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Sonic And All-Stars Racing Transformed 3DS review

Cars, boats and jets: oh, my! Sega's racing game revs up on the 3DS

Alright, let's clear something up: why does Sonic need a car to get around? He's the fastest hedgehog alive, after all. If anything, he should be forced to tow a caravan to even the odds. Of course, caravans prove problematic when the car suddenly morphs into a jet or takes to the sea as a surprise motorboat. No: the caravan is a bad call.

Speaking of bad calls, we've been accused of having made one ourselves, after scoring the Wii U version of SASRT (our fingers are too tired to type out the full name - but, strangely, not this side note...) with a 62%. That game felt a little flat to us, flaunting graphical wizardry without ever nailing the games it was trying to pay homage to and coming with a bland weapon set. The 3DS version, on the other hand, is less ambitious, but feels better suited to its host platform.

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Fast And The Furry-ous

There's a lot going on in this version, mind. As well as the usual range of boost pads and items at your disposal, you have to keep track of a course that - in the flying stages, particularly - is not always very clear, as well as monitor the map for the position of your rivals. Action can get rather cluttered on the smaller 3DS screen and activating some abilities, such as the special 'All-Star' moves, can leave you wondering where, exactly, you're supposed to go.

This isn't helped by finicky flight controls that take some getting used to, especially when you've just switched out of the easier-to-handle boat and car modes. Too often you will switch from one vehicle to another and lose what lead you had as you fumble to adjust to a markedly different way of moving around. The key here is taking the time to learn its kinks.

It's definitely a game that rewards mastery, with the main campaign encouraging you to replay each track in multiple ways in order to earn more stars and unlock more characters as you progress. It's a far fuller single player experience than Mario Kart in this way. The game also nudges you towards favouring particular characters over others by enabling you to level them up and customise your experience by equipping boosts that unlock as you progress and gain levels.

Familiarity is a boon in the grand prix mode, a single-sitting series of races on maps you've already played. It's a nice change of pace to the campaign mode, though the lack of an option to restart individual races in the middle of a longer tournament may leave you gnawing your 3DS in frustration. On the whole, Sumo has worked hard to introduce variation, littering the Story mode with time trials and 'rival races' to mix up the formula. This smooths out a fairly steep learning curve and improves your abilities.

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We're also certainly sold on the rich, colourful graphics, which complement the diverse cast and shifting backgrounds and show off the capabilities of the 3DS effectively. The eight billion different things happening on-screen render smoothly, making your stupid meat fingers the only hindrance to playing the thing. It hasn't got the zip or sheer graceful ease of ">Mario Kart 7, but as far as also-rans go, it's not half bad.

There's plenty here to reward dedicated play and given time, it matures into a fun experience. Just don't expect any answers to the mystery of Sonic's car dependence.

Comments

18 comments so far...
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  1. toffeeman30 Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 13:47

    mario kart remains the best. hurrahh

  2. Darkblizz Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 14:21

    Let me be the first to say, what the hell is wrong with the framerate? Sometimes it runs like a dream, sometimes it's PSOne-esque. And sometimes it's really goddamn bad. At one point in Rogue's Landing it's absolutely HORRENDOUS.

  3. Waldy565 Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 15:00

    OOO, the way you wrote that, makes it sound amazing! But the score puts doubts in my mind, surely it should 70%+ from the way you wrote this review? Anyway, this has made it onto my "interested" list now, will pick it up if when I see it for a reasonable price (No GAME, 40 is NOT a reasonable price... I'm looking at you, NSMBU, ZombiU)

  4. sonicka Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 18:23

    I think we should get one thing clear, this game is better than Mario Kart - but not running on the 3DS it appears.

    I honestly thought they'd do something different for the 3DS game, I really can't believe they just rebuilt it to be exactly the same as the console versions.

    Why?

    It made sense for the Vita considering it's practically a handheld PS3. But I can't fathom the thinking behind the 3DS edition. It surely would have stood a better chance to have some additional original tracks unique to 3DS and simply be a companion game with its own merits and ideas than try to mimic it's console brethren and take a downgrade in graphics. The wavering frame rate obviously proves that that much was perhaps a little too ambitious for the handheld to handle.

    To be honest, from what I've read, seen, and heard, this is the same game as what I already own on my PS3, so it's completely cancelled my interest for the title. Which is a shame really, as I was initially looking forward to playing it. =/

  5. skemohedgehog Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 19:03

    First thing I notice is, that my download code for the bonus content doesnt work. Anybody else?

  6. Ebonflow Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 19:54

    "Alright, let's clear something up: why does Sonic need a car to get around? He's the fastest hedgehog alive, after all."

