Sonic hasn’t been in as many spin-off titles as his Nintendo counterpart Mario, but even if he is the fastest cartoon mammal on the planet, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hop into a suped up racer and take a few laps around a track. In Sonic & All Stars Racing: Transformed, Sonic returns to the race track with some other familiar Sega brand faces and blazes through recognizable locations in transforming vehicles.
In Transformed, the majority of the tracks include sections where the road drops off into water or launches you high into the air. Normally, falling into bottomless pits or trying to drive through water wouldn’t get you far in a racer, but your character’s car transforms to adapt to the track (or lack thereof). As you come across one of these hazards, you’ll pass through a large blue ring that morphs your vehicle (Transformers style) into either a speedboat, aircraft, or back into a car.
The transformation mechanic makes the races feel much more dynamic than a typical race track. On some tracks, the first one or two laps will stay the same, but some event may cause the road to collapse or make the previous path inaccessible. So the last leg of the race can be completely different than your previous runs. Instead of driving down a road, you might be flying through a valley in a helicopter, or dodging mines in a boat.
The tracks are all inspired by games like Panzer Dragoon, Samba Di Amigo, Jet Set Radio, and the Sonic series. One track that was particularly impressive was “Carrier Zone,” which was based on Afterburner. The racers start off circling an aircraft carrier then transition from water, air, and land portions as they race between two naval ships. Each track is as aesthetically unique as their game franchise inspiration. The Samba Di Amigo level is incredibly vibrant and wacky, Sonic’s zones bring the familiar loop-dee-loops and classic music, and the Jet Set Radio has intricate branching paths in an urban environment.
As with many racing titles, Transformed has a large focus on multiplayer. Ten players can compete online with randomly selected tracks in the standard Race mode. It does feel a bit odd to be unable to select the tracks you race on. When a lobby is created you’ll have to play through a random race, then after that tracks can be voted on from another randomly generated set of three. Otherwise, the game feels much like a standard kart racer. You’ll pick up power-ups like a homing, explosive RC car, an ice blast that turns opponents into ice cubes, and a tornado that turns unfortunate racers upside down.
Players get to choose from a cast of twenty characters from popular Sega franchises. The characters include Tails, Eggman, and Knuckles from the Sonic series, AiAi from Super Monkey Ball, BD Joe from Crazy taxi, and Ralph from the upcoming (video game inspired) “Wreck it Ralph” movie. Each character has unique racing attributes and vehicles. For instance, Sonic’s racer turns into a jet-like vehicle when he enters a flying portion of a race, while Ralph’s wrecking ball dragging truck transforms into a helicopter made from scrap-metal.
Sonic & All Stars: Transformed’s morphing vehicles and track altering elements create a few surprises you wouldn’t usually expect. Keep an eye out for when the racer hits stores on November 18 on Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U.