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I borrowed Sonic All-Star Racing Transformed from a pal over the weekend, and I couldn't put the game down! It was so fun and addictive, all I could think about was playing it and trying to beat it. This game is a total blend of Sonic R for the Sega Saturn, and Mario Kart 64 for the Nintendo 64. There are different modes (career, grand prix, matchmaking) that you can select from. The career mode gives you the chance to earn stars towards unlocking characters, mods, and other race locations. To advance to different stages in the career mode, you have to meet a certain goal in each race. The best part about the career mode is that it is not all racing, they throw in some challenges to stir things up. They have challenges were you have to fly through rings, beat ghost drives, and drift, all while beating a certain time limit. Also, the career map is pretty vast which allows you to go in different directions, giving the game a more interesting plot rather than just a linear storyline. The Grand Prix mode is a 4 round tournament mode. You get a certain amount of points depending on what position you finish, and at the end of all 4 races, you add them all up and see who the winner is. There are 5 or 6 different gran prix races I believe, and they are all maps already from the game. Playing online in the matchmaking feature is also fun and simple. You go in, choose which style you want to play, and a game is found for you. You can pick your character, or choose random and be ready for a surprise when you start. People are friendly in the online game, so it will be fun. If you're looking to unlock some quick achievements, then this game is perfect for you. There are a total of 50 achievements for 1000 points, and I unlocked about 18 in 6 hours of gameplay. Most of them just came from playing the game, and I wasn't even trying to get them. The easiest one was when I used an item to catch an attack and throw it back at the player. I was just trying to defend myself, and all of a sudden I was getting an achievement. Not bad at all. The controls are very fluid and responsive. The graphics and sounds are also superb. The board designs are interesting because they are modeled from SEGA games from the past. They have boards from the old Sonic R, but they also have boards based on Skies of Arcadia, Sonic 2, Shinobi, and other classic games. The best part about the boards is that they also change through the game. Even though you do laps, lap 2 will be different than lap 1, and it really makes you stay interested in the game Overall, this game is a blast, and is great for many hours of gameplay. After borrowing it from my pal, I'm going to go out and buy a copy, it's well worth it!
Earlier this year I hunted around second hand stores looking for the original "Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing" before finally picking it up in Cash Converters for the very tasty price of £12.99. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the game, despite the online community being all but dead due to the age of the game. Some 6 months after buying the original game I found out a sequel was on the way and made some very clear suggestions of what I wanted for my birthday from my other half, thankfully she got the hint and ordered the game from Amazon for release date! Despite her ordering it for release date, it didn't arrive until the following day, however it didn't take long for me to make up for lost time as I whacked the game in to the console and get straight off to playing. For those who haven't played the original. The original was a kart based racer involving mascots from various SEGA franchises, in a similar mould to games like Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing. The cast of the game was a classic line up from SEGA's past involving characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Knuckles, Alex Kidd, AiAi, Billy Hatcher, Beat, Amigo, Opa-Opa and Ryo Hazuki and combined those characters with levels based on the SEGA games, for example the Sonic games and the House of the Dead games. It was genuinely brilliant and quickly became one of my favourite games. The sequel continues along the same lines as the original combining the SEGA franchises with racing, however the game builds significantly on the ideas of the first. No longer are you restricted simply to karts but you're now every character is able to transform their kart into both boats and planes via passing through certain on track gates (hence the "Transformed" part of the games title). Each of these vehicles manages to handle differently adding a whole new experience to the game and the player will have to master all 3 of the vehicle modes for most of the courses in the game. As well as the straight racing mode (GP mode) of the game it also features a variety of other modes including "World Tour" mode which is full of short but fun challenges, such as "Battle Races", "Versus", "Traffic Attack", "Sprint" and "Pursuit". It's in World Tour mode that you will spend much of your time playing the game and unlock most of the games hidden characters (including the likes of Vyse, Gillius and Joe Musashi), and whilst it's challenging it's also ridiculously addictive (as my girlfriend has been finding out since the games release). The games other modes include the always interesting "Time Trial" mode as well as the online game play which features both a straight racing mode and battle races. At the moment the online community is growing, though isn't as big as that of games like COD and FiFa, however you shouldn't struggle to find a competitive lobby at the moment. In terms of the games depth and modes you'll be very busy if you intend to unlock everything in fact with over 20 hours play time I've only managed to complete 45% of the game so for most they will certainly get their money's worth from the game both online and offline. In fact if you want to "upgrade" all the characters in the game (done via earning experience) you'll spend hours just doing that and unlocking the mods for all the characters. As well as the variety of courses and characters that really build the games core, we also find an amazing sound track that takes the immortal tunes of SEGA franchises and places then beautifully in the game. Tracks from so many franchises are used here that it's hardly worth listing them, but like the courses you will find yourself recognising them time after time. In fact whilst I'm mentioning the courses I'll just quickly talk about them. They are often wonderfully crafted and dynamic, changing in the racing, for example bridges being knocked down, or a world being blow up as you race around it meaning every lap feels different. Not only are the courses dynamic but they often feature various short cuts and places that need exploring just as much as racing. Now after all the praise on the games courses, characters, depth, addictiveness and sounds I need to come to the games major flaw, the AI. On the harder difficulties the computer controlled racers seem to have unfair advantages, for example if you knock a computer character off the course they seem to take less time to recover than you, in fact hitting them with weapons often seems to do little more than allow them to go even faster. This does feel a bit frustrating at times and makes you feel slightly cheated, especially with some of the toughest challenges where you do everything only to see a car whizz past you on the finish line. Also the games only other point of contention for me is the games weapons seem to lack the charm of their Mario equivalent. In fact can anyone tell me what a blowfish has to do with the SEGA games? The weapons, including ice, the aforementioned blowfish, rockets and twisters (amongst others) all have a use but they all seem very-none Sonic when they perhaps could have used things like "Stars" (from the Sonic games) from invincibility, or a shield to protect against weapons (instead of their "Glove" pick up). However this is admittedly only a minor complaint and the game plays no different weather you're hitting someone with a rocket or with a shell. At just £25 (yes it really was released this cheaply!) this was really great value for money and is one of the stand out racing games currently available on any console. Played either by yourself (world tour mode), split screen with a friend (pretty much any mode in the game) or online you'll be kept hooked and you'll be genuinely enjoying racing. In fact it's hard to think of many games this addictively challenging currently available. It's a genuine joy to play even if at times you do feel like throwing your controller out of the window. Note-If you pick up a "Limited Edition" version of this game, you unlock a free downloadable character "Metal Sonic" and an extra course. Also if you change your consoles date to 25th December, you will be treat to a secret gift!