Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing came out of left field for me. Graev mentioned the game and said that we should try out the demo. Judging the game by the name, I was pretty sure that I’d be playing some flimsy attempt at making a racing game with familiar characters. Afterall, it’s Sega and I haven’t really come to expect the greatest things from Sega lately. I didn’t expect the level of quality that I saw in the demo. After a few races I was sold.
The game is very similar to Mario Kart. Up until this point there really hasn’t been a comparable title that would make me ever think about which one I like more. In many ways Sonic Racing could be ragged on for being too similar to Mario Kart, but honestly it doesn’t bother me. The recent Mario Kart title for the Wii, while a good racer, bothered me with some of the gimmicky Wii-things. Sonic Racing on the Xbox360 is the quality of Mario Kart (especially some latter versions) but in a more straight up way.
Sonic Racing has ~24 racers (just a quick count, may be inaccurate) all of which have their unique racer. Some have motorcycles, light/medium/heavy cars, and some even have a unique vehicle resembling something from their game in the form of a hovercraft or spaceship. There is a drift mechanic in the game that will feel familiar as well as aerial tricks that, when done in succession, can give a good speed boost. Each character has a unique special ability called an All-Star move that gives them a cool ability and a straight shot down the course to help them catch up — racers not doing so well have a higher chance of getting the item. The controls are very tight and top notch which makes driving any of the racers very intuitive and comfortable.
The tracks are well designed and diverse. The theme for the tracks matches some of the games represented by the cast. There are Sonic, Samba de Amigo, The House of the Dead, and Monkey Ball maps that I can recall off the top of my head totally around 24 tracks. Some of them are a bit crazy (especially the Sonic casino maps…) but all of them are fun. The Monkey Ball maps are actually quite a challenge for me and I find myself flying off the track half the time. You’re going to be challenged enough that you’ll have to pay attention and learn the maps.
Many of the racers and tracks are locked and must be unlocked by purchasing them with Sega miles. These are earned simply by playing the game. If you come in first you may earn 3-4k miles. A character can cost tens of thousands of miles and the tracks run 5-15k on average. This gives the game replayability since unlocking characters is a carrot that then rewards you and gives you another to strive for while enjoying what you just earned. Playing through the Grand Prix, Single Race, Time Trials, as well as playing with a friend split screen
The one downside is the battle maps. There are only three of them and the modes are a little disappointing. The three maps are a bit underwhelming in their design and since everyone is giving unlimited supply of boxing gloves to spam at each other, there becomes little point in going after the other weapons. The modes of king of the hill, capture the chu chu (or chao or something), collect the emeralds, and arena. Graev and I don’t bother with the battle mode and just go straight to the racing because the tracks are great and racing against hard computers is challenging and fun.
It’s a great racing game that I like more than the latest Mario Kart. It doesn’t try to add any gimmicky additions nor does it really stretch what is already a successful fast pace and crazy racer game style. Setting the other racers to easy mode makes the game enjoyable for even young kids and setting it to hard will make the adults and veterans struggle to win. It’s worth playing if you enjoy these types of games.