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Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (X-Box 360 Review)

Have you ever bought a game you were really excited about only to be disappointed? I’m sure we all have. Have you ever tried to convince yourself that said game is actually better than you think it is? Perhaps. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (now known as SASRT from here on) fits into both categories.

Now before you all light the torches and raise those pitchforks let’s look at the facts; SASRT is the sequel to the warmly received Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, a 2010 arcade racing game aimed at delivering a heap of fan service to SEGA fans. The game was set up in a way that relied on drifting to earn boost which would give you an edge in the races. Weapons and other items were also available to collect which also upped the stakes to a degree. While it was a fun game, all these things had been done before in Nintendo’s far more successful Mario Kart series.

So what does SASRT do to improve on this formula? Well the controls have been greatly improved and now the vehicles’ handling is much tighter and more responsive. All vehicles now have 3 transformations which allow you to drive on land, water and fly making SASRT a wonderful combination of games like Outrun 2, Hydro Thunder and After Burner Climax.

The sequel has set itself up to be quite a special little game and for the most part it succeeds. It’s also a wonderfully well presented little title and is considerably better looking than its’ predecessor. The soundtrack is also a brilliant throwback to the SEGA franchises it features, but instead of simply relying on the original tunes, SEGA have drafted in Richard Jacques to remix them all giving fans of SEGA music something exciting to look forward to.

Our only complaint with the presentation comes down to the game’s liberal use of motion blur. The motion blur effect appears to be permanently set to ‘on’ and it leaves a slight haze over the visuals which we certainly found distracting. A shame because the game really excelled otherwise.

Now I know what you’re thinking; “I thought you said this game was disappointing!” Well it definitely is, but not for the reasons listed above. SASRT is disappointing because it completely fails to give you any information regarding the strengths of certain characters and how its’ RPG-style, levelling-up mechanic works.

Each character is able to level up 5 times. Game logic would indicate that this means your character’s skills increase as you level up, but not in SASRT. Levelling up means you unlock a mod which gives you certain stat perks to give your character an edge in certain fields like boost and handling. However, it does not increase your overall stats meaning your character is no better off at level 5 than he/she is at level 1. This is never explained. We personally wasted a considerable amount of time levelling up Vyse to discover that he was not really improving at all and didn’t have that winning edge.

Why is winning so important? Because winning earns you more stars that enable you to indulge the game’s fan service by unlocking more characters. Winning is obviously essential in that regard. Unfortunately it is stupendously difficult to win with a character who is not getting any better especially in the harder difficulties which offer more rewards.

This brings us back to the characters; certain characters are better suited for certain races and missions. Danica Patrick and NiGHTS are great speed characters while Amy and MeeMee are better handling characters, but once again the game decides to completely ignore this fact and not tell you. This means you can spend an awful lot of time repeatedly losing with lesser characters and there’s nothing you can do about it. Why release a game with unbalanced characters? Why would you ever want to use the characters that can’t win if the game insists on you winning? SASRT leaves you with this frustrating dilemma which can only be overcome by wasting time trying out different characters in the same situations.

SASRT had all the elements to improve on its’ predecessor and it almost achieves this. The controls and handling are vastly improved, the transforming mechanic is a brilliant addition and the visuals and soundtrack are superb. Unfortunately, the game itself is remarkably difficult thanks to its’ extremely unbalanced character roster and lack of explanation. Sorry SASRT; we really did try to like you.


Written by Sonic Yoda on 03/01/2013


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