|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sumo Digital||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 23, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
The so-called kart racing genre is by nature a raucously fun style of gameplay. So it almost seems like faint praise to call Sonic & SEGA All-Stars a very fun kart racer. However, not all arcade racers are created equal, and even when considered next to greats like Mario Kart DS, this is one of the very best handheld kart racers we've played in years.
The key to making an incredible game of this type comes from several key features: track design, interesting racer personalities, speed, and a pitch-perfect balancing of items and power-ups. On every count, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (S&SASR) exceeds previous standards, and even one-ups Mario Kart DS in some ways.
Perhaps the best thing that S&SASR does is its level design. Its courses are based on classic SEGA games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Samba De Amigo, and even House of the Dead. But, these tracks are more than just fan-service; almost every level is uniquely designed, with different challenges, and drastically different layouts. The Sonic and Samba De Amigo levels are particularly awesome, and anybody remotely familiar with these series will recognize the influence; though, my personal favorite was the House of the Dead level with its errant zombies wandering about throughout the course.
Some were skeptical that the strength of the SEGA brand wouldn't be enough to carry this kind of game on its shoulders. After all, we're used to seeing Nintendo's games chock-full of classic game characters, and there's no way SEGA could compete with the sheer star power of Mario Kart. However, that doesn't mean that the game's characters aren't awesome. It's really kind of a thrill to ride down the track as Samba De Amigo, flanked on both sides by Shenmue protagonist Ryo Hazuki, and Ulala from Space Channel 5.
What makes playing these characters even better is that they each have a very unique kart to race in. This isn't like Mario Kart where everyone has a kart that's relatively similar to the others. For instance, Shadow the Hedgehog and Ryo Hazuki ride awesome motorcycles, Tails flies a plane, and Ulala has a floating spaceship. They're all tethered to the ground, and most drive similarly, but there are subtle differences, and it's all about displaying the personality of the character.
Also great is the soundtrack used throughout the game. This aspect hardly takes center stage (though who would expect it to?) but there are some genuinely entertaining songs found throughout.
However, all of the branding and presentation in the world couldn't save a junky game, and it's in its rock solid gameplay that S&SASR seals the deal. After all, the appeal of racing as Sonic would wear off pretty quickly if he was frustrating to control or kept getting bombarded with imbalanced power-ups.
The game itself is structured much the same as a classic kart racer. There are a series of championship cups that consist of four races. You win points according to your placement in the race, and the best combined score after all of the races are complete, wins the cup.
There is also a surprisingly long set of challenge missions which add a ton of value to the overall package. There are 55 total missions which feature an ever-changing cast of characters taking on challenges like completing a race while almost constantly powersliding or shooting a bunch of a certain type of enemy on the track on your way to the finish line.