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Gaming Review

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed review (PS3): A nostalgic joyride

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Released on Thursday, Nov 22 2012

'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed' screenshot

© SEGA


Release Date: November 16 (Europe), November 18 (North America)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Kart racing

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is an aptly named game. Not only does its title accurately summarise the vehicular metamorphosis on offer, it also describes what the game has done for the fortunes of the racing series. This is a nostalgic drive along memory lane at a satisfyingly swift pace, with all the makings of a genuine Super Mario Kart rival.

Sumo Digital's kart racer pits a cast of characters from Sega's back catalogue against one another on land, sea and air, across courses inspired by its classic games. The developer pays apt tribute to the titles and mascots of old with some some awe-inspiring tracks.

Players will take to the skies from the deck of an aircraft carrier straight out of AfterBurner and blaze through a lava-filled version of Adder's lair from Golden Axe, but there's more on offer than retro thrills.

Images for racing sequel Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

© SEGA



Like it's predecessor Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, the game borrows much from the Mario Kart franchise.

Many of the power-ups from Nintendo's flagship racers have their equivalent here, and the land, sea and air mechanics are reminiscent of Mario Kart 7. It also offers similarly simplistic controls and user-friendly handling, making this a gameplay-rich experience.

The core idea behind Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is that each stage undergoes a radical alternation during the final lap with your vehicle transforming to accommodate this.

For instance, you might be speeding through a Village from Skies of Arcadia when the ground suddenly crumbles away, turning the driving stage into a flying level. Other tracks require alternating vehicles throughout, the AfterBurner level being a good example where all three means of transportation come into play.

Images for racing sequel Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

© SEGA



While the transformation mechanic adds plenty of spice to the experience, it's not the only noteworthy addition. There's a greater focus on drifting with this function now receiving its own dedicated button, and you'll need to take full advantage if you want to record a top time on each course.

Naturally, the planes and boats handle differently to the karts. The former feature inverted controls and call for players to exercise a steady hand when flying through a series of rings, while the latter zip across the water's surface in rhythmic fashion.

We often found it difficult to gauge what was coming up next on watery stages, which usually resulted in staying off course, but on the whole, the addition of these gameplay varieties serves to invigorate the experience.

There are a number of race types on offer, including time trial and versus modes, and a solo campaign that comprises both of these alongside traditional races. Versus races take place across timed rounds with the object being to hold a lead over your opponent when the clock runs down.

Weapons play a crucial role here since it's essential to slow down the other player or keep them at bay.


Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a very challenging game. From the intermediate difficulty upwards, you'll encounter time trials that punish you if you miss a single opportunity to boost and opponents that scarcely slip and take every opportunity to stop you in your tracks with their arsenal. Fortunately, this is offset by the kind of playability that makes each course enjoyable every time you revisit them.

An XP system has been interwoven into the game, adding some depth to a traditionally hollow genre. Players earn experience points in every race they take part in, with the game rewarding them for everything from weapons proficiency to a top-three finish.

Character-specific rewards are unlocked each time you level up, but much number crunching takes place behind the scenes. If nothing else, the XP system serves as an incentive to revisit tracks and ensure you take pole position, rather than merely qualifying for the next level.

The game fares equally well in multiplayer with both online and split-screen options available. Networked games are relatively lag-free and the gameplay-centric focus of this has seen an expansive community amass already, so you never have long to wait before jumping into a game with at least a handful of others.

'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed' screenshot

© SEGA



Four-player split-screen sacrifices some detail for speed, but it's a welcome inclusion considering so many modern racers offer online-only contests.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a fantastic-looking game. Each track is a dazzling homage to the software of yesteryear, bustling with background activity.

Jets fly overhead on the AfterBurner course, battling galleons fire at each other on the Skies of Arcadia level, and a sea of molten lava conveys you across the Golden Axe stage. Even the occasional framerate stutter does little to detract from this visual feast.

Sumo Digital has done a great job paying homage to Sega's legacy, but Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is more than a mere nostalgia fest, creating a polished racer in its own right with enough energy and playability to rival the Mario Kart series.


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