Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing – The PS3 Attitude Review
The first thing we need to address is the white elephant in the room – Mario Kart. A number of institutions have heaped praise upon Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing, only to mark it down for being in a similar vein to the plumber’s racer.
This is not something we intend to do, partly because the PS3 has never been home to a Mario Kart, but mainly because to criticise it for being similar to a multi-million selling game that is loved by all seems a bit baffling.
The first thing you will notice is that it’s a visual treat. Whilst it won’t bother God of War 3 or Uncharted 2, it definitely has a certain appeal. Tracks are bright and bold, sometimes to the point where an epilepsy warning might have been prudent – the Samba De Amigo tracks spring to mind!
This can cause a couple of frame rate issues which we found a bit mind bending, as they generally occurred on tracks with flashing lights – so you have flashing and screen juddering all happening at once. Add in Judge Jules and you would have your very own Ibiza rave – big fish little fish cardboard box (anyone under 25 won’t have a clue what that means).
The tracks are all based on games from SEGA’s back catalogue, from Sonic to Jet Set Radio. They are packed with little details and sly winks to fans that will probably be missed at first due to the frantic nature of each race – but trust us they are there.
Each track offers its own unique feel. Sonics’ levels offer wide, drift happy bends – whilst the Super Monkey Ball levels are several kinds of evil, introducing tight 90 degree bends and crisscrossing paths.
This is where one or two problems start to sneak in. The game is based around drifting, which is great when you have a decent amount of room – but falls flat on its face when you get to the aforementioned Super Monkey Ball tracks, or certain parts of the House of the Dead tracks. It goes from being smooth and free flowing, to a game of bounce the hedgehog off the wall – what a pity. Whilst this isn’t a game breaker, it can get slightly annoying when you hit a wall and slow down, then get several rockets slammed right in your nether regions.
Talking of weapons, what a poor turnout. Whilst they aren’t bad per se, they definitely lack oomph – with little visual pay off. Saying that, the loud horn weapon always evokes a little chuckle.
Thank goodness then, that the actual racing mechanic is so good. It’s a case of seconds to learn, hours to master. There’s a certain knack to drifting round a long right hander, feathering the throttle until you have maximum boost, then powering out of the bend, that never gets old. It’s a robust system that gets the balance right between allowing kids to play happily, and keeping adults hooked too. SEGA gets a big pat on the back for that one.
Each character also has a trick that they can perform in mid air – or on the ground in the case of the bikes. If you successfully pull off a trick, and land it, you will be rewarded with a short boost which can prove invaluable on the harder difficulty settings.
If you get bored of the Grand Prix mode, there are around 60 or so challenges for you to take part in. These start off fairly simple – like beating a computer opponent round a track – but the advanced challenges start to become bum clenchingly tough.
There is also a Time Trial mode allowing you to race staff ghosts and the current online leader. This is standard fare, although it does give you a chance to learn all the tracks.
The online component of the game is a good, yet sparse affair. Up to eight players can race together, and it is tremendous fun – especially against friends. You can toggle various things, such as whether to have bots, and what skill level they are at. There is no option to do an online Grand Prix though, which we missed.
There is also four player split screen, with modes like King of the Hill. In all honesty we have yet to test these out.
For those with a love of shiny things, this game is for you. Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing literally chucks trophies at you – we managed to amass thirty percent of the games trophies in one hour! Of course, some of them take a little bit more effort to get, but generally they are a breeze – almost insultingly easy.
You may have noticed that we have yet to mention the character roster. There is a good reason for this. We feel that this is where the game stands head and shoulders above other kart racers – and as such we have left the best bit until last.
There are a few filler characters like Big the Cat (sigh), but then there are awesome ones such as Ryo from Shenmue and Billy Hatcher. Throw in a couple of odd choices like Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone, and it would take the harshest of SEGA haters not to crack a smile.
Everyone is lovingly animated, with suitably crazy vehicles, and an ‘All Star’ special move which can devastate your opponents – SEGA fans will go nuts when Sonic powers up into Super Sonic and tears his way down the track.
Yes, there could have been a few more characters thrown in – but we suspect that they will appear as DLC, or in the inevitable sequel. It’s also a shame that SEGA didn’t see fit to give the PS3 an exclusive bonus, bearing in mind the Wii version can use Mii’s, and the Xbox 360 can use avatars and has Banjo and Kazooie as a playable character.
So to summarise, if you are looking for a fast, fun cartoon racer, this ticks all the boxes – and then some. In the words of Jess, Attitude Towers’ little voice of reason, aged four – it is “fun and the best game ever”.
You heard the lady, go buy it!