Product Type: Sega PS3 games
Newest Review: ... amount of variety and longevity to the game. Every time you race, you also gain Sega Miles. These can be used in the Sega Shop (built i... more
Move Over Mario. Here come Sonic & Friends
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (PS3)
Member Name: SWSt
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (PS3)
Advantages: Good graphics & great fun, particularly in multiplayer mode
Disadvantages: Occasionally frustrating gameplay; slightly limiting multiplayer options
In almost every respect, though, this IS Sega's answer to Mario Kart. It is based around the same concept - characters from various Sega games race around a series of tracks aiming to finish top of the leader board to take the title of champion. Along the way, various pickups can be collected which can either be used to give you a temporary advantage (such as a speed boost) or hinder your opponents. Yet, whilst it might not be the most imaginative or original game in the world, Sonic & Sega proves to be almost as entertaining as its Nintendo counterpart.
The pedigree for this game is certainly. Developed by Sumo Digital, who are no strangers to racing games (they were behind several excellent Outrun games), they have brought all their knowledge and experience to bear. The end result is a fun racing game that makes good use of licensed characters.
As with Mario Kart, Sonic offers an impressive amount of racing options. Championship mode sees you race against a series of other characters across increasingly tricky tracks. Time Trial Mode offers the chance to record best times on particular courses, using a ghost driver to beat both your own best time and that of other players across the world, whilst Mission Mode sets you a number of objectives to achieve. Multiplayer Mode, meanwhile, gives you the chance to race up to 4 other people connected to your PS3 (more on this in a moment) or online against other players throughout the world.
Whilst Sonic might not be the most difficult game in the world, this wealth of different gameplay options makes it very appealing and gives it a lot of depth and long-term appeal. Although the basic gameplay might essentially be the same between different modes (driving a kart around a track), they are different enough to ensure a decent amount of variety and longevity to the game.
Every time you race, you also gain Sega Miles. These can be used in the Sega Shop (built into the game) to an impressive range of additional characters and a number of extra tracks. These also add to the long-term appeal of the game and encourage you to keep playing long after you have mastered the default tracks.
The game is not the most difficult in the world. Whilst the various Championship levels get increasingly tricky as you progress, it's not going to take most gamers long to beat them As with Mario Kart, however, this isn't rally an issue, as Sonic is so much fun that you will keep coming back to the game determined to shave a couple of seconds off your best lap times.
It's in multiplayer mode that the game really comes to life, though. Here, you can race up to 4 other human players in split screen format (the way racing games are meant to be played!). Although four player mode can get a little cramped (each racer gets a quarter of the screen), it's still a lot of fun particularly in two player mode. Racing games are always more competitive if you are in the same room as your opponent and hearing their screams of frustration as you race past them is a great feeling! Taking them out on the finish line with a well-timed power-up that allows you to nip past them and take the winning flag is unbeatable!
It is a shame that a bit more thought wasn't put into the design of the multiplayer experience. You can only have a single race (rather than have a series of races) and, unless you return to the main menu to select a new one, you continue to race on the same track with each new game. It would have been nice to be able to have your own multiplayer tournament based around random track selection or building your own tournament based around a selection of tracks. But hey! You can't have everything.
The difficulty level is mostly well-pitched, although just occasionally it can be a little frustrating. In single player mode, opponents sometimes seem to gang up on you and you get hit by power-up after power-up, dropping several places in just a matter of seconds. Similarly in multiplayer mode, if you and your opponents are closely matched, races can often come down to who gets the right pick up at the right time, rather than necessarily who drives better.
Graphically, the game is excellent, making really good use of the Sega licensed characters. The cartoon characters are big and bold and look like they have stepped straight out of their own Sega games to take part in this one. Of course, some of the characters will be more familiar to gamers than others (even with my strong knowledge of gaming there were a few I had to wrack my brains to think what games they were from), but it doesn't really matter whether you recognise them or not. Each of the racers also drives in a slightly different way, so you can experiment to find the one which suits you best.
The tracks are well designed and pretty varied. Again, these are based around various Sega games, so they tie in well with the game's concept and add some variety. Just occasionally, I have found the colour scheme a slight problem. On some of the darker levels, for example, it can be tricky to spot bends in the track. Similarly some of the backgrounds can occasionally be very distracting. The use of very bright, vibrant, pulsing colours and animated backgrounds again means that it can be difficult to see the track properly. Certainly, there are some tracks which I find far easier to race on that others.
On the plus side, the graphics are very smooth and impressively fast. You really get the impression of travelling at breakneck speed and flying around the track - something which is a rather important part of a racing game, but is all too often overlooked.
It's a shame that the sound is a bit annoying. A variety of tunes accompany the game, but none of these are brilliant. They are loud and thumping, so perfectly suit the high octane nature of the game, but they become repetitive rather quickly. The race commentary, meanwhile, is very annoying. Some of the daft comments might be vaguely amusing the first time you hear them, but like the music, they soon start to grate.
Controls are designed to be simple, but effective. Relying on just a handful of buttons, they are easy to pick up and by the end of your first race, they feel very natural and comfortable. At the same time, they are highly responsive. Even Mrs SWSt (who is to computer games what elephants are to roller-skating) picked them up quickly and enjoyed racing around the tracks (or more accurately, trundling around the track whilst bumping into every available object).
So, at the risk of being lazy, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing is Sega's answer to Mario Kart. Whilst it's not quite as much fun as Nintendo's effort, it's the closest you're going to get on your PS3 and is a fun racing title in its own right. You can now pick it up for under a tenner which, for a game that offers so much fun and long term playability is a real bargain.
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: The PS3's answer to Mario Kart
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