Sonic has been on a roll as of late, what with his recent re-emergence in the digital side-scroller space, to a modernising of the blue spiky icon in Sonic Generations, to of course his racing escapades in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. It’s now sequel time as Sonic rolls into racing action once more, giving his red racing trainers a well deserved break in favour of more traditional vehicles in – wait for the excruciating long game title… Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
For sake of my typing fingers, we’ll just go with Sonic Transformed. The original proved as a surprising delight for arcade racing enthusiasts, and it was no doubt a great nostalgia trip for long time Sonic fans, as well as being a joy to play for an all new generation of gamers. If Sonic’s more recent releases this generation are anything to go by, then it’s certainly safe to say that Sonic is back with a vengeance as this racing sequel looks to take the mascot racing crown from everyone’s favourite racing plumber.
Sonic Transformed takes the groundwork from the original Sega All-Stars Racing, and, as the new name suggests, transforms it into something rather refreshing for the kart racing genre. It plays like the original for the most part, with easy to get to grips with controls, drifting around corners, gaining boost, performing flips over big jumps, picking up devastating power-ups to gain the edge over the competition. It’s just now these well crafted and nostalgic tracks can transform after a few laps, with key checkpoints to speed through that literally transform your vehicle from or into; a car, boat or plane, and the handling as such changes significantly between these transformations and spices up the gameplay considerably.
If you’ve played the original, then you’ll be very familiar with how the cars handle, and have a basic understanding over the requirement of drifting around corners to earn boost. The power ups and tracks from iconic Sega inspired games are all present, the biggest change of course comes into transforming into different vehicle types throughout each race. The boats feel much heavier and dig into the water at greater speeds making turning corners feel much more tighter, where as transforming into planes feel much looser in comparison, and not only does flying give you control over left and right movements, but you can take flight by moving upwards or down as well, giving you much more freedom for dodging obstacles in your path.
The game’s Career mode consists of two main objectives, World Tour and Grand Prix that will take up most of your racing time, in addition to Time Attack and Single Race modes. The World Tour sets you on a path that deviates after specific races giving you some sense of choice to the otherwise layed out path before you, and it’s not all racing, there’s some variety mixed in to spice things up with the modes of play, although the transformations and altering tracks alone are certainly variety enough. You’re free to select an iconic character for each race and completing races gains you valuable stars which can be used to unlock more characters, including your own Xbox Avatar, as well as racing mods to alter general speed, handling etc.
Sonic Transformed’s biggest issue is the difficulty, this can be changed prior to each race, and the harder the difficulty the more stars you are rewarded for winning. These stars enable you to buy your way into further races throughout the World Tour and Grand Prix modes, the problem, and where the enjoyment factor is affected somewhat is that anything above Easy can prove a gruelling challenge. Normal is by all means doable, but may frustrate some players as re-trying is key to success as is learning the layout of the tracks, and such difficulty is not something usually associated with such a kart racer whose target audience is a younger audience. Still, there’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes with dominating and making it to the finish line by the skin of your teeth.
This Sonic racer is not only entertaining play, it’s a master-class in design and an exceptional trip down memory lane in both visual and audio delights with iconic tracks based on Sega’s own classic franchises, from not only Sonic’s universe, but the likes of Golden Axe, Jet Set Radio, their matching music as well as many others have a huge impact throughout. Not only is Sonic Transformed well detailed throughout, from the racing circuits, to the polished characters and vehicles, but the game-changers in the transformations, the water and skies above have had equal amounts of attention to detail.
Sonic Transformed features a multiplayer aspect too, from online play with matchmaking to 4-player local split-screen. The latter certainly fairs better for this kart racer as the online play suffers greatly from lag, fortunately such a kart racer benefits more from the inclusion of split-screen as a family friendly game.
The game is clearly a labour of love by Sumo Digital, and besides the sketchy online play, a horrendously cheesy voice-over throughout, Sonic Transformed is an otherwise well realised and challenging sequel that is well worthy of adding to your collection.
Score – 8.5/10 – Review by Wayne Julian