When I first heard of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing I feared the worst, then I opened my post last week and saw it was a copy of this and thought; oh great now I have play it. I duly started playing and I thought… actually this is rather good. Let me set something straight here, I grew up with a Sega Mega Drive before getting a Playstation and I also spent many a late night with my brother playing Dreamcast, which means I’m quite well versed when it comes to Sega although I’ve been completely disillusioned in recent years with Sonic Adventure etc… So you can imagine my delight when I fired up Sonic Racing (I’m calling it that for short from now on) and found out that it was actually good, clean nostalgic fun.
Essentially Sonic Racing is trying to be Mario Kart and whilst many have called it (justifiably) a rip off of Mario I personally felt it had more in common with Crash Team Racing. Yes the old PSOne exclusive that is available on the PSN, It has the same grippy feel and the way drift (although it doesn’t make you hop) works instantly reminded me of Naughty Dog’s overlooked classic and even Speed Freaks. But it does feature green boxing gloves instead of green shells, red missiles instead of red shells and red Sonic shoes instead of mushrooms for speed boost. There are some other weapons though, including an all-star move which, yes pretty much acts like a star in Mario Kart except that each character has their own move which they perform whilst being invincible and can’t fall off track. Robotnik will fire missiles whilst Billy Hatcher will run on a giant egg and Ryo Hazuki has his forklift truck, it’s a neat bit of personality added and really helps strugglers get back into the race.
The cast of characters is great, whilst there may be too many Sonic characters there is at least a decent supporting cast with characters from Crazy Taxi, Virtua Fighter and Samba di Amigo among many others including the Chu Chu Rocket mice! Unfortunately Sega hasn’t given the same love to the tracks and music, there some great tracks from Jet Set Radio, Samba di Amigo and Sonic but there also some lacklustre efforts particularly from Super Monkey Ball with its constant right-angled turns. It’s a shame there weren’t more game worlds used in terms of tracks as there are plenty of other Sega games that could have been used to create great tracks from such as Streets of Rage and Shinobi (it’s a shame no agreement could be made over Toe Jam and Earl).
Still the track situation is no way near as bad as the music; I liked the odd use of Sonic tunes when winning a race otherwise it’s all bad and horrible. Luckily it’s not loud and as noticeable as it could have been but some remixes of old Sega tunes would have been neat and it’s not as if there are not plenty of fan sites out there that wouldn’t relish to opportunity to supply Sega with them. Also sound-wise the commentary can be particularly grating wish cheesy lines of dialogue which are never funny intentionally, at least he can prove useful in alerting you to when your opponents might be using all-star moves and can always be turned off.
The main single player attraction is Grand Prix mode which is a series of 4 race cups but Sega have managed to get this wrong by making the only difference between the difficulty levels the AI performance. So if you want to complete everything in the game you’re playing on all the same tracks in the same formats 3 times over and yes that’s as repetitive as it sounds. Aside from this there are 60 missions that are at least more varied with challenges involving collecting items, drifting constantly or one on one racing, which are more than welcome. The trophies are also well handled as you constantly unlock them whilst playing and in most cases without even trying you will get them.
The controls are simple with literally only 4 buttons used with any of the right shoulder buttons to accelerate and of the left to drift with square to look behind and X to shoot. It’s in this simplicity that Sonic Racing manages to shine as you drift to build up boost (like any other kart racer). But it does get a little deeper pressing the drift button in the air to do tricks to boost and holding down shoot when holding triple weapons to fire them all at once. Otherwise everything is standard with gaining a boost start at 2 and the trick being to drift as much as possible to gain boost.
Lets face it, kart games are made for multi-player and Sonic Racing caters handsomely in this department. Naturally there are the online modes which are a bit slow to get into but once in they run well and if you don’t have a full 8 racers then bots are added to fill out the field so no race is empty. When things get chaotic the online lag and multi-player battling can occasionally get a little too much for the game to handle, making it uncontrollably choppy but it’s never sustained enough to be deal breaker. The good news? 4. Player. Split-screen. featuring race, battle, capture the chao (flag), grab, king of the hill and knockout modes. If you’ve been searching for a 4 player split-screen game, you’ve found it, there are tonnes of fun to be had, and you even have 4 other CPU racers joining you. The frame rate and graphical details doesn’t even deteriorate noticeably either, not that they were running that smoothly at first but it’s good to see it performing well.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is nothing original or exceptional but it does the job competently, it ticks the boxes without excelling in any area apart from 4 player split-screen. It has the bright colours and design but inconsistent frame rate and the wealth of Sega characters but terrible music. Basically if you need a 4 player game? Get it. If you absolutely are in love with Sega? Get it. If you’re none of the above and have no interest in kart racers then you can move along.
*A copy of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing was provided for review by Sega, Played to completion of Grand Prix mode and 40 mission completed. Also played online and in 4 player split-screen.
Written by: Trev
- Contributing Editor