    Why can't bowser use his fire and blaze everything in a race? Why can't tennis players catch the ball? Why can't football players use stun guns?

    Seriously starting off the review with a whiny post is something that should be avoided, another thing, this is a spin off. This is also a race with vehicles, Sonic isn't a vehicle, fast or not he's at least using a fast car. Not to mention if you ACTUALLY have been playing Sonic games for awhile Sonic likes a challenge and will follow rules accordingly and win these challenges.

    He's a competitor, and stuff. Seriously start of the review with something worth while.

  7. tuddy Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 20:31

    First thing I notice is, that my download code for the bonus content doesnt work. Anybody else?


    I have noticed the exact same thing. Once I can dig up an email address, I'll yell in Sega's general direction to find out whether this is an isolated issue or not.

  8. liveswired Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 21:00

    "Alright, let's clear something up: why does Sonic need a car to get around? He's the fastest hedgehog alive, after all."

    Why can't bowser use his fire and blaze everything in a race? Why can't tennis players catch the ball? Why can't football players use stun guns?

    Seriously starting off the review with a whiny post is something that should be avoided, another thing, this is a spin off. This is also a race with vehicles, Sonic isn't a vehicle, fast or not he's at least using a fast car. Not to mention if you ACTUALLY have been playing Sonic games for awhile Sonic likes a challenge and will follow rules accordingly and win these challenges.

    He's a competitor, and stuff. Seriously start of the review with something worth while.

    Well said. Mario is a plumber that runs, plays tennis, fights, races, basketball........you name it Mario has done it. Yet to the t**ts at NOM say that Sonic can't do anything other than run? GIVE US A BREAK!

    If Mario Kart 7 was Sonic Kart I have no doubt it would've been slapped with a big 70% by the boys at NOM.

  9. tuddy Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 21:15

    He's a competitor, and stuff. Seriously start of the review with something worth while.


    Yet to the t**ts at NOM say that Sonic can't do anything other than run? GIVE US A BREAK!

    Plus, the whole "WHY IS SONIC IN A CAR GUYS SERIOUSLY WHY?" joke was overdone when the the first Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing game came out in 2010. He's been seen in racing games, driving a car no less, for nearly 19 years at this point. As much as I like NOM, there's scraping the bottom of the barrel, then there's digging through the bottom of the barrel and ending up in China.

  10. King Slazo Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 21:38

    I genuinely fear for people who blow a gasket over a perfectly normal offhand joke.

  11. MatthewONM Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 23:49

    I think we should get one thing clear, this game is better than Mario Kart - but not running on the 3DS it appears.


    That simply isn't true. You can call us blinkered Nintendo zealots until you go red in the face, it doesn't detract from the fact that Mario Kart is a beautifully constructed game. It's a purer racer, more finely balanced and far more technically competent than this offering (going by the direct 3DS version comparison - we've nothing to compare the Wii U Sonic too). Sonic may do stuff that Nintendo should take on board - a more ambitious single player mode - but that's really where we draw the line.

    SASRT is a gimmicky racer, throwing around large, barren levels full of flashy background noise to detract from the fact that the course design is pretty flat and that one third of the vehicles are properly stink-o-magic (the boats, in case you were wondering). The idea that we'd mark it down because of the characters in the driving seat is frankly ludicrous. Show me one Mario Kart review where the critics highlight the roster/setting as a reason why the game is so good. In fact, much of the praise for SARST is aimed at the use of characters/brands - it's arguable that, stripped of the Sega cladding, it'd be this game scoring lower.

    Now let's have no more of this tedious conspiracy guff.

  12. sambrown64 Saturday 9th Feb 2013 at 18:54

    Is there/will there be a downloadable demo for this version? I'm still not sold...

  13. liveswired Sunday 10th Feb 2013 at 09:32

    I think we should get one thing clear, this game is better than Mario Kart - but not running on the 3DS it appears.


    That simply isn't true. You can call us blinkered Nintendo zealots until you go red in the face, it doesn't detract from the fact that Mario Kart is a beautifully constructed game. It's a purer racer, more finely balanced and far more technically competent than this offering (going by the direct 3DS version comparison - we've nothing to compare the Wii U Sonic too). Sonic may do stuff that Nintendo should take on board - a more ambitious single player mode - but that's really where we draw the line.

