Game Reviews

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a Frankenstein's monster of a port. It's seemingly held together in places by little more than spit and string, resembling the original on which it's based but clearly not capable of independent life on 3DS.

And yet - and yet - it somehow manages to hang in there. This is a kart racers whose technical flaws are occasionally laughable, but it's still full of excitement and brimming with nostalgic thrills.

It's an odd creation, but if you can look past its obvious material deficiencies you'll find there's plenty to enjoy within.

Blue skies

You know how kart racers work by now. In Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, a collection of your favourite characters - predominantly from Sega properties - race around themed tracks.

The driving model is straightforward: there are no gears or razor-thin racing lines to worry about. There's just accelerate, brake, left, right, perform stunt, fire weapon, and initiate drift. Oh, and up and down for when your vehicle turns into a plane.

The main hook of this latest entry in the All-Stars line is that Sonic, B.D. Joe, Beat, et al have wheeled transport that can morph into a boat or plane when you pass a glowing ring on the track. On top of dealing with the handling of whichever character you have contro you often need to adapt your driving style on the fly, depending on what surface (or lack of surface) you're driving on.

Powersliding around corners to charge up your boost, leaping off crumbling bridges as you transform into a plane, negotiating choppy waves in your floating form as you skid off the beach - it's all very dynamic, all the time.

Breaking down

But, frankly, the engine powering all this is not up to the task. The framerate is wilder than a zebra on spring break, and the load times are just a little too long for the few minutes it takes to complete each track.

The vehicle models look fine, but whenever you're hit by a projectile the accompanying animation is so basic that it's cringeworthy. Another major fault, though one that's almost funny, is that very occasionally you'll drop out of the gameworld completely and tumble through limbo until you're forced to quit out and start the race again.

The developer has attempted to reproduce the home console experience, but the 3DS simply isn't powerful enough to handle all of the terrain-deforming, the visual effects, and the speed at which you travel. The resolution is obviously lower too, making it occasionally difficult to see what's coming up next.

The online multiplayer fares better, providing a surprisingly robust experience that never once lost connection, and the match-ups I took part in seemed balanced in terms of opponent skill.

There's plenty of single-player content to see and unlock too, with a World Tour that mixes traditional racing with skill-based challenges, such as checkpoint racing to a strict timer and races with rivals on their home tracks.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is very rough around the edges, but it's still a thrilling kart racer whose vehicle transformation and changing tracks offer a tempting alternative to the 3DS's currently premier racing franchise.

Look out, Nintendo: if Sega can iron out the technical problems in its next effort, Mario Kart's dominance in the genre will be seriously under threat.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

A bit of a mess from a tech viewpoint, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed's highly evolved racing action pushes through sheer force of fun
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.