Anyone old enough to remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis will recall the frenetic speed of the platformer, so it only makes sense for the Sega mascot to get his turn at a kart racing game. He’s had a few attempts spanning various consoles, with the most notable being Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing a few years back. Now he gets another great one with an iOS port of his most recent console racer, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. It’s a fun, spirited game that deserves a spot on any racing fan’s podium.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed lives up to its (somewhat clunky) title in every way. A plethora of classic Sega characters feature in the game and as you would expect out of any good kart racer, and each comes with their own custom vehicle that fits their personality to a tee. Of course Sonic’s own universe is well represented with buddies Tails, Amy, and Knuckles showing up to race, among others from his franchise, but you’ll also unlock Ulala (Space Channel 5), Joe Musashi (Shinobi), Amigo (Samba de Amigo), Ryo Hazuki (Shenmue) and plenty more.
Each character’s vehicle looks great. Some of the designs are a bit more on the obvious side (B.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi drives a taxi), but Ryo’s is a delight, and any Shenmue fan will want to play the game just to check it out. Throughout the game’s levels, your vehicle will transform itself from a car to a plane to a boat seamlessly, depending on the terrain. The mechanic works surprisingly well and makes the game all the more enjoyable.
The game features two modes, World Tour and Grand Prix, and you’ll need to play both in order to unlock all the races and characters. World Tour mode boasts a variety of race challenges, such as battles, in which you try to withstand the least amount of damage, and drift challenges, in which you’ll need to hone your drifting abilities in order to make it to the finish in time. The variety of event types in World Tour mode keeps things fresh and engages you to become a better racer by often focusing on a particular style of race or skill.
In Grand Prix mode you’ll compete against other racers in a three-race tour, and you’ll need to win a top-three spot to keep advancing. As you’d expect from a kart racer, there are a variety of fun weapons and boosts to collect, and they all work well during races and in battles.
The courses themselves are dynamic and interesting. The levels often branch, forcing you to make a quick decision as to which way you want to proceed. This not only adds to replay value, but also allows for experimentation in finding quicker ways through the courses. You’ll often begin a race driving a car, only for the track to change by the second or third lap, and that’s when your vehicle will change to a boat or plane accordingly. The feature is nicely-integrated and the controls are executed very well. Some may have difficulty with the aerial controls at first (they’re inverted), but all the controls are highly customizable from the options screen, so this really isn’t an issue. Each vehicle maneuvers in its own way, and handles as you would expect it to and we had fun controlling every style.
In true Sonic fashion, you collect rings and stars based on your performance. You can cash these in to upgrade character attributes or to open up different races, or spend them on a slot mini-game during loading screen for bonuses to use in the next race.
The game looks fantastic. From the characters and the vehicles they operate to the level design as a whole, the game delivers. Water effects while boating look great and subtleties like dragons flying in the air in the Panzer Dragoon (and not so subtle things like when the a dragon takes out a chunk of the track ahead) really add to the experience. It’s a joy to revisit classic Sega universes in such a different, fun way on an iOS device.
We did experience very seldom slowdown during fast and furious gameplay, but nothing that deterred from an enjoyable run. There are many difficulty modes, ranging from easy to expert. Few will have trouble with the easy setting, but the game does noticeably increase in difficulty from medium on, which adds to the fun and replay value.
The music and sound design is ace as well. The Samba de Amigo course has the lively, Latin-infused music that makes those games so much fun. The Shinobi and After Burner levels have great arcade-style music which compliment their levels perfectly. The sound effects are well done and the character voices are present and cute, never overbearing or obnoxious, which is a relief in this type of game.
There is always the option, as is customary these days, to make in-app purchases for more stars or to unlock tracks and characters, but this doesn’t seem necessary unless you want as many options as possible without having to unlock them through the gameplay itself. You can always replay levels and get more rings, so you always have an option other than paying to advance.
For the social media-minded gamer, Facebook integration is offered from the get-go. You can also play the game against friends on a local network or online against multiple players. We had issues connecting via online multiplayer, despite multiple tries.
Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed is a bright, fun, and energetic kart racer that just about everyone should enjoy. The graphics, sound, and creative level designs work well together to bring the feel of classic Sega games to a racer that’s fun for gamers of all ages. With so many Sega characters and modes to play, the replay value is high. Its use of in-game purchases could be negative for those who feel the need to resort to them, but this shouldn’t represent many as the game gives you ample time to hone your skills, level up your vehicle, and unlock things on your own. Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed is a well-made port and a great way to kick off the new year in iOS gaming.