Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing has recently hit all major consoles and being a bunch of ‘experienced’ gamers who remember the glory days of Sega with a certain fondness, we decided to check it out!

Check out the video below, for our first impressions of the game:

After much playing of the Wii Version, Tom gives us his thoughts on the game:

I have to say, I was very excited about this one. I’d even held off buying Mario Kart in anticipation of its release and I have to say, it lived up to nearly all my expectations…

The success of this game was always going to rest on how the Karts would handle and boy, have Sumo Digital nailed the controls. What ever controller method you choose to play with (well bar the wheel…not a fan), the game delivers a sublime Karting experience, one that does indeed rival Mario Kart in the control department.

More so than Mario Kart, Sonic and Sega Racing puts an emphasis on drifting and like Sumo Digital’s previous Outrun 2, this over the top, near endless screeching around corners is immensely enjoyable. The game actually encourages you to drift by offering a speed boost based on how you stay drifting for, while this has been seen in other Kart racers, it’s far more easier to pull off in this and it becomes an integral part of the racing. So the tip here is drift to the max!

All this joyous handling would mean nothing though if the tracks weren’t expertly designed to take full advantage of the insane drifting. Well, there’s no complaints here. The tracks not only take full advantage of the drift mechanics but are also creatively designed and varied throughout. There’s about 3 tracks each for the most recognisable Sega characters represented in the game. This includes courses themed around, Billy Hatcher, Jet Set Radio, Samba De Amigo, Monkey Ball and the Curien Mansion tracks are here to represent House of the Dead, which is never mentioned by title in the game, most likely to keep the proceedings suitably family friendly. The Sonic franchise delivers a whopping 9 tracks in total.

The Sonic centric theme carries on into the racers themselves, with most of Sonic’s motly crew featured but there is also a more than generous helping of Sega ‘All-Stars’ added to the proceedings, including fan favourite ‘Ryo Hazuki’ from the ‘Shenmue’ series. The Xbox version features Banjo and Kazooie also, who are exclusive to that particular version. The Xbox version also lets you use your custom created Avatars as drivers, while the Wii version lets you use your Miis to tear up the track. The PS3 version sadly doesn’t feature any of these extra racers.

The game has a comprehensive selection of modes too, for both Single and Multi-Player.
In the Single-Player, you have 3 stages of Grand Prix cups to win, split into Beginner, Advanced and Expert difficulty settings. Easy is just that, very easy, while Advanced delivers a far more rewarding experience with racers being suitably more aggressive. Expert mode just ramps this up further and provides an enjoyable but harsh challenge.

The single-player mode also features a Mission Mode that comprises of sixty something varied challenges that provide an enjoyable alternative to the Cups and add greatly to the game’s longevity.

Multi-Player is also a suitably varied experience and while most, including myself will opt for the traditional Race option most of the time, there’s plenty of others here based around battling and collecting which are surprisingly enjoyable. The only downside to these modes is the tracks that have been designed for them. There’s not a terrible amount of variety available in the tracks on offer and they are all quite basic, but suit weapons based play well. Online play is also supported for up to 8-players but only in the traditional race mode.

So how about these weapons then? Well, bowing it’s cap to Mario Kart all the favourites from that game are included, albeit slightly altered. Taking the place of Green Shells are Green Punching Gloves, Red Shells are Homing Rockets, Banana Peels are Explosive Traffic Cones and so on. As well as these tried and tested classics the game also features some of it’s own original creations. The All-Star move, a unique move available to each character that can be used to get back into the race when stuck at the back of the pack is a welcome addition and great fun to watch in action.

In the graphics and sound department, this Wii version certainly pushes the boat out. The Graphics are bright and lively, the Racers look spot on (apart from Alex Kidd, who looks a little odd) and the tracks also look great, perfectly resembling the style and atmosphere of the game series they are based on. In the sound department you have all the familiar character voice samples and an excellent retro selection of music tracks to race to.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars is certainly the whole package, a Mario Kart Rivaling experience that delivers in nearly all areas. That’s right, as I mentioned at the beginning, it is very nearly a perfect experience but there’s a couple of slight niggles.

As I’ve already mentioned there’s 3 difficulty modes available on the Single-Player cups, Easy, Advanced and Expert. The problem here being the difficulty takes a drastic leap up from Easy to Advanced, Easy is near enough obsolete, it’s just a bit too ‘easy’, while Advanced revs everything up so much it’s quite a shock after Easy mode’s Sunday-Drive like feeling. Expert is tough but the leap up isn’t so near as drastic.

Another sore point is the uncompromising Monkey Ball tracks, which feature some very sharp turns, which are okay for the most part but cause a big problem in the Monkey Target track, which is pure evil and sadly because of this, this particular track is not much fun at all. Now I’m well aware this is only one track, but when the rest of the tracks in the game are all so well designed and fun to race on, this one sticks out badly. Another little gripe is due to the nature of these Monkey Ball tracks, you can very occasionally find your racer getting pinned in by some of the track’s scenery.

These are though, just minor niggles in a game that has very few flaws, which is very refreshing and I was relieved at how well this game turned out. I’ve been playing for 8 hours or so now and still only half way through completing everything on offer, not to mention you’ll never tire of the multi-player which supports 4 player split screen. There’s lots to unlock too, even once you’ve got all the racers and tracks there’s so much unlockable music available, you’ll keep collecting those Sega points (which can be obtained by playing any mode, even multiplayer) and unlocking content for quite some time.

While hardly original, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing nails the Kart racing genre in a way not seen since Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing on the N64, which of course owed just as much to the Karting King that is Mario Kart as this game does. Do I still want to get Mario Kart now I have this? I’m not in any rush, Sega systems and characters are part of my gaming heritage and Sega nostalgia coupled with addictive, expertly honed, kart racing action makes this game a real winner that deserves it’s place on the podium top spot!

Now if they only include Ristar in the sequel…

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