Despite bloodying Nintendo’s nose in the 16-bit wars of the early ‘90s, Sega always seems to play the role of second-fiddle to its Kyoto-based rival. Since the days of the 8-bit NES and Master System it’s been a case of Sonic vs Mario, Saturn vs N64 and Sega All-Stars Tennis vs Mario Tennis.
True to form, Sega is now taking its second attempt at the character-based racing genre (the first being the truly brilliant Sonic R on the aforementioned Sega Saturn, by the way) and it should come as no real surprise to learn that the company has looked towards Nintendo’s insanely successful Mario Kart series for inspiration.
Thankfully, with the obscenely-talented Sumo Digital in the driving seat, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing manages to avoid the pitfalls of being a pale imitation and instead succeeds in offering a perfectly viable racing alternative for Sega fans to enjoy.The star's the star
While Mario Kart is happy to stick to its title franchise for drivers, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing cherry-picks famous faces from Sega’s illustrious history.
Naturally, Sonic is present - along with cohort Tails and arch-nemesis Dr Robotnik - but there’s also Billy Hatcher (from the underrated GameCube title Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, fact fans), as well as Sega’s long-forgotten mascot Alex Kidd, who was rudely usurped when a certain blue hedgehog came along.
The gameplay is just as pleasing as the selection of drivers available and, again, cues are unashamedly taken from Mario Kart for everything - from the handling of the cars to the selection of weapons on offer.
However, multiplayer is one area where Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing lags behind its more accomplished competitor. Online play is available but it's unforgivably neutered and for the full experience you’ll need to find three friends who all own a copy of the game.
Still, while the game has clearly been created tucked right into the slipstream of Nintendo's Mario Kart series, thanks to Sega's colourful history - and Sumo Digital’s considerable programming skill - Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing ends up being less of a lazy cash-in and more of a worthy homage.