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Developer(s):  Sumo Digital
Publisher(s):    SEGA
Platforms:         Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Wii U, 3DS, PC
Release Date:  US – November 20th 2012, EU – November 16th 2012

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The following review covers the console versions of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.  The 3DS and PS Vita version of the games are due to be released during December.  We’ll have more on those versions closer to release.

Master System, Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast.  Six words that will forever be etched in my head until my dying day and many others around the world.  The games world wouldn’t be the same if it hadn’t been for some of Sega’s crazy (and stupid at times) ideas that brought games to life like no one else could.

Who else would create a game about roller blading cel-shaded graffitti artists, a dancing space station news reporter, air pirates or gyrating mexican monkeys.  Thankfully Sega did and while the companies name has been dropped for this sequel Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is very much a trip to Sega nirvana.

I could spend the whole review talking about all the little touches from the reworked music of Shinobi, the car mods that respond to Sega’s consoles or even one stage that takes everything Sega and smashes it all together in an arcade cabinet.  But alas, there is actually a kart racing game amongst all this.

The major part of Transformed that has been overhauled from the previous game is the actual racing itself.  Instead of being your average kart racer, Transformed decides to mix it up a bit with your vehicle changing mid race between a kart, boat and plane.

I have to admit that I was extremely worried going in that the boat and plane sections would handle terribly and just not be fun.  So imagine my surprise when they were just as great as the normal kart racing.  There is of course a notable handling difference between the three disciplines and it isn’t as easy to drift but that’s the nature of the beast when on the sea or in the air.

The tracks also accommodate the three variants very well.  The courses themselves will change with almost every lap, in fact it’s rare for a race to have the same lap layout all the way through.

The tracks themselves aren’t as forgiving for getting a level 3 drift as the previous game Sonic & SEGA All Star Racing.  In fact it will be very rare that you can squeeze out a level 3 drift boost, but if you can master where and when are the best places then you can give yourself a massive advantage.  It adds an extra depth to the racing line if you can master the track and discover the opportune time to utilise a level 3.

You’ll be using one or two variants on most tracks with some occasionally making use of all three.  It’s a nice way to utilise the vehicles and you’ll need to master all three disciplines to become a top racer.

But what would a track be if it wasn’t a looker?  Every single race in Transformed is full of absolutely stunning backdrops and settings that will bring a tear to Sega fans.  From the Skies of Arcadia backdrop with Air Pirates roaming about to Golden Axe and even a Burning Rangers stage.  Yes that’s right, Sega made a whole level dedicated to a Saturn game that hardly anyone played.  The level of fan service is above anything else that’s come before from any company.

The main bulk of the game is in the single player World Tour Mode.  Anyone who’s played Virtua Tennis will feel immeadiately at home as it’s very similar in it’s essence.  There are several different tours and within each tour are a multitude of challenges, ranging from races to challenges and scenarios.  There’s a myriad of different things and all are enjoyable to some degree.  Standard ring race offers the most basic of objectives but the boost and drift challenges mix things up a bit.  If your not drifting or boosting then you’ll lose time, try to keep the drift or boost going to pause the clock.  It’s an interesting challenge and in the long run will make you a better racer – an aim that most challenges in World Tour mode aim to do.

The more challenges you complete the more stars you earn.  The harder the difficulty you complete challenges at – the more stars you’ll get per challenge, in turn these stars unlock extra tour’s, races and characters.  It’s a simple and familiar system but it works and in order to unlock everything you will need a high level of skill.

This game can be quite unforgiving on some of the higher difficulty levels later on in World Tour mode.  In fact I’d hazard a guess that most people won’t be able to unlock every character but that’s what makes it great.  You can see that it takes X number of stars to unlock Gum from Jet Set Radio or Vyse from Skies of Arcadia and when you get the stars you need it makes all the effort worth it.  It’s an unlocking system that harks back to the days before trophies and achievements when gaining access to in-game content was reward enough.

Everything you do in every mode levels up not only your individual character but your personal licence level.  Every character has a range of mods for their vehicle that can affect handling, boost speed and overall balance to name just a few.  Your licence itself is customisable through stickers that you unlock for completing specific tasks like taking out two karts at once or drifting past five racers at once.  After hours of playing I still smile a little when I hear the words ‘sticker unlocked’.

The Wii U version of the game offers extra features such as a map on the GamePad while playing and being able to see any incoming weapons via the rear view on the screen.  You can also control your vehicle by tilting the GamePad itself if you feel the analogue stick just doesn’t do it for you.  Thanks to the GamePad as well the Wii U version features 5-player split-screen which you can also go online with as well as being able to play the game totally on the GamePad itself.

Now there will of course be the obvious comparisons to Mario Kart, the current king of the track.  But while Sonic & SEGA All-Star Racing severely threatened that crown – Transformed decides to run over the Mushroom Kingdom and wave it’s flag triumphantly as the king of kart racers.  The racing scene is now Sonic’s to own, your move now Nintendo.

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This is probably going to be one of the most difficult platinum/100%’s in existence.  One part in particular will kill your attempt stone dead – you need four controllers.  In an online race you and your buddies have to come 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th…ouch.

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Sonic & All Star Racing Transformed Review
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Craig is a third of Casually Addicted's origin crew and a keen lover of all things green and white. You can follow Craig on Google + and Twitter @CraigJShields.

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