    SASRT is a gimmicky racer, throwing around large, barren levels full of flashy background noise to detract from the fact that the course design is pretty flat and that one third of the vehicles are properly stink-o-magic (the boats, in case you were wondering). The idea that we'd mark it down because of the characters in the driving seat is frankly ludicrous. Show me one Mario Kart review where the critics highlight the roster/setting as a reason why the game is so good. In fact, much of the praise for SARST is aimed at the use of characters/brands - it's arguable that, stripped of the Sega cladding, it'd be this game scoring lower.

    Now let's have no more of this tedious conspiracy guff.

    That's true, as much as we like to pick at Mario Kart because Nintendo won't flesh it out - there's still no other kart racer that even comes close to nailing the formula. Rival titles such as Modnation and Little Big Planet have rubbish gameplay despite the mass of content. I know I'd rather have gameplay any day and fortunately that's what Nintendo titles have in spades.

    On another topic I wish Rare held out on Diddy Kong Racing DS and launched a proper upgraded port on the 3DS. I felt the DS title was a real downgrade - particularly the graphics, the vehicle handling and the pointless additions.

  14. sonicka Sunday 10th Feb 2013 at 21:53

    I think we should get one thing clear, this game is better than Mario Kart - but not running on the 3DS it appears.


    That simply isn't true. You can call us blinkered Nintendo zealots until you go red in the face, it doesn't detract from the fact that Mario Kart is a beautifully constructed game. It's a purer racer, more finely balanced and far more technically competent than this offering (going by the direct 3DS version comparison - we've nothing to compare the Wii U Sonic too). Sonic may do stuff that Nintendo should take on board - a more ambitious single player mode - but that's really where we draw the line.

    SASRT is a gimmicky racer, throwing around large, barren levels full of flashy background noise to detract from the fact that the course design is pretty flat and that one third of the vehicles are properly stink-o-magic (the boats, in case you were wondering). The idea that we'd mark it down because of the characters in the driving seat is frankly ludicrous. Show me one Mario Kart review where the critics highlight the roster/setting as a reason why the game is so good. In fact, much of the praise for SARST is aimed at the use of characters/brands - it's arguable that, stripped of the Sega cladding, it'd be this game scoring lower.

    Now let's have no more of this tedious conspiracy guff.


    Thing is though Matt, I do adore the Mario Kart Series. But it's really beginning to wear on me with the last few entries. I don't deny how tightly designed all of Nintendo's course's are - but they mostly lack the excitement and I feel they're designing the game a little too safe these days for players.

    Mario Kart 7 did have some remarkable new tracks (and the 3-sectioned courses were also some of my favorites), but it also had plenty of lackluster familiar feeling ones as well that were set in familiar locations we've seen plenty of times before. What killed the game for me was the single player mode admittedly (which is something we do agree on) - and I still don't understand the downgrade in this section of the game after the sort of content Mario Kart DS offered. But completing the GP only mode was enough for me to sell the game after a week, and a few wonderful tracks weren't going to keep me enthused unfortunately (as I'm not much of an online player) - and it didn't help that the retro section offered (IMO) a poor selection of tracks from the previous MK entries.

    Now, I can't say anything about SAASRT on 3DS as I haven't played it (though I am supremely disappointed it's not different from it's console brethren as I don't care to own the same game twice.) I don't know weather it's fair to compare the console versions of SAASRT to Mario Kart 3DS (or even Wii), but I can't see how you see it as a 'gimmicky' racer in any form as it fully makes use of the idea in the title - 'Transformed' and takes the kart genre too another level, beyond Mario Kario, and further on from the likes of Diddy Kong Racing.

    I really have praise the Sumo Digital for doing something different with this idea and running with it - that the Vehicles (and even the Tracks!) can shift and transform with you every lap really keeps things fresh, exciting and well paced for an enjoyable ride. It also makes repeat plays more accessible and enjoyable because there it feels like a fresh ride with new paths to discover.

    And, to be fair... it's really Nintendo that gave us Gimmicks in Mario Kart 7 with those underwater track features and the gliding. Whilst it's a nice addition, they hardly add much to the gameplay in the same way and I felt that they really were a novelty idea that were underused on many of the tracks included.

    SAASRT has some fantastic track design though. I'm sorry, but that can't be up for dispute surely? Bland? Barren? ...What?! There is so much more variation when those tracks transform in lap 2 or 3, and on top of that we get kart racing with a blend of hydro thunder and starfox-style racing to boot. Of course the characters and branding of the tracks add to the flavour of the overall game experience, but I find it an ambitious assumption for you to say that if you strip away the SEGA cladding that you'd be left with a blander karting game when really the same could really be said of the Mario Kart titles as well. ;)

    It's a shame a lot of the ONM staff don't seem to have taken to SAASRT, and I don't think I'm alone when I say it really is that good. But, everyone has their own opinions on the game at the end of the day, so that's fair enough. I think I just feel that Sumo Digital may have the edged the Karting genre into new territory... maybe some aren't ready for that yet, but it sure as hell excites me. It's Nintendo that need to be taking some pretty serious notes, because while Mario Kart is a competent and well designed racer, it's also stuck in a rut with it's ways, and it needs to evolve itself beyond the current experience it's provided gamers for over a decade now.


