Kart racers may seem "a dime a dozen" to some people but they're a great way to dig into a number of classic franchises and reinvigorate elements of them onto a race track while providing a new way to play with characters you've grown up with. Mario Kart's been doing this for years, and Sega's found a way to make kart racing click thanks to its Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing series.
This November, they'll be returning to the race track with Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, but this isn't just a "cookie cutter" kart racing game. Instead, it's a game that involves a deeper sense of level design and a creative way to change up how you race through each lap. That's because your vehicle isn't always just stuck being a car. As the title indicates, it transforms.
Let's look at a Samba de Amigo track that we got to try out. Through various parts of the course, you'll find your vehicle transforms depending on the condition of the track. One minute, you're behind the wheel of a four-wheeling car. The next, it'll transform into a jet ski as you ride the waters and waves that come your direction. Finally, as you were able to do long ago in Diddy Kong Racing, you can take to the air as your vehicle turns into a flying machine that the Wright Brothers would be proud of. The conditions of the track change often -- perhaps with each lap, depending on the course -- so it's best to stay on your toes and get used to how each method controls.
Fortunately, Sega and its development team at Sumo Digital have found a great gameplay set-up that makes all three methods easy to handle. With the car, you not only have the ability to use gas and brake, but also a power brake that helps you get around turns in pure drifting fashion. Water and aerial vehicles have their little tactics too, along with the ability to show off when you're in the air with a number of stunts. And of course, there are the power-ups, which provide plenty of offensive and defensive weapons, such as missiles and shields. In fact, you might even score a super transforming tool that gives you an infinite speed boost for several seconds.
For Transformed, Sega is introducing a number of new courses, inspired by classics from their own game library. Sonic the Hedgehog and Samba de Amigo-based levels will be making a return, but you'll also see stuff based on Panzer Dragoon, a long-lost Sega Saturn franchise; After Burner, Super Monkey Ball and Golden Axe. A downloadable Outrun track will also be available to those who pre-order the game -- and we highly advise doing so.
We gave the Panzer Dragoon track a spin, and were overwhelmed by how great the design was. You can tell that Sumo Digital paid painstakingly good attention to the design of those older games, as you can see it in every hanging branch and flying creature that follows you. For that matter, the Samba de Amigo track we checked out was a lot of fun too, with lots of vibrant colors, danceable music and plenty of turns to keep you on your toes. Fans will like the new direction that Sumo Digital has taken this series.
Along with split-screen and online multiplayer options, Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed will also come with a full cast of characters. True, some vehicles and players need to be unlocked, but the game's enjoyable enough that you'll have no trouble breezing through and getting them all. Some riders from the original game are back, including Sonic, Tails, and Dr. Eggman from the Hedgehog's universe; B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi; Beat from Jet Set Radio and Amigo from Samba de Amigo.
But there are plenty of new stars joining the party, including Nights and Reala from NiGHTS Into Dreams; Joe Musashi from Shinobi (in a bad-ass ninja vehicle, of course), and, as promotional tie-ins, Wreck-It Ralph from the movie of the same name, as well as real NASCAR superstar Danica Patrick, driving her signature racing vehicle. Other players have yet to be announced, though Skies of Arcadia and Golden Axe fans will be thrilled to see Vyse and Gilius Thunderhead (the dwarf), respectively.
With Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed releasing for every platform across the board (including PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS and the upcoming Wii U), it should be a great game for all ages to enjoy. Each version is packed with options that makes players feel comfortable with the platform of their choice, and both the single player and multiplayer content will keep you busy. Take the game for a test drive when it hits stores on November 20 (TBD for Wii U).