Really. Developed by Outrun's Sumo