Platforms: Xbox 360 | Playstation 3 | Vita | 3DS | Wii | Wii U (reviewed)
Developers: Sumo Digital
Sonic is pretty swift, right? Some might argue that he’s faster than any car, plane or boat, and believe that Transformed is a bit of a moot point. There’s also a contingent who reckon he can’t handle Usain Bolt over 100m. Whichever side you’re backing, All-Stars Racing Transformed is very much 'a thing', and a bloody good thing at that.
At first glance, you’d be pardoned for thinking this is a simple Mario Kart rip-off. It’s got an ensemble cast of SEGA icons sat in the drivers seat, throwing projectiles at one another around a SEGA influenced track in order to place first. It probably sounds familiar because…it is familiar.
Transformed, however, manages to reinvent the wheel (yeah, screw it, pun intended!) just a little bit. After completing a lap, you’ll drive through a blue gate which magically transforms your trusty old kart into something more sea-faring, or a little more air-friendly and death-defying. Incredibly, the handling of these vehicles all feel individual and unique and help set the framework for an exciting race-fest that serves as an excellent single or multiplayer title.
The kart is a delight to control; drifting around corners with ease, weaving in-between traffic, and responding elegantly to each track’s layout and environment. Similar in vein to Mario Kart, you can choose from an ensemble of vintage SEGA characters. From the spikey blue hedgehog to Ulala and Vyse from Skies of Arcadia.
Even Ristar shows up to wave the chequered flag.
Sumo Digital have totally gone out of their way to appease SEGA fans of yesteryear. They’ve encompassed some of the greatest games the developer/published has ever coded and honoured them in this racer.
The tracks are, mostly, brilliant, and are made all of the more relevant thanks to the transforming vehicles. You’ll still be able to feel the thrill of nose-diving, swooping and swishing in the air around an Afterburner styled-hangar, and likewise, rolling head-first down a slope akin to those featured in the mazes of Monkey Ball. These tracks aren’t just themed with familiar environments, or cheeky pop-up gifs, though. Several moments on each track will feel totally significant to the game they’re trying to recreate, including several loop the loop moments for Sonic-racing fans.
Game progress sees you take on tracks on easy, medium or hard difficulties, trying to best the competition and produce the fastest times on the tracks. It’s demanding on your patience, though, and will definitely serve as a challenge. In terms of balance, the difference between medium and difficult is a giant leap, and so if you’re going to go for it, prepare to be reduced a puddle of tears in your front room. Face the challenge, however, and you’ll have earned the right to the abundance of content the game offers so generously.
The Wii U version of the game offers some nice additional elements over its rivals. In fact, I’m inclined to say that this is the definitive version of the title. So, there’s that.
While racing in single-player, the screen on the pad works as a mini-map, showing your position in the race, how far you are from the rest of the herd and how far away they are from you. This also shows you when projectiles are incoming, and works a lot like the second screen you’ll see on Mario Kart 7 for 3DS. There’s even an option for a rear-view mirror.
Sonic Transformed on Wii U is also the only way to have 5 of you playing the game locally; with one player on the gamepad and another 4 using the TV. What’s more, all 5 of you can play together online. A pretty groundbreaking moment and a testament to the capabilities of Nintendo’s newbie.
Wii U also offers two new courses not seen in any other version, and, of course, the oft-adored ability for on-pad play while the TV is on another channel.
Unfortunately, the frame rate and loading times of the game are quite poor. The Wii U version does offer superior frame rate, but it’s still noticeably iffy when compared to the likes of Mario Kart. It certainly isn’t seamless.
What I can say is that Sonic Transformed is not only an improvement over the original game, but it’s the most relevant, interesting and entertaining kart racer since Mario first decided to get behind the wheel. For the first time ever, we’re happy to say that Sonic’s incessant need to follow Mario into every genre known to humankind has merited some truly wonderful results.
- SEGA universe lovingly recreated in racing form
- Unique spin on kart-racing that genuinely works
- Hours of entertainment for single or multiple players
- Iffy frame rate.
- One profile sign-in on Wii U
- Difficulty spike is evil
The Short Version: This one truly reminds us of SEGA's glory days, and the kart handling works really well. Frustrating frame rate, loading times and iffy difficulty curves aside, this one is definitely worth taking for a spin.