Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing - Xbox 360

Ah the kart racing genre. Many have tried, very few have succeeded. Outside of the Mario Kart franchise how many successful kart racers can you think of? Until now I could name two: the original Crash Team Racing on Playstation, and Konami Krazy Racers on the Game Boy Advance. Others have been adequate (I didn’t mind last year’s Nascar Kart Racing), but really if you’re not going to strive to do it better than Mario Kart then why even bother?

It seems Sega took that idea to heart because I’m happy to say, I now need one more finger to count the number of good, non-Mario related kart games out there. Why does that sentence sound dirtier and dirtier each time I read it?

Right off the bat, don’t base your opinion of this game off of the demo. I would count myself amongst those who weren’t all that impressed with the demo and because of this I almost didn’t bother with the game. I’m here to tell you not to make the same mistake that I almost did. Otherwise you will be missing out on what is easily the most fun kart racing experience since Mario Kart Wii.

The first thing that impressed is the sheer quantity of options you have. Whether you’re playing single or multi player, there is a ton of stuff to do in this game.

Let’s start with single player. First of all you have the usual Grand Prix mode. There are different cups, each one has four tracks, you know the drill. It’s classic formula, why mess with it? One key difference here though is that, as opposed to most kart racers, this one is really friggin’ hard! If you select Beginner you’ll be fine but once you get into Advanced, and especially Expert, this game will demolish you if you don’t know how to play.

Once you’re through having your ass handed to you in the Grand Prix, there are also dozens of single player missions to tackle. Each one has a specific goal, such as overtaking an opponent or getting to the finish line without hitting any pots. Upon finishing the mission you will be given a score from E to AAA. Needless to say, getting a triple A rating on each mission is going to take you some time.

You can also race ghosts of both yourself and the programmers in the Time Trial mode. If you’re an achievement whore like me, you are going to spend a good deal of time here as there are quite a few somewhat time consuming achievements tied to this mode. And if you’re not an achievement whore….I guess enjoy having a social life weirdo.

The game also offers both couch and online coop. There’s a variety of different multiplayer modes to keep things interesting. I was also impressed with how well the online worked. I never had to wait long to hop into a game and once in there, I don’t recall ever experiencing even an ounce (is lag measured in ounces?) of lag.

One thing that stuck with me about the online – those sum bitches are good at this game. I mean when I first went online it was only two days after the game came out (technically one since most stores didn’t have it on Tuesday) and I was lucky to come in higher than third place, and I’d like to think I’m at least pretty good at the game. I guess everyone decided “fuck other commitments I just have to get really good at Sonic Racing really fast!” The game has been out for almost two weeks now so I can only imagine how good these magicians are now. Not that any of this should stop you from trying out online, I just needed to dwell in my Sonic Racing inadequacy.  

So now that I’ve spent an unnecessarily long amount of time discussing the modes (which could have easily been summarized by simply writing: “tons o’ shit to do”) let’s move on to the actual game.

If you’ve played Mario Kart or any of the attempts to clone it, you’ll feel right at home here. You have your selection of mascots, you drive around a series of wacky tracks, there are items you can pick up to help you out, a heavy focus on drifting, etc. You know the drill. I won’t fault the game for bring unoriginal as I love me a good kart racer. Ergo what really matters is the execution, and Sonic Racing definitely knows what it’s doing.

As a good kart racer should be, this one is fast, fun and frantic. As I mentioned I can’t recall a single moment of lag and the game maintains a great sense of speed throughout the experience. The items actually seem a little more balanced than in Mario Kart since there are far fewer of the “instant win/lose” items such as the blue turtle shell. Therefore coming in first place is based more on actually playing well instead of praying to god nothing hits you before crossing the finish line.

I’m both happy and a little disappointed with the character roster here. As expected there are quite a few characters from the Sonic universe like Tails, Knuckles, and Eggman. I get why they’re here but do we really need the likes of Amy and Big the Cat? Does anybody actually willingly select them? It just seems like they’re taking the place of what could be some great, more obscure choices, like Toejam and Earl. We do get some fairly obscure characters in there though, like Opa Opa and the Chu Chu Rocket…things (I never played Chu Chu Rocket). I just wish they had gone even further. However it’s definitely awesome to have Alex Kidd, The Bonanza Bros and Ryu from Shenmue. Plus I played the 360 version, so I had Banjo-Kazooie as an option as well. This kind of game is tailor-made for DLC so I really hope Sega throws some more characters at us.

The tracks of course are all based on the worlds of these game characters. The track design is quite good although I find that none of them are particularly memorable, especially when compared to Mario Kart. Those tracks stick with you and everyone always has a preference. I just didn’t find that here. That’s not to say there aren’t some good ones. Those Samba De Amigo tracks are about the closest thing I’ll probably ever get to driving through Toon Town from Roger Rabbit. Again, I really hope Sega takes advantage of DLC and continues to add tracks because there is so much more potential here.

One thing I haven’t touched on is Sega Miles, which act as your currency in the game. You get a certain amount of miles after you finish any event/race/anything. You can then use these to purchase additional characters, tracks and pieces of music. I got crazy addicted to this and I really felt like the game was constantly rewarding me for playing. Having still not purchased everything there is to buy in the store, I can’t say what would happen to my motivation to play the game after I have everything, but the core game play is so fun I believe I would still keep coming back.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing ranks right up these amongst the most pleasant surprises of the year. I had almost zero excitement going into the game and ended up sinking hours upon hours into it. You definitely need to check this one out.