Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review: Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed (Playstation Vita)

Yes a rare Vita review I know but that's one of the benefits of the old Playstation Plus, now if only they would add Killzone Mercenary, Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate and more and things would become a little more fleshed out.  It's not that I dislike the Vita far from it in fact, I think the handheld has great potential but Sony are more interested in marketing it as a remote instead of a stand alone gaming peripheral.  My biggest issue with the Vita is the high price associated with it's games.  £34.99 for a new release is way too much considering I could get Assassin's Creed 4 for around the same amount and not end up with thumb ache after a two hour session.

Anyway today's review is for the racing game Sonic & all stars racing transformed.  Long title I know, so any further references will be abbreviated to Sonic all stars which I know may confuse with older games but deal with it folks.  First off there is no story here, it's simply a bunch of tracks populated by racers from varying SEGA IP's and elsewhere.  The main aim of the title is to acquire stars which in turn unlock more courses and racers.  Outside of that the game is pretty straight forward really.

Look! it's that Dwarf from Golden Axe! He ruled!
I really like themed racers over realistic games.  Mario Kart, Carmageddon (it counts), Crash team racing and more all have more going on in them.  It isn't about being perfect on every bend or getting the best weight to power ratio, it's about drifting around corners firing outlandish weapons at one another and generally having a manic time every race.  Obviously the biggest gimmick of this title is the Transformed bit.  This means that during your race the track may start on roads but halfway through become a river and your car turns into a boat.  Further along or in a different lap the track may split apart and you are now flying as your vehicle turns into a jet, helicopter, flying lizard or hover car.

The controls are simple enough although they can cause cramp on the less than spacious Vita control layout.  A basic accelerate, brake and weapon system is really all you need to win most races on easy and normal but hard tracks warrant use of more of the games systems.  Drifting which is achieved by tapping the brake button and turning can be held to generate boost which when released gives you a quick surge of speed.  During times of big air you can perform a stunt to gain a slight boost which is especially useful during transformations to keep your momentum going.  Being a game aimed largely at a younger audience it won't cause any issues with regards to learning curve.  The biggest learning curve is the tracks which there are many to choose from.

The levels are pretty detailed
It isn't all racing however.  During your campaign run you will play numerous challenge stages some of which suck, some are really entertaining.  The duds are things like boost challenges which require you to keep moving forward hitting boost pads to maintain speed and keep your timer ticked up.  They become trial and error, rather than a test of skill.  Another is the tired and lazy checkpoint mode which is a speed run to hit every checkpoint before the time runs out.  Highlights though are modes like drift challenge where you need to drift within a set area to maintain speed and keep the timer going.  The best though is battle which sees you and several other racers bombing round the track fighting it out to be the last man  You have three lives and need to hit them before they hit you, it's fun.

Character selection is mainly Sonic heavy so expect the usual lineup with Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckle, Shadow, Egg man/Robotnik.  But others such as Shinobi, Ulala, Samba de amigo, The dwarf from golden axe are all welcome.  There are more but the most perplexing is Diana Patrick who I had zero clue who she was until I looker her up on google.  Yeah not sure why a character slot went to a real race car driver, not sure how many sales you will get through her inclusion but hey SEGA knows best right?

Graphically it's fine.  On the Vita it runs smooth without any frame drops and has decent visuals.  The levels are a mass of nostalgic nods to SEGA's previous releases when they had consoles to sell.  You visit numerous games such as Panzer Dragoon, Shinobi, Jet set radio, Super monkey ball and more each with their own hazards and quirks.  The details are there for the discerning fan who is a walking encyclopedia of SEGA games so it's great for them.

Who else both hated and loved Shinobi back in the day?
The sound is a mixed bag sadly due to the awkward positioning of the Vita speakers and general tin reverb of the system.  Still every character is voiced with their own one liners and put downs, even Diana Patrick voices herself so that's something I guess.  All the vehicles sound similar and fade into the background but the soundtrack is another great hit for SEGA fans who again can be hit by waves of nostalgia.

Overall Sonic All stars is pretty good for a kart racer.  It doesn't do anything new or groundbreaking but it works.  It's a technically sound game, has nice visuals, plenty of characters and a decent smattering of modes to run through .  It's lets down a little by the Vita's control setup and tiny speakers but on the consoles or PC these issues aren't existent.

SCORE: 7.8/10


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