Alan Baxter On March - 4 - 2010

Sonic the Hedgehog is easily one of the most recognisable gaming characters in the history of the industry and is Sega’s leading money-maker, with his series of games selling over a staggering 70 million copies. Sonic’s latest offerings however haven’t been up to par on the early, and in my opinion, best games featuring the exuberant hedgehog and therefore I was concerned when Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing was released; especially after how poor Sega Superstars Tennis was. So is Sega Racing another game relying on the famous names to rake in the money, or can it rejuvenate the series and provide a quality game to play?

Sega Racing is in essence a clone of the famous Mario Kart series where fun and colourful characters race around crazily designed tracks, flying over high jumps, drifting round tight corners and collecting power-ups to use on your foes and gain an advantage in the race. The Xbox 360 is yet to see a top-class Kart racer so you can’t blame Sega for trying to capitalise on an open market, and they have done this particularly well.

So many aspects make up a good racing game, but possibly none more important than the controls and handling of the karts. Sega have nailed this aspect spot-on. Sega Racing consists of the most simplistic controls known to man, with only 3 buttons needed; right trigger to accelerate, left trigger to drift, and the A button to fire any power-ups collected. Even my mum could get used to these controls, and this makes the game accessible to all and very easily to just pick up and play for a short game session. Drifting around corners is a huge part of Sega Racing and essential if you plan on making the other characters eat your dust and win races. Holding down the left trigger as you veer round corners will send your kart into a sideways drift, allowing you to take corners without braking and slowing down considerably. As well as taking the best racing line, drifting in Sega Racing will reward you with a speed boost depending on how long you hold your drift. A vibration of your controller will signal when you have acquired a boost, with the 3 vibrations signalling you have the maximum amount of boost possible. Using this extra boost to accelerate out of corners is key to success in Sega Racing, and thankfully it’s extremely fun to do aswell due to the fantastic control system.

sonic and sega all stars racing screenshot1263516170 Sonic and SEGA All Stars Racing Review

Having fun courses to blast around is vital to the success of a racing game to ensure things stay on the right path and don’t become boring. Sega Racing contains 24 tracks with the majority consisting of exhilarating jumps, tight treacherous corners and plenty of power-ups to collect and unleash on the other racers. All the tracks in the game are based on environments found from previous Sega worlds, such as the colourful Seaside Hill tracks you’d find from the Sonic universe, Carnival Town environments that you’d expect to see in a Super Monkeyball game, or the darker and spookier tracks set around the House of the Dead mansion. You can tell a huge amount of work has been put into designing the tracks in Sega Racing. Each track has tons of shortcuts to take and you’ll often found yourself thinking “wow, that was awesome” as you get some serious airtime after a jump or see a massive Shamu whale jump over your heads, missing you by inches. Many speed boost pads can be found to give you that extra advantage, aswell as obstacles such as zombies to avoid or giant pinball slippers and poker chips trying to slow you down.

As you’d expect from the games title, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing consists of the best characters from past and present Sega games. Sonic, Dr. Eggman, Amy, Tails, Knuckles and Shadow make up the Sonic contingent of characters, and you’ll also find other characters such as Billy Hatcher, Big the Cat, Beat from the Jet Set Radio series, B.D. Joe from the awesome Crazy Taxi games, Alex Kidd, and even Ryo Hazuki from the Shenmue series. Banjo and Kazooie and being able to use your Avatar to race in are exclusive features for the Xbox 360 and provide a nice incentive to purchase an Xbox version over the PS3 offering. All in all, the game has a very solid character list, with each of the 20 characters having their own “All-star” move. An All-star move can be acquired when things aren’t going too well and you find yourself hanging towards the back of the pick. Obtained through normal pick-up items, an All-star move unleashes a powerful attack that will help your character move up the positions with pure ease whilst taking out and hindering other characters along the way. Sonic’s All-star move will have you turning into the yellow-supersonic and picking up tremendous speed as you spam the A button and pass everyone on the track, whereas Amigo’s All-star move involves using huge maracas to propel you along the track and take-out anyone who gets in your way. All-star moves are a nice addition to the game, but can be a pain when you’re on the receiving end.

