|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 Adam Brown
I think it is fairly safe to say that Sonic has been having a rough time on home consoles since his golden 16-bit days. Sure, he's had some shining moments such as Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 for the Dreamcast and a few successful crossovers with his old nemesis Mario, but for the most part Sonic fans haven't had much to get excited about. For this reason, it wouldn't be hard to overlook Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (SSASR) before playing it, labeling it as just another terrible game with Sonic's name pasted on the front in order to sell more copies to fans who desperately want this beloved character to return to his glory days. Of course, preemptively dismissing this title would be a huge mistake, since it is easily one of the best Sonic titles to be released in the last decade.
Now before Nintendo fans cry out that this game is just a blatant rip off of Mario Kart well, I guess it somewhat is. To be quite honest, almost all of the elements that make Mario Kart the series that it is are also present in SSASR. However, while this may be the case, there are a few good reasons why this is really a moot point. Firstly, I've not seen another title that was attempting to reproduce the Mario Kart formula do as good a job as SUMO Digital has done with SSASR. Secondly, this is a complete non-issue for PS3 and Xbox 360 owners who may not even have a Wii, leaving them without the option of playing Mario Kart. Lastly, there's something to be said about being able to play SSASR in true HD, which just isn't a possibility in Mario Kart given the Wii's own technical limitations. With all that being said, I'm not insinuating that SSASR is somehow better than Mario Kart, just that it is a well done game in the same genre that also deserves to be played and enjoyed.
As previously stated, the formula for this game should sound pretty familiar to anyone who has played a Mario Kart before. Players will choose a driver from a cast of recognizable and historic video game characters, then battle their way through a plethora of races that require as much luck and combat as they do driving skills. The characters that SEGA offers up in SSASR are pretty diverse, ranging from oldies like the Bonanza Bros. to more recent additions like AiAi from Super Monkey Ball. While some of these characters, like Sonic and his friends, you would expect going in, there are also a few really odd choices like Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue and Akira and Jackie (in the same car) from Virtua Fighter thrown in to round out the crew. And if you still can't manage to find a SEGA character to your liking, you can even choose to control Banjo and Kazooie or your own Avatar instead.
After making this difficult decision, it's time to finally hit the track and race. The mechanics of racing are actually quite simple, yet work incredibly well for the most part. Just steering around obstacles and bends won't be enough to place well in a race. Instead, you'll need to master the art of drifting in order to charge up turbo boosts. The longer you can hold a drift, the more turbo you'll accumulate, which will drastically speed up your vehicle once you finally stop drifting. Players can also get some extra turbo by performing stunts after going airborne from a jump by pressing the same button they use to drift. In fact, if you're doing it right, you'll spend almost as much time pressing and holding the drift/stunt button as you will the gas button.
Luckily, this game's twenty four tracks have all been very well designed for both the speed and drifting that placing in these races requires. Here you'll find an abundance of tracks ranging from ones taken from levels in previous Sonic titles to Jet Set Radio and House of the Dead-inspired courses. My personal favorite track came from Samba de Amigo and had a giant floating head watching over the race. Many of the tracks are also very visually appealing and often rather busy, with things like whales jumping over the road, poker chips landing on the course, and traffic to navigate around. Some of the more demanding tracks may call for a bit more memorization or precision timing and steering than others, but, thankfully, at no point did they ever really feel cheap or unfair.