'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed' brings some variety to the table

New Sonic title transforms racing to a whole new level.

We got a chance to go hands-on with Sega latest Sonic title, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The game features a score of characters from Sega's most beloved games racing on dynamic and often perilous tracks in vehicles that transform.

The courses are based on environments from Sega's previous titles. For the demo we jumped on board with Shadow the Hedgehog, a middle-weight racer, and took off on a track taken from Panzer Dragoon, a 1995 rail shooter for the Sega Saturn.

Right out of the gate, the controls felt tighter and more responsive than the previous title, making for a solid, competent racing experience. The speed of the game is reminiscent of current-generation over-the-shoulder view Sonic titles. The drift mechanics are decently powerful but at the same time feel natural within the flow of the race. Players blast ahead in their vehicles with only seconds to avoid pitfalls or dangerously objects blocking the track. The sensitive controls, while excellent for long stretches of track without hazards, may trip up players less experienced in racing sims.

As the environment changes, so do the vehicles. At one point the track veered downwards, disappearing into water. Our kart automatically morphed into a boat and took to the waves. As before, players are given only a second to adjust to this change. Once we had our bearings it was smooth sailing - until our boat transformed into a plane, that is. Taking to the skies was much easier than adjusting to ground or water transport.

A neat feature is the ability to collect weapons and use them against opponents. Players drive into floating gold question marks, Sega's answers to Mario Kart's technicolor coin blocks, and obtain one of several weapons. We got to try out an ice-shooter than fires snowballs at other drivers and a speed booster.

In the end, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed isn't much different from its 2010 predecessor. The transforming vehicles and changing environments prove a great challenge but are ultimately not enough to really set this game apart from other racing sims. With the exception, of course, of Danica Patrick as a playable character.

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