Great controls – check. Fun and well designed courses – check. A good character roster – check. So what about the actual game modes? There is a good variety of game modes available in Sega Racing and these are Grand Prix, Missions, Time Trials and Single Races. Single Races and Time Trials speak for themselves and are decent additions to the game. Grand Prix mode consists of 6 tournaments to race in and win, rewarding you with a cup and an achievement if you’re successful. Each tournament has 4 races to compete in and rewards you with 10 points for a win, 8 points for second place etc… The character with the most points after the 4 races have been completed wins the cup. Grand Prix is a good concept, provides a good amount of fun and a mode pretty much cloned from Mario Kart, but this mode can be completed in under an hour and there isn’t any incentive to revisit it. Missions however are a nice twist and offer great variety compared to normal races. There are 64 “missions” in total, which are in theory tasks that need to be completed, and you obtain a ranking depending on how well you complete the mission. Completing all the goals set in the quickest time possible or in the best possible way with award you with the grade AAA. Having something to aim for whilst playing the missions adds replayability to the game due to you wanting to try again if you failed obtaining the top grade. The missions consist of tasks such as collecting as many rings as possible in a certain time limit, elimination races where you have to avoid being in last place at the end of every lap and target shooting where you must hit as many targets as possible, among other fun scenarios.

For every Race, Mission or Time Trial you complete, you’re rewarded with a certain amount of “Sega Miles” depending on how well you performed. Winning races and receiving the highest possible grades will obviously reward you with the most possible Sega Miles. You can use these Sega Miles in the shop located in the main menu of the game to unlock new tracks and characters. It’s a slight shame that all the tracks and characters aren’t accessible to you from the beginning, but unlocking the Sega Miles to obtain these features provides a nice incentive to carry on playing the game.

It all sounds great so far doesn’t it, but unfortunately Sonic Racing does have its downfalls. If you play on anything higher than Beginner mode, the A.I is absolutely brutal and you’ll endure some serious frustration. You might find yourself in pole position the whole race, only to be hit by a cheap, perfectly placed missile or an All-star move on the last lap and falling down to 5th or 6th place. You’ll have a real battle on your hands to win races on the harder game modes, but this might be a good thing for you; but for me, a game like this should be a nice-relaxing break from the more stressful worlds of Modern Warfare 2 or the Halo Universe. My other main concern with Sonic Racing is the lack of decent power-ups you can use throughout races. One of Mario Karts strong points was the amount of fun and intuitive power-ups on offer, but unfortunately Sonic Racing doesn’t quite match up in this department. You get your basic shield, missiles, homing missiles, speed boosts and timed mines, but that’s about it apart from horn, rainbow and star power-ups that confuse nearby drivers, sending them into a spin or turning the course upside down for a few seconds. The game also shipped with a jittering framerate which at times makes the game near impossible. Fortunately there is a patch to download which fixes this problem and makes the game feel ultra smooth, but if you haven’t got access to Xbox Live and therefore the patch to fix the problem, this might be something to consider and put you off buying the game. And who’s forgetting the annoying race announcer… Every family kart game has one, but fortunately he can be turned off if the happy-go-lucky voice gets on your nerves too often.

Speaking of Xbox Live, you might re-side in the games online modes to get away from the frustrating single player A.I. You can play split-screen up to 4 players with modes such as normal racing and the missions, or you can take on players across the globe in races consisting of up to 8 players. Sega have made a bold move in removing All-star moves from multiplayer game modes and this helps even out the playing field and reduces the amount of frustration in the game. Unfortunately there isn’t any sort of ranking or upgrade system to be found and therefore you’re not really rewarded for doing well, and this is disappointing. However, the game can still be great fun if you’re racing with a group of friends.

The achievements are fun to collect and present a reasonable challenge to gain the full 1000 points. Unlocking certain amounts of Sega Miles rewards you with a higher driver’s licence, and you’ll be rewarded points with every licence you unlock; a whopping 80 points for unlocking the Gold licence obtained after reaching a huge 750,000 Sega Miles which will take some time. The generic win a race, pass every mission with the best grade, race as each racer, play online etc achievements are all present. The 7 secret achievements are where things really spice up and show some imagination. An example of this is being rewarded with 15 gamerpoints for using Sonic’s All-star move to take out his arch rival Dr. Eggman and show him who’s boss! Some great thinking from Sega there.

To conclude, Sonic and SEGA All-Star Racing is a great addition to a lack-lustre Kart racing genre and should be given a chance by all racing fans, especially those smitten to the Mario Kart series as there are many similarities to be seen here. Tight controls, beautiful, colourful graphics and brilliantly designed courses combine to offer a game that can be enjoyed by all ages. A few bad points hinder the title slightly, but not enough to stop me recommending this game to all.

85% or 4.2/5 Stars

6 Responses

  1. Elliott says:

    Great review. thnx

  2. Nice one, with any luck Sega will acknowledge we review their games.

  3. Alan Baxter says:

    Is this the first Sega game we’ve reviewed then?

  4. I did Empire: Total War as well… gave it two stars though haha!

  5. James says:

    We have reviewed more than 2. Easily.

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