Remember when Sonic and Mario were serious rivals, it's been a while, back when gaming was a 2D world it was constantly disputed who was the better. Since the move to 3D though Sonic has fallen behind, much like the camera in his own games which struggled to keep up with him. In 3D platforming his speed worked against him for quite a while, but in recent years he's been making a bit of a comeback. With a couple of decent platformers under his belt with Colours and Generations, and taking some cues from his old rival and diversifying in to tennis and kart racing Sonic is once more a force to be reckoned with. So much so that with his latest game, Sonic Racing Transformed, there is a question as to whether he may have beaten Mario at his own game.
Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing was a competent kart racer, not Mario Kart level but certainly better than average, this time though Sega have switched things up a gear, and borrowed ideas, to make this a real contender. Mario took to the air and water in the last Mario Kart, and Sonic is doing it too now, but not as a glider and submarine, but a jet and speedboat. The same speed that initially hindered his forays in to 3D platforming is turned in to an asset when it comes to racing, and they've really made the most of it.
Joining Sonic in his races are a cast of characters from Sega's back catalogue, Jet Set Radio, Super Monkey Ball, Crazy Taxi and several others are represented, along with a few friends from his own games. Also included in the roster are Wreck-it Ralph from Disney/Pixars latest video game inspired film, and Danica Patrick, a female Nascar driver from America. Ralph fits in well, despite not strictly being a video game character, not sure about Danica Patricks inclusion though, maybe she's there to represent the Daytona games? The tracks also do some representing for Sega too, with a wide selection of game worlds to race in, from fan favourites like NIGHTS and Samba de Amigo to lesser known games like Billy Hatcher and Panzer Dragoon, needless to say there's an Outrun track in there too.
Unlike most racing games these tracks aren't fixed, with plenty of interactive events playing out across them as you race round they transform with each lap. This isn't where the transformed in the games title comes from though, that comes when, because of the shifting terrain of the tracks, you have to change vehicle types on the fly. If a track collapses in to water you'll pass through a gate and your car becomes a speedboat, that stretch of river comes to a waterfall and you go off the edge, another gate and your boat becomes a jet-plane. It's not a new game mechanic, but an obvious evolution of existing ones, and feels quite natural, although the first time you change to the jet the change in control schemes can throw you a bit.
Vehicle changes aside things don't stray too far from the usual kart racer formula, well designed tracks, plenty of power ups, unlockables aplenty, even some coins to pick up. And when it comes to power ups they're a well balanced bunch, no unstoppable game changers like a certain moustachioed plumber has been using for far too long. There's a few game modes to try as well apart from straight racing, boost and drift challenges against the clock, as well as a flight only ring challenge, all of which can be played in single player as part of an extensive campaign, if that's the right word for it, and there's always online multiplayer to see how well you really match up when you get bored of the AI opponents.
The most important thing though is it's fun, lots of fun, it's as good as any kart racer I've ever played, and I've played a lot. Does it match up against Mario Kart, that's the big question, and the answer could be as heavily contested as who had the best 2D platformer back in the day, but I say yes, this matches Mario Kart easily, and maybe even surpasses it in some areas.
Words By Gloria.