Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing

So – for those people who have been trapped under a rock without a Nintendo console for the last 20 years here’s what happens in this game.  Well, you ride a kart around a track, firing various outlandish weapons at your opponents in an attempt to get round the course first.  Oh and you can drift around corners to get a speed boost.  A bit like ‘Mario Kart’.

So, how do you review ‘Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing’ without comparing it to ‘Mario Kart’?

How can you say that the green boxing gloves aren’t the same as the green shells, that the rockets are not the same as the red shells, the sonic shoes aren’t the same as speed mushrooms and every single ‘all star’ attack isn’t the same as the chain chomp leading Baby Mario or Luigi in ‘Mario Kart: Double Dash’ (they may range from a forklift for Ryo to Morolians for Ulala – but the effect is all the same)?  Well, you can’t.

Sumo Digital obviously loves ‘Mario Kart’ in the same way that the team who made ‘Crash Team Racing’ did – it shines through every part of the gameplay and most of the design – but is that a bad thing?  Well, with no ‘Mario Kart Wii 2’ on the way, and no real other third party kart races of note since Crash’s Kart outing , then it is a welcome… what’s a polite way to stay stop-gap?

If you’re going to make a game that’s just like a game that had its first outing twenty years ago,  then some improvements have to have been made.  Well, there are a load of single player missions, similar to the ones that were in ‘Sega Superstars Tennis’ – but far less frustrating.  In order to unlock the super special bonus content, you spend points – or as they are called here ‘Sega Miles’ (a nice little nod to ‘Out Run’ – although where is my beloved Flagman!  Unless he is now the commentator).  This means that if the sole purpose of your life is to unlock Ulala – then she can be the very first bonus character you unlock, rather than having to go through hours of impossible and unentertaining ‘Sonic: Riders’ guff. Most of you will obviously want to unlock Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue but it does make me wonder. That boy, after nearly 10 years, still hasn’t caught up with the evil Lan Di to avenge the death of his father. What has he been doing all these years? Perhaps he spent all his money in the first five minutes on Gashapon toys and spent the rest of his days lifting crates with a fork lift to pay off his massive capsule collectables debt.

And for those people who found the demo off-puttingly hard – the actual game is much better – but you must drift and boost, if you don’t – expect to be at the back of the pack.  Then pick up an all star and zoom into first.  Then fall to the back of the pack again.  Then pick up an all star – and repeat until frustrated.

So – how does it play?  It plays pretty well.  It doesn’t have the attendant trickiness of some of the later ‘Mario Kart’ games – there’s no ‘Double Dash’ driver switching, there’s no flicking the Wii Remote up to get a speed boost (although there is the same ability to wheelie boost in bikes), for the most part there’s just solid karting.  The rubber band AI cheats a lot – but it always tends to keep the races close and entertaining. There are some bugs and annoyances – why is it so hard to correct yourself when you get stuck on scenery, and why is it so hard to pick up an all-star when so many of the achievements require you to do it?

There is also going to be another set of annoyances – why are the House of the Dead levels still called Curien Mansion.  Is it designed not to scare the kiddies when there are still zombies populating the levels?  And that’s another thing – seeing Samba Di Amigo destroying Zombies with a rocket while Ryo from the ‘Shenmue’ launches a giant green boxing glove at him means that the game world created here isn’t very consistent. The courses are very eye catching and and well designed. Unfortunately there are none based around ‘Space Channel 5’ but then the awesome Shibuya streets from ‘Jet Set Radio Future’ make up for it.  And while it’s nice to see some obscure characters, such as Zobio and Zobiko – who appeared in ‘House of the Dead: Ex’ a parody shooter only available in Japanese arcades (which seems a strange choice for a game studio based in Sheffield) people would probably have preferred to see characters appear from games like Golden Axe, or even palette swaps to allow you to play as Pudding or Space Michael (and where are the rumoured ‘Toe Jam and Earl’!?!)  That being said – there are some pleasant surprises (Opa Opa!) in racers, courses and music. If you consider yourself a fan of Sega – then this is a game that you need to own… which is why I own it…


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3 responses to “Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing”

  1. Danny avatar

    The only other games that come to my mind that have had more fanboy love put into them than this are the two latest Super Smash Bros. games. What makes or breaks this game is whether or not you are a SEGA fan who loves the character roster, which for me was everyone apart from that Zombio couple (do they make anyone else sing that GTAIV Zombio song in their head?).

    Good point about getting stuck in the scenery on occasion. I think this has happened to me most on the Aztec Super Monkey Ball stage. The load times are just a little bit too long too, even when it’s been installed. The final part of the last Super Monkey Ball stage is a right pain too – how do you take those corners without slowing down to a crawl?

    Still, this game has reduced me to a child-like state I haven’t been in since playing Sonic R, gawking at all the pretty colours while I weave my way around the tracks. If the DLC levels and characters add more variety then I think that this could be my favourite racer of the last two console generations!

    Sumo (I know you’re reading):
    Characters: Vyse (airship) / Segata Sanshiro (Japanese Saturn) / Claris & Eliott (NiGHTS car)
    Stages: Yokosuka (Shenmue), Forest 1 (PSO), San Francisco (Crazy Taxi)

    I can dream…

  2. Darach avatar
    Darach

    Ok, now I’m tempted.

    SEGA-fan? “Check!”

    Lacking a good online racer to share with chums now that Burnout has finally lost its lustre? “Check.”

    Need a new game along lines comparable to a new hole in the head? “Definately Check!”

    It’s gonna be hard to resist. 🙂

    And Sumo; ToeJam & Earl plz 😉
    And maybe the F-16 from Afterburner 🙂

  3. Danny avatar

    Actually, the harbour would be a much more obvious choice for a Shenmue track. You could have Tom dancing away in the background!

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