After Sega exited the hardware business in the early 2000s, the game publisher focused its attention on its money maker—Sonic the Hedgehog—to the detriment of its other characters. That changed with the 2010’s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, an enjoyable racing game that put Sega’s many iconic game characters in a kart competition. Its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, expanded the game with new characters and unlockables, and introduced transformable vehicles that take to the land, sea, and air. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection, the series’ final form, adds free, PC-centric characters from Sega and Valve’s libraries and bundles all the previous DLC goodies for a sweet $19.99 price tag. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may be the more high-profile mascot racer, but Transformed Collection is a far more enthralling game.
Note: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed doesn’t include the original Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing game. That’s sold separately as a $9.99 title.
Air, Land, and Sea Superiority
Kart racing is a genre defined by wild, arcade-style driving, wacky power-ups designed to take out rival racers (or shield you from their attacks), twisty tracks, and cutesy characters. Transformed Collection is no different, except that you battle on land, and in the air and water.
The changing racing environments give the game an adventurous feel that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe lacks. After all, how many kart racing games see you sprint across Afterburner’s aircraft carrier, dive into the water for aquatic racing, and then take to the skies to battle over the ship? Thankfully, you don’t have to actively change modes; your vehicle does so automatically when it approaches a body of water or approaches an aerial section. This keeps you focused on driving and not timing mode changes.
Transforming vehicles is an interesting concept in theory, but the blazing sense of speed is lost when you leave the land. Air and water travel plods along until you hit one of the boost areas that give you temporary ground-like speed. That said, the air, land, and water tracks all have numerous alternate paths and shortcuts that encourage exploration.
Besides the shifting racing environments that pull from classic Sega games such as Jet Set Radio and Super Monkey Ball, Transformed Collection has the expected racing game modes. You pick a character and speed toward the finish line in a multitude of game modes, including World Tour, Grand Prix, Time Attack, and Single Race.
World Tour is the game’s main mode. It’s where you enter standard races, engage in drift challenges, and battle other vehicles in the arena. You earn stars—the in-game currency—upon successfully tackling these contests. Stars can be spent on the between-match slot machine that grants power-ups (such as a boost or shield), and they can be used to unlock new tracks and characters. It’s a fun progression system, as a good racer can unlock a handful of new items every gameplay session.
Historical Character Context
As you’d expect from a game entitled Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, the racer features the Sonic character family (Sonic, Amy Rose, Eggman, Knuckles, Tails), plus many others plucked from Sega’s arcade and console history. For example, you can rev engines using Football Manager (Football Manager), Gilius Thunderhead (Golden Axe), Vyse (Skies of Arcadia), Joe Musashi (Shinobi), Ulala (Space Channel 5), Willemus (Total War: Rome II), General Winter (Company of Heroes 2), and Nights (Nights Into Dreams), among others. The roster also includes two Sega characters that debuted as paid DLC extras, Metal Sonic and Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki, as well as their respective stages.
What gives Transformed Collection a Smash Bros.-like vibe is the inclusion of many cool non-Sega characters. There’s Wreck-It Ralph (the star of Disney’s animated video game flick), Danica Patrick (the retired NASCAR star), and characters exclusive to the Steam version: Pyro, Spy, and Heavy from Valve’s Team Fortress 2. It’s a shame that the game didn’t receive more character releases. After all, guest characters bring extra hype to the proceedings. Super Bomberman R went a similar route, with its inclusion of iconic characters like Simon Belmont (Castlevania), Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid), and P-Body (Portal 2).
As in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and other kart games, each racer has their own strengths and weakness. Wreck-It Ralph, for example, has a killer top speed, but it takes a bit of time for the big boy to reach a full head of steam. Transformed Collection’s characters improve as you use them. As you race with Sonic, for instance, you’ll earn XP that unlocks his vehicle’s mods. These mods let you tinker with the vehicle stats a bit, sacrificing top speed for better handling, for example. This flexibility means that your favorite character isn’t locked into a racing style.
Gameplay and Other Features
The racing action is all about jockeying for position, speeding over boost zones, and keeping an eye on incoming attacks (such as ice beams that freeze your kart in place). When you get friends together in multiplayer contests in either the four-player online or local modes, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection turns into heated, hilarious battles.
All-Star Moves may make you need to wash your mouth out with soap after a few play sessions. Fueled by an All-Star meter that fills as you race with flair (such as power sliding around corners), these super moves can quickly turn the tide of battle by granting a speed burst and weaponry. For example, Dr. Eggman forms a Death Egg around his ride and fires homing missiles at opponents. Beat, on the other hand, blasts phat beats. Should the moves connect, opponents’ vehicles go into a tailspin or get blasted off the road.
Going Under the Hood
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection is a game from the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era, so the game’s hardware requirements are quite meager. According to Transformed’s Steam page, the game demands that your PC have at least a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, a GPU with 256MB of memory and Shader Model 3.0 support, 6.7GB of storage, and 1GB of RAM (for Windows XP) or 2GB of RAM (Windows Vista and greater).
You can tinker with various control schemes and alter the loudness of the in-game music, Steam Voice Chat and sound effects. In terms of graphics options, you can tweak the water quality, motion blur, antialiasing, and other visual components. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust these settings from within the game; you can only do so using Steam’s configuration tool.
Transformed Collection runs at a locked 60 frames per second. Unlocked frame rates would be ideal, but the game runs extremely well, with fast action that doesn’t stutter or crash. It also supports 4K resolution.
Kart Racing Transformed
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Collection is a kart racing game designed to appeal to hedgehog fans, as well as fans of Sega’s old-school franchises—and it does so with aplomb. The air and water levels slow the game’s speedy pace a bit, but arcade racing fans will appreciate tight turns, power slides, creatively designed levels, and vehicular combat.
There aren’t many kart racing games on PC, and none come close to touching Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing Transformed Collection. It’s just that good, and that’s why it’s an Editors’ Choice recommended racing game.
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