Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing

Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing Updated Hands On Preview - Super Sonic Kart or Supersonic Fart?

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To be perfectly honest, we’re very surprised that this game didn’t happen sooner. Ever since its debut on the SNES, Mario Kart has retained the crown of kart racing king through several iterations across every Nintendo console since and the only real company that would be able to rival them in terms of cast would be SEGA with their rich history of iconic franchises... and possibly Capcom.

For years developers have attempted to wheel out their own characters in a vain attempt to capitalise on the runaway success the Italian plumber and his mates have had with their inimitable brand of cartoon racing... everyone except SEGA that is. And so SEGA - presumably feeling that the time is finally right for their own entry into the kart racing genre - has enlisted the help of the ever-reliable SEGA fans at Sumo Digital to do what they did so well on SEGA Superstars Tennis. Their task? Round up a cast of stalwart SEGA characters and then shove them into a brightly coloured, uber-happy, shiny kart racing game.

During a visit to SEGA’s UK offices in London, we got to spend some considerable time with the near-finished game and can confidently report that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing isn’t the cutesy kart crash you might be expecting. Far from it in fact. Sumo has put their superlative (albeit slightly tweaked) Outrun handling model to good use in the game, placing the same emphasis on seat-of-the-pants powersliding around corners and fast, frenetic arcade action above all else.

Despite being limited to a paltry four tracks and a truncated selection of racers to choose from, there was still plenty to enjoy in the demo and enough to enable us to get a feel for how the racing works. The answer rather predictably, is that it works exactly like Mario Kart, only without the clever use of its cherished characters’ iconography.

Where Mario Kart made good use of Nintendo’s rich universe of characters, featuring Koopa Troopa shells, stars, Bullet Bills and a whole lot more besides in its set of colourful weapons, Sumo has seemingly forgot to lavish the same treatment upon Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. We expected to see rings, item monitors, perhaps a few exuberant animals jumping around – anything recognisably SEGA that harked back to its character’s roots in some way.

Instead, we found ourselves launching green boxing gloves, vision-obscuring rainbows and cartoon bombs – items we’ve never seen in past SEGA titles. At least the speed boost comes in the shape of a red sneaker and the shield is lifted straight out of the Sonic games, but we still can’t help but feel that a little more imaginative use of the numerous SEGA IPs could further enrich the experience. Still, special All-Star abilities go some way towards making up for the lack of imagination in the basic weapon set, with Shenmue’s Ryo enjoying a cool forklift truck power for instance.

The four circuits we sampled were Billy Hatcher’s Blizzard Castle stage and three circuits based upon Sonic’s Green Hill (known here as Seaside Hill) and Casino Night stages. The latter boasted twisting loops through a neon-drenched track that sees you loop the loop, be flipped upside down before hurtling along branching routes over craps tables and around corners hemmed in by those iconic red and yellow star springs from every Sonic game ever. Alternate routes spice up the competition a bit while one weapon causes the screen to invert, reversing the controls and causing massive confusion. No two races were ever the same, which we hope will be true after extended play with mates in multiplayer.

With the full game slated for February 10th, we look forward to trying out the remaining characters that were unfortunately absent from the code we were shown. Alex Kidd, Beat (from Jet Set Radio), Knuckles, Big the Cat and Banjo and Kazooie were sadly nowhere to be seen, but we did have the chance to throw Ryo, Ai-Ai, Amigo and the rest of the game’s generous roster around the bold and eye-catching courses. Incidentally, Sonic would always end up in the bottom three while Shadow would often triumph. Go figure.

Tracks based upon other SEGA properties such as House of the Dead, Super Monkey Ball, Jet Set Radio and Samba De Amigo are also promised, but were unavailable for us to check out during our demo. Here’s hoping that Sumo see fit to include more stuff from the rest of SEGA’s huge back catalogue such as Shinobi, Streets of Rage or Golden Axe (Gilius Thunderhead – the dwarf from Golden Axe – was considered as a playable character at one time), as it would be a shame to pass up such a great opportunity to exploit a rich and illustrious history of videogame icons.

For now, the jury’s still out on whether Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing will do for SEGA what Mario Kart did for Nintendo. Sumo is definitely on the right track with fun and accessible drifting and enough frenetic energy to make launching bombs at your rivals every bit as gleefully satisfying as it should be. We’d just love to see the developer dig deeper into the SEGA vault and really pack the game full of extra character, because this has real potential to be decent. But then perhaps blue skies, striking colours and bright and breezy gameplay is all you’ll really want from Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing and on that front, Sumo has already delivered.


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Game Info


US February 23, 2010
Europe February 20, 2010

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