Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (is what Mario Kart should be)
I first played Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed (which I’m now just going to call Sonic Racing Transformed for my own sanity from now on) years ago around when it first came out and was blown away. The sense of speed, the bright/colorful aesthetic, the homeage to a TON of Sega franchises really sets it apart. In my opinion Sega Racing Transformed is what Mario Kart should have evolved into years ago. Lots of different game modes, lots of variety of tracks, not limited to just Sonic inspiration, and a great focus on mechanics and making sure you’re having the most fun for entire ride.
|First Time Playing||No|
|100% Completion||No (skipped some Expert but opened all career mode)|
|Fun||10 / 10|
|Transforming||9 / 10|
|Jank||4 / 10|
Sonic Racing Transformed takes notes from Mario Kart, obviously, but I think it takes even more notes from Sega’s arcade roots (and a little from Diddy Kong Racing). The main theme of the game is transformation, this is both for the vehicles and in most cases the tracks themselves. Every character’s vehicle auto-transforms into a Car/Boat/Plane depending on the situation on the track.
It’s INCREDIBLY important to master and figure out all the ways you can boost at any given time, espeically if you want to start clearing the expert difficulty tracks. Every kind of boosting has a risk reward system with it. Ways you can boost are:
- If you accelerate a bit on each 3,2,1 before the race, you’ll get a massive starting boost. However if you mess up ANY of the timings, you lose your chain. It’s interesting because you could just do the 2,1 or just the 1 as well. But getting all 3 inputs gets you the highest boost.
- Drifting is a major mechanic and rewards charging a boost over time, all the way up to a level 3 boost. Getting the 1st level boost is easy enough (so much that you can start them on straightaways sometimes), but getting the 2-3 might take a bit more drift time than you think.
- You can get a boost on any kind of airtime by doing tricks in the air (similar to Mario Kart Wii and later games). You can chain tricks together to get more and more boost, but if you don’t land it you don’t get anything. Doing Multi-Flips and trying to get as many as you can in a jump is a lot of fun.
- Any time your vehicle transforms into another, you can get a transform boost if you do a trick while transforming. However this is a little jank because not every transform area has enough airtime to allow this to occur.
The transform mechanic reminds me a lot of Diddy Kong Racing with having land/sea/air vehicles. Granted you’ll be spending most of your time in the car/land vehicle, then air, then boats. All vehicles can drift/get boosts as well.
The boats in particluar are a little janky/unfair just because you have to deal with Wave Race-esque water physics jank. Not enough that you’ll throw the controller, but if you hit a wall or take a turn too tight, you will slow down a lot more than the other vehicles. This is sort of balanced out a bit, since a lot of the water sections in the game don’t force you to boost to get around (though you absolutely should try to on higher difficulties).
The air vehicles are super fun and control exactly how you would think. The main difference compared to the other ones (aside from flying obviously) is that you can flip/barrel roll at any time. I’ve read in the game tips that there’s a mechanic around doing a flip/roll before something hits you/you run into an obstacle can give you a boost, but I’ve never been able to pull that off. Overall I’d say the air vehicles are the easiest to control in the game.
All the stages are amazing and I don’t think there are any “bad” tracks, though I will say I really didn’t like the track based on “Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg”. The 90 degree turns didn’t always work well with the drift mechanics, and the last S-turn before the finish line kind of forces you to break which you don’t really need to in any other part of the game didn’t sit well with me. There were a few other tracks where I had ‘collision jank’ where I would be going so fast in the air that I would hit a ‘roof’ and lose speed. But then the reverse would happen where theres some parts of the map where you just clip right through the walls as if they want you to go fast.
SO I DON’T KNOW. Jank aside, all courses are very unique and have their own themes and colors schemes that everything always feels fresh and exciting. My favorite track is probably the one based on House of the Dead. Every lap (one single race) the track transforms in some way, with the last track pushing you into the wine cellar basement before turning into a boat and driving in acid pools. Really creative and fun stuff.
The “career” mode had a LOT of variety and is not just racing other carts. I didn’t even touch the Grand Prix modes until I was done the main career mode. The career is just a set of challenges where you can choose your difficulty for each event and be awarded stars. After X many stars, you can unlock new characters, different career paths, different car mods, etc. My favorite game modes were:
- Ring Mode: Fly through rings on a time limit, Superman 64 style. On paper this sounds kind of dull, but the ring path you go through is NOT the regular track layout. Instead you go through parts of the track you’ve never been before, and you get to see so much more detail. For example: in the Afterburner level, you can actually fly into the aircraft carriers before coming out again. This was a really smart idea, and I almost wish we could’ve explored the tracks like this freely.
- Traffic Attack: Weave through ‘cars’ while at high speeds to try and get through as many checkpoints as you can before time runs out. This really reminded me of playing Burnout with how you have to avoid traffic. The cars are also color coded for how they behave. Green for straight forward, Yellow for horizontal back and forth, Blue for ‘police’ cars who try and cut you off. It’s very rewarding to go really fast and weave through the track and cars at the same time.
- Sprint: Time trials against a AI ghost, though you keep doing laps until you beat them. Doing tracks this way doesn’t let you experience them ’transforming’ since your time is per lap, but this is the real hot sauce for getting good at drifting and optimizing your times, and of course memorizing the tracks with barely any distractions.
The weapons you can pick up in the game are very Mario Kart esque/nothing too special. There’s a couple of fun mechanics they added:
- Snowball: You get 3 snowballs that you can shoot forward. Not special on its own, but if you can hit someone with ALL THREE snowballs, it will freeze their car for a few seconds. This is a fun risk reward thing that I didn’t realize until like halfway through career mode
- Hot Rod: Sort of reminds me of a Golden Mushroom in that it gives you a boost for a really long time. The difference being that it also has a gauge where if you let it go too long, it knocks you down. You can also cancel it early/right before the gauge is red and produce a quick ring of fire around your vehicle, which will knock down anyone around you. More risk reward things!
- Glove: You’d think this is just a shield against other weapons, and it is, but it also CATCHES other items so you can use them yourself. It’s a little janky, like if you get hit with a Hot Rod ring of fire with the glove, it will just give you a Hot Rod item. I also don’t know what else they would do in that situation sooo… good job!
Honestly this is what Mario Kart should have turned into, a celebration of franchises with a very rewarding system around skill. The game looks incredible, so much that you can’t tell it’s a game from 2012. I played this over again on Xbox Series S through backwards compatibility and it looks like it could come out today. There’s just so many great design descisions that came with this game, and Sumo Digital had no reason to go THIS HARD THIS WELL. I’ve heard the sequel Sonic Team Racing isn’t AS good but still good, so that’s next on my list to see if I like it the same way I love this game.
So yeah please go play this if you haven’t yet.