Blue shell blues?
As for that
standard arsenal, only five weapons were available to try in this demo,
but we’re assured that there will be 'many more' in the final game.
There is currently a speed boost, a homing rocket, a 'Puffer Fish' mine,
an opponent-slowing three-shot ice projectile, and a beehive. The
beehive is the equivalent of Mario Kart's blue shell, but with an
important difference. It can be avoided, praise the heavens.
fired, it zooms ahead to the front of the pack, where it creates three
bubbles of (what will likely be) bees. The graphics for it are yet to be
completed, but the concept is already in place. Unlike the accursed Blue
Shell though, you can drive around the three bubbles if you're good
enough. And refreshingly, that's true of all the weapons. Everything can
be countered if you have the skill and the right item. Which is exactly
as it should be.
While such advanced tactics mean that expert players
are likely to zoom off ahead of newcomers at first, our extended play-time revealed what seems to be a pleasingly fair degree of balance. Even when playing
against the devs - who were using all their multi-barrel-roll tricks and
mysterious, arcane 'secondary drift' throttle feathering techniques -
we still managed to keep up and even win. It's close, it's competitive
and many a race ends with a couple of tenths of a second covering the
top two or even three finishers.
We played the two tracks on
multiplayer over and over again for several hours, learning the tracks,
the intricacies of the weapons' advanced techniques, and how to do the
tricks. There are also said to be extra secrets, like special power-ups
hidden in trackside objects that you can find by blasting them. And we
got royally trounced when one dev used an ultra-secret hidden shortcut
to beat us on the Super Monkey Ball track. Meh. But when we find it, we
reserve the right to change our reaction to ‘Awesome’.
Everybody's Supersonic Transform-o-racing
with the traditional ‘fun for everyone’ philosophy of the noble kart
racer, there will be several tiers of engine class. We tried the highest
(we know what we're doing, after all), although there will be slower
tiers for the less experienced, with the suggestion of more hidden
beyond the top level if you're good enough to unlock them. Currently, all the
characters' handling attributes are the same, which we actually like,
but we're told there will eventually be some differences between them
with regard to top speed, cornering grip and even how quickly the
All-Star meter fills up.
The game is still early in development,
but if this rough and ready preview code can keep us playing for hours
(and it can), engrossed in learning its hidden depths while enjoying the
sumptuous visuals and pleasant sensation of speed, things are looking
very promising indeed. 'Easy to play and deep to learn' is the classic
Sega philosophy on show here, and developer Sumo Digital obviously love the game’s subject matter just
as much as we do.
Look out for more on this one in the coming weeks.