Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: SEGA Developer: Sumo Digital Genre: Racing Players: 1-8 Age Rating: 7+
Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Wii, DS
It took until 2010 for SEGA to release their own answer to Mario Kart on consoles, and I’m sure many SEGA fans had waited years and years for such a thing to happen. In fact, could Nintendo have been inspired by SEGA’s racing series with their upcoming downloadable content for Mario Kart 8, which features Nintendo characters and circuits based around games outside of the Mario universe for the very first time?
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing features iconic Sonic franchise characters such as Sonic (of course!), Tails, Shadow, Knuckles, Amy and Eggman, although it also features the likes of Alex Kidd, Ryo Hazuki, Beat, Amigo, AiAi, and Billy Hatcher. There are over 20 characters in all, mixing famous faces alongside more obscure characters. Each of the characters also have their own unique vehicles and stats, with some perhaps handling well but suffering from slower top speed, some being more well rounded, and so on.
After getting over the age old question as to why on earth Sonic the Hedgehog requires a vehicle to get around? Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing proves itself to be one of the better kart racing games. With its fun handling, weapons, colourful visuals and fancy track designs, the game certainly takes many of the things that define what a kart racer is.
With the above said, it’s really not surprising that the handling isn’t only very fun, but it’s also very intuitive. Yes, this is a game that is the very definition of pick up and play. The controls are ultra responsive, and drifting around corners rewards you with a speed boost upon exiting the boost, with more boost awarded depending on the length of time that you hold the drift. The latter is a tactic that definitely earns you wins, so it’s one that should be employed whenever possible.
The weapons are sadly mostly predictable, with things such as missiles, shields, speed boosts, mines and more. The characters do all have their own individual All-Star pick-ups though, which are most regularly found when you are struggling at the back of the pack. When you activate these All-Stars pickups, you’ll most likely find yourself in a healthier position than you were previously by the time it comes to an end. Yes, they’re basically lengthy and satisfying speed boosts, which has the likes of Sonic turning into Super Sonic, Akira getting out of his and Jackie’s car and giving it a mighty push, Ryo Hazuki riding a forklift, and so on. If only the rest of the weapons had had such imagination placed into them during the design stages, then the selection wouldn’t have been quite as predictable as what it is. A nice touch is that when you get a pick-up which allows for three time use, you can either use it individually three times or fire off three at once by holding the button down.
As predictable as the weapons are, the game is definitely designed in a way that makes it very well balanced, so that cheap victories are rare, which certainly makes it a more serious racing game than Mario Kart has ever been. Also, whenever you are hit by a weapon, you are invincible for a short while after, which means you can’t take hit after hit in quick succession. For those who dislike Mario Kart, which can feel a bit like a lottery at times, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing should hit the spot as a more serious cartoon racer.
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing has 24 tracks, of which are inspired by the likes of Sonic, Samba De Amigo, House of the Dead, Jet Set Radio, Billy Hatcher and Super Monkey Ball. Being that it’s a SEGA nostalgia trip, it’s certainly a shame that the tracks haven’t been better mixed up though, with the likes of OutRun and Virtua Fighter lacking tracks based around them. Saying that though, the tracks that are on offer are impressive enough, with tight turns, big jumps, and some even having some very helpful shortcuts to look out for. The colourful tracks based on Sonic, Super Monkey Ball and Samba De Amigo are certainly very pleasant to race through.
The game has a basic Grand Prix single player mode, of which has six cups, with each cup having four races. Then there’s the mission mode. The aforementioned mode features 64 missions for you to try your hand at, which range from simple races to drifting challenges, coin collecting, elimination races, and more. It’s a fun mode outside the main event that is the racing, and perfectionists will be striving for the triple A grade on every single mission. There’s also a Time Trial mode in which you are able to race against your best times as well as the times of others.
With no option to play Grand Prix’s, the multiplayer racing options are basic, but they certainly do the job. Being that I reviewed this game well over four years after its release, the online mode has since been abandoned, and I am yet to find a single player playing the game. With that said, there really is no point in writing anything further about it. Offline, the game can be played in split screen with up to four players and, while the racing is basic and offers few options, it is certainly a lot of fun, and there are also another number of modes. These modes range from King of the Hill, Capture the Chao, Arena, and Collect the Emeralds. The first two are basically what the names suggest, with Capture the Chao being a variation of the popular Capture the Flag mode seen in many other games. Arena is basically deathmatch, while Collect the Emeralds has you driving around, collecting Chaos Emeralds, stealing them off opponents, and earning more points depending on the amount you are carrying at any one time. All in all, it’s a pleasing multiplayer package.
The game also has the SEGA shop, which is the destination to head to in order to unlock extra content. Currency (or SEGA Miles, as the game calls it) is earned through playing the game, and you can then buy new characters, unlock tracks for use outside the single player Grand Prix mode, as well as buy music tracks.
Visually, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is bright and cheerful, and never once slowed down in the many hours that I played it. It’s bursting with familiar SEGA themes from their games on each circuit, and fans of the much loved company will feel like they have died and gone to SEGA heaven. The selection of music tracks also ensures this, with familiar music from their famous franchises playing during each race.
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is a fun, well balanced racing game that also proves to be a wonderful nostalgia trip for long-time SEGA fans, but also has enough to reel in other players. This is easily up there with Mario Kart and, in some ways, is even better than Nintendo’s famous kart racing series. A job well done for developer Sumo Digital, then.