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The long-awaited follow-up to Sega’s super hit Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing is now out and I have played the hell out of it. For those not familiar with the game, it’s a colorful, fun, easy to pick up and play racing game featuring a variety of characters from various Sega franchises. Think along the lines of Mario Kart, but with Sega characters. Well, not quite, but I’ll get into that. The first game was brilliant. In fact, so much so that I gave it a 10/10 on my review over at Phoenix Gamer. So how does the sequel measure up? Let’s find out, shall we?

First of all I’d like to say that All Stars Racing Transformed is probably one of the most ambitious projects that Sega has taken on in a long time. And I’m not just tooting its horn because I’m a Sega fan. The variety of characters to choose from has been increased greatly, the levels have been rendered masterfully, and there are tons of new tracks and challenges.

Oh, and there’s the transforming thing. Throughout the levels your character’s vehicle can change from a car, to a boat, or to a plane. When I first saw the trailers for this game, and got really excited. I imagined that it would be something like Diddy Kong Racing where you could choose which vehicle you’d use before the race started. Of course, it turned out to be nothing like that. Each level starts you off with whichever vehicle is necessary for the beginning of the race, and your car/boat/plane changes automatically when you drive through blue rings that are set out on each track. Many of them are mandatory, while others you can go out of your way to find to take advantage of for the speed difference and get ahead (boats and planes are faster than the car). While this seems really cool in concept, there are some issues. While I would have like to have had the option to change my vehicle with the press of a button, that’s not one of them. When transforming your vehicle, you must be very careful depending the level and circumstances. It does get easier as you get more practice in, but it can be frustrating at first when you’re not sure where you can go. Because the levels or tracks are so much more spread out, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out where you can go at first. In fact, sometimes it feels very limited. Like, say you’re in a boat and you try to go into a certain pat of the water off of a jump and you’ll just fall off the track, even though you’re still in water, in a boat. Sometimes this happens even if you are on the track still. It’s a bit buggy in this regard. Another example would be when you’re flying and bump into something. Sometimes you’ll be fine, other times your vehicle will sort of spin-roll and you’ll lose control for a couple seconds while the camera goes all wonky. This doesn’t happen as often as I’m probably making it out to seem, but it is a problem nonetheless when it happens. Sometimes your vehicle will change at inopportune times and you’ll fall off the track, etc. Which brings me to my next point.

They ramped up the difficulty like you wouldn’t believe. I’m sure there were probably quite a few people that thought, and expressed, that the first game might have been too easy. I agree, but it was playable and fun. This game is definitely playable, but they made it difficult to the point where I’m starting to get frustrated with some of the challenges. To unlock characters you need to collect stars in the world tour, which is a collection of racing challenges including plain races, drift challenges, battle races, and the like. You can play each of these on a different difficulty setting, but you have to play at higher difficulty settings to collect enough stars to move on with the game and some of the challenges are really tough, some damn near impossible. I’m thinking the only way that I would be able to get through some of them is to play on a practice mode where I can just study the layout of the tracks and figure out the best route to take. This takes time, and it’s something you’d expect more from an action or strategy game, not so much a fun pick-up-and-play racing game. On top of knowing the tracks, there’s always the factor of the enemy AI attacks and such, which seem to be much more aggressive in this game, further adding to the difficulty. It’s a challenge alright, but not one that I’m sure that I’d like to engage in for so long. Some levels must be played repeatedly, and with the right characters for whichever challenge you’re playing. Which can be a burden to figure out because…

There’s a leveling system. Each character now has stats. As you earn experience points, your characters can be customized with different mods effecting everything from how fast they are, to the handling, power-ups, and boosts. So now it’s a racing-adventure-rpg-strategy-battle-experience-thing. Like I said, ambitious. I wouldn’t have a problem with the leveling thing if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many characters, with so many abilities, and it takes so many wins to level each of their mods. I think I have maybe 4 of the characters, out of the 25+ to choose from, that have all of their mods available. I don’t feel like playing through the same races, challenges, and whatever just so I can unlock everything. Hell, I don’t want to have to do it to progress with the game. I’m sure that you might have fun with the variety of characters but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still all the same tracks, power-ups, and everything else. It takes too damn long. Not that this is entirely a bad thing either though, that makes it well worth the money you spent on it, but it gets frustrating when you can’t play with the rest of the characters even though you’ve already put so much time into it. Maybe they could have counteracted this with a sympathy timer or something. You know like, “Well, we see you’ve failed this many times. Here, have a character.” But nope. Not this game. And that’s fine too. It’s challenging, it’s engaging and it’s fun, when stuff isn’t bugging out.

This game has crashed on me 7 times since I started playing it. 7 times! I haven’t even been playing it that long. Maybe an hour or two each day for a couple of weeks. Not that long. It’s not my Xbox overheating either, the game just freezes. No reason. One time it happened on a loading screen (and those take forever by the way, about 20 seconds per. I have enough time to make a sandwich in between races) another time the game froze mid race. Actually, most other times it froze during races, which is really REALLY frustrating if you’ve already played through that level 5 times in a row just trying to get another damn star and you’re making progress, you’ve almost got it, you’re gonna win it this time, then nothing…the game just freezes. The last couple times this has happened, I just turned off the game, shook my head, and walked away from it.

Maybe I’m being too hard on this game and not giving it as much credit as it deserves, but I just can’t seem to get past the glitches. Also, I think there’s something to the phrase “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” And by that I mean, there were no problems that I could find with the first game. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be improved on. In this game they just tried to take it to a whole new level, and they did, but excessively. They completely changed the weapons, even the returning characters’ cars aren’t the same. I would have been fine with the same vehicles and just the added characters. I actually preferred Amigo’s maraca car to the stupid train thing they put him on in this one. They could have improved on their game, but this, this isn’t even the same game anymore. Okay, I’m going to stop being so negative here for a moment and boast about the good points.

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The game is beautiful. Again, the level designs are amazing, everything looks so polished and clean. Sparkly even. There’s lusciously detailed landscapes, wonderful music, and fan service galore. And you could take it all in and enjoy it if you’re weren’t blasting through the levels frantically trying to get the upper hand. It’s really really pretty, but hard to enjoy because of the core gameplay itself. It’s nice to have both of those things, but they don’t seem to work as well in unison in this game as they did in the game that came before it. Maybe it’s just too much to take on at once.

Over all All Stars Racing Transformed is fun, if not somewhat buggy, beautiful, and challenging. It’s got all your favorite characters and then some. If you’re a Sega fan, it’s definitely worth checking out. If you’re not, then it might just blow your mind.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed gets a…

7.5/10

 

Written by Mel

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