November 26, 2012 by GEL
At its core, All-Stars Transformed seems like your typical kart racer. However, there is much more to the game than gimmicks and zaniness.
The cast of characters are lengthy: from Sonic to House of the Dead, even obscure stuff like Burning Rangers and Skies of Arcadia. This alone gives the game a unique edge. All-Stars Transformed is heavily centralized on triple threat racing: racers can transform their cars into boats and planes. On the surface, it appears like a blatant copied gimmick from Mario Kart 7′s air and sea idea. Strangely enough, it’s much closer to Diddy Kong Racing in how the land, air, and sea modes play.
The game is visually impressive. It manages to keep a relatively consistent 30 FPS frame rate, even in split-screen. It’s impressive because of how fast the game really is, and saying it runs at Sonic speed wouldn’t be too far off. In fact, it’s almost so fast that referring to it as a kart racer feels inappropriate, which is why some insist on calling it an arcade-style racer instead. The game often feels more like Outrun 2 than a Mario Kart knockoff. I can’t help but be reminded of SEGA’s old Genesis ad with the two race cars: All-Stars Transformed simply runs faster than its competitors.
Each vehicle handles quite differently and has large portions of the track dedicated to them. The boat turns the game channels Hydro Thunder. The airplane portions are fully controllable, allowing players to dodge incoming objects with a barrel roll. The trick system has been overhauled since the first entry. Rather than spamming a trick button, flick the right analog stick in different directions while airborne. There are no longer obvious trick jumps, but rather the ability to execute your own tricks. It’s a real risk-reward element and adds another layer to the gameplay. Even the pickup items are brilliantly integrated. Many special pickups have multiple uses (puffer fish and snowballs), and the game is devoid of cheap catch-up items (for anyone else who hates blue shells).
While the racing mechanics are rock solid, the courses are the real stars of the show. The tracks often take players through land, sea, and air, but some feature branching paths that give players a vehicle of their choosing. It allows the player to proceed based on their favorite style of game play, which is always a wise choice when it’s executed in such a great fashion. Some courses even change between laps. For example the Skies of Arcadia stage has pieces of the track falling away, leading to more jumps and longer flying segments as the course dismantles. Meanwhile, the Burning Rangers stage is an underwater lab that floods. By lap three, it’s almost entirely a boat race. These courses keep players on their toes, making it hard to follow the copout Kart racing formula: drift a lot and boost constantly. It also makes experience (XP) feel earned. XP is performance based, and unlocks Kart mods that are essentially different sets of stats for each kart.
The game has the appropriate smattering of 4-player local split-screen and online multiplayer options. The single player options include 6 different Grand Prix cups (and mirror variants) as well as a World Tour mode. World Tour consists of a variety of challenges ranging from normal races, drift challenges, and taking down a tank. Remember, single player mode also supports 4-player local split-screen play (5-player on WiiU). Better still, you can take your local split-screen crew online and race against real players. Online play supports up to ten players over the internet, and provides a smooth transition between games to keep you playing without too much of a wait. The biggest drawback is that if your favorite character is already picked by someone else, you’ll have to choose another. Patching out would be my choice, even if it means we’ll see races consisting entirely of Tails. There are also Avatars/Miis in a race, which is a fun 360/Wii U addition.
Something else worth mentioning, the game becomes challenging on higher difficulties. Not because of blatant cheating or rubber band AI, but because of actually difficult computer racers and challenges. It’s sad that “the computer doesn’t blatantly cheat” can be considered high praise, but in this genre, it is important to note.
Unlike the previous game, which gave the player a choice of recycled classic SEGA tracks, the All-Stars Transformed soundtrack is stellar. It’s by Richard Jacques — known for his work on Sonic R. — and features brand new remixes of classic SEGA music for each track that change as you race.
Presentation – Bright, colorful, varied and detailed tracks are the highlight of the game.
Optimization – Runs at a near-constant 30 FPS, even in split-screen, with only brief drops in frame rate during isolated situations.
Ingenuity – Many of the games features have already been seen, but the speed and style of delivery makes it feel more unique than recycled.
Sound – Fantastic remixes of classic SEGA tunes, a good variety of character quips, and a surprisingly un-annoying announcer.
Entertainment – Fast, varied, with tons of multiplayer options for both online and offline play. Lots of replay value working into harder difficulties.
What we have here is a rock solid racing game with great graphics, lots of content, and boatloads of multiplayer options. In my opinion, this game wipes the floor with Mario Kart, and that’s coming from a guy who generally sides with Nintendo. Even if Mario Kart is your preferred Kart racing franchise, All-Stars Transformed deserves a bit of adulation for improving upon its own predecessor in every way.
GamerCheese Score: 9 out of 10