    On a side note - I'm with you Matt on reading those ridiculous 'Sonic + Car = The Lower Score' comments making the rounds. This people, really is a load of old rubbish that needs to be dropped.

  15. deKay Monday 11th Feb 2013 at 14:12

    And this is 15 at Zavvi already!

  16. Tavex Tuesday 12th Feb 2013 at 00:11

    Just to clear up the whole "whys sonic in a car?" thing, you said it yourself he's the fastest hedgehog alive...wouldn't it be a little unfair if he wasn't restricted to a vehicle? Actually its kinda sad that I remember this this but in the manual for the original sonic allstars racing game it actually says Sonic's in a car for that reason so there its settled :P

  17. Blue Toad Tuesday 12th Feb 2013 at 13:37

    I think we should get one thing clear, this game is better than Mario Kart - but not running on the 3DS it appears.


    That simply isn't true. You can call us blinkered Nintendo zealots until you go red in the face, it doesn't detract from the fact that Mario Kart is a beautifully constructed game. It's a purer racer, more finely balanced.

    I respect your difference of opinion, but...you do realise the Blue Shell completely goes against your comments? An item that punishes you for doing well (and let me make this clear, I'm not a competitive/snaking player) and is completely impossible to avoid. (Unless you had a mushroom, but let's be realistic; that's not very often at all.) Contrast with Racing Transformed where you have the Bees, which while posing a threat, are still possible to avoid, and they don't hurt you so badly you end up grinding to an agonizing halt...unlike Mario Kart and it's magnitude of overpowered, sometimes very unnecessary weapons like the Bullet Bill, which serves no different purpose to the Star. It's the same for SEGA with falling off the track; you're put back on instantly, at a good sense of speed, you still have a chance to succeed with skill...Mario Kart just stops you and it's like a caterpillar crawling to catch up to a pack of cheetahs for a moment or two.

    I must admit, again full respect but I'm baffled as to you thinking the game is bland...some of the design aspects are fantastic, such as blasting up the steps of the Shinobi Shrine, or blitzing through rings in the NiGHTs world. Heck, I'd even go as far to say that the first time you do the final lap of the Skies of Arcadia track gives you that same sense of awe and memorable amazement that going down the flagpole for the first time in Super Mario Bros gives you. And this is all from someone whose first game was Super Mario Kart and who has grown up on the franchise. I'm not even that huge of a SEGA fan in retrospect; the main reason I brought this game was for Skies of Arcadia...and Ulala. =P

    But I think SEGA Racing Transformed has left a definite impression on how to innovate and push the envelope in the kart racing genre; creativity was everywhere in this title and it worked so very well with superb gameplay elements. (The boating is fine IMO.) I really hope Mario Kart takes a leaf and looks at ways to really challenge itself, because the series is in dire need of it at this point besides minor tweaks like 'bikes' and 'falling with style'. Unfortunately, I don't see it changing, because Mario Kart 7 came out only a year ago, and we're already hearing of a Mario Kart game for the Wii U at E3. Nintendo shouldn't rush the series to gain heavy sales because they risk making the formula stale. Look at New Super Mario Bros. Look at Animal Crossing City Folk, rushed for the Wii. At least the team learned and really pushed the envelope with New Leaf by taking their time. I can only hope Mario Kart can learn from these experiences and become something that isn't just pushed out without any heart or consideration besides making a quick million or two, unlike SEGA Racing, where the team ploughed and hammered effort, charm and balance into their game...and succeeded. It's not just a celebration of SEGA's eclectic history, but it takes it's place right up there with NiGHTs, Jet Set Radio, Ecco the Dolphin and Toejam and Earl as being one of SEGA'S masterpieces.

    Also, just for everyone else; Sonic originally WAS on foot. But he was horribly broken; impossible to hit with weapons due to how tiny he was and it looked silly to see a hedgehog bouncing off a car and not look fazed or anything. So he's in a vehicle for balancing purposes. =P

  18. Waldy565 Tuesday 19th Feb 2013 at 12:27

    And this is 15 at Zavvi already!


    I'm sold :D

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