by Travis Fahs0
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Review
It Even Looks Like a Dreamcast Game
By the time Sega jumped on board the Android bandwagon, they had already amassed quite a catalog on iOS. Most of their better releases have made the transition over since, but Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing has lingered as one of the most notable absences. Finally, after more than two years, we get our kart racing fix, and while it’s better late than never, it’s certainly showing its age.
Even the iOS release was ported from the Nintendo DS game released a year earlier. It looks a bit nicer than that game, thanks to the improved resolution, frame rate, and texture filtering, but there’s no hiding the game’s age. Despite this, the game’s legacy on a proper handheld means it’s packed with content, so the value is definitely there. There are 13 racers and a whopping 16 different tracks to race on, as well as a few different modes to enjoy, so the game doesn’t exactly come of as cheap despite its dated visuals.
As you’d expect this is a clear stab at Nintendo’s Mario Kart series. Sega has tried this a few times over the years, with games like Sonic Drift and Sonic R, but never with much success. Sonic & All Stars Racing marked their first really competitive effort at the kart racing genre, thanks in part to experienced racing studio Sumo Digital who handled development. This portable version doesn’t quite live up to the legacy of its console brother, and certainly not to its more impressive sequel, but it at least offers one of the better attempts to do it on a phone.
Sega – perhaps aware that the Sonic brand has been tarnished and weakened over the last decade – has wisely decided to incorporate other characters and locations from their other games from the late ‘90s and early 2000s. You’ll be able to play as characters from games like Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi, and Shenmue, and race around locations from House of the Dead, Billy Hatcher and Samba de Amigo. These names might not mean as much to the average gamer, but for devoted fans, it’s a nostalgia rush, and it adds tremendously to the game’s charm. It’s a shame Sega hasn’t done more to expand the All-Stars brand and bring in even more characters from its seemingly bottomless catalog.
The racing mechanics are simple, arcadey, and straightforward. You accelerate automatically and tilt to steer as you’d expect. Drifting and braking are handled with two separate buttons and the former is used to build up a boost. This boost can’t really be saved up; it launches right out of the drift for a slingshot effect. This gives a unique feel to the handling of the game, and adds some technique to the driving, if not much depth.
The heart of the game is a Grand Prix mode that ranks you across multiple races in order to earn trophies. This mode is not as well suited to the platform as it was on the DS, since each cup is made up of five races and it takes a little while to complete. There are plenty of other modes, however, ranging from single races, to time attack, to an interesting challenge mode. Challenge mode puts you on a set track, with a fixed character and gives you varied objectives, like passing through gates, collecting coins, drifting, or hitting targets with your weapons. These stages are short, and there are plenty of them, making it an excellent fit for short plays. There’s also local and online multiplayer for anyone so inclined.
Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing is long on value, to be sure, and given the lack of quality kart racers on the platform, it’s worth checking out. That said, it’s a port of a 3-year old Nintendo DS game, and it’s starting to show its age. There are deeper, better racers out there, and Sega’s offering is differentiated mainly by its nostalgia factor and charming kart racing motif.
Summary: There’s a lot to dig into in this release, with a ton of modes and lots of content to unlock. Everything here is very solid, but dated graphics and average gameplay hold it back.