looking homing missile, they’re all overly stylised but suitable fair. The effect is poised delicately between frustratingly destructive and annoyingly inefficient.
With simple and tight controls, it’s not only an easy to understand racer, but provides some scope for players to really master it. Everything’s as you’d expect it to be. There are individual buttons assigned to accelerate and brake, with the left analogue stick controlling the direction. In addition to these foundation controls, the triggers act as a drift/boost button and fire button. It really is as you’d expect. With such simple to grasp controls, it treads the same ground as Mario Kart and matches it in every way. With up to four player split screen multiplayer – with four additional AI opponents, a single player campaign and online multiplayer, it has the attributes needed to make it a real contender to one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises.
Ultimately, it was great fun. At no point did frustration of bemusement even creep into either single player of multiplayer racers. Aside from the above, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is a kart racer and a damn good one at that. It was always going to have to stand up to the comparison against the juggernaut of Mario and his friends and in my eyes, the choice between the two is no longer a choice. After the over simplification of Mario Kart Wii, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is the kart racer that I’ve been longing for. So if you’ve been waiting for a high-definition, fair kart racer filled with all your favourite characters; your game may well have arrived.