Many of us remember Sega’s latest adventure into the world or kart racing with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and most of us remember it as a fun attempt to create a new racing game with some of Sega’s best characters. Now Sega his taking another swing at the racing genre with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and after they announced that Danica Patrick would be sponsoring the game with her race car, I was able to get some hands-on time with the PlayStation 3 version of the title and see what all the fuss was about, and you know what? All that fuss is well deserved.
One of the key elements that makes Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed different than other racing games of its type is the fact that the game will feature brand new transformation mechanics with the player’s vehicle switching between a car, boat and airplane quite literally on the fly. Rather than having players try to press a button or choose whether or not they want to transform, they will fly through a transformation circle which will automatically switch their vehicle to the required type. This is done in a visually pleasing manner and there are a number of tricks which can be done to give the player an extra edge. For example a player can fly their plane up to the highest point the track will allow before entering a transformation circle, then as their car or boat falls back to earth they can perform a number of aerial tricks to give themselves a large boost when they touch down.
To make things even more interesting, each of these three vehicle types handles differently. While drifting is a major mechanic for the basic car racing, attempting to drift with a plane instead causes extremely tight turns. The change in handling is quite interesting to experience and provides some ever changing gameplay to go along with the fact that a few of the courses themselves will undergo changes as you race through them. One of the three stages available for play at Sega’s E3 booth was a Panzer Dragoon based level which actually tells a small story as you race through the area. Two dragons will be battling in the area and will actually start wrecking pieces of the track, forcing players to take different routes than last time due to the fact that the track is either destroyed or blocked as the creatures battle it out.
Of course Sega also had two new characters to show off during the show, including my favorite, Vyse from Skies of Arcaida, and as one would expect each character has different handling mechanics. A number of new weapons have been added into the game and the developer with us explained that they would not be game-breaking weapons, but ones which may help swing things in your favor. For example, players can use a baseball glove to catch and use projectiles shot at them, or shoot three snowballs out of their vehicle with the first snowball slowing down a targeted racer, a second damaging handling and a third one actually freezing them entirely. With the combination of some touched up visuals, transforming vehicles and revamped stages Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed may just overthrow Mario Kart in the kart racing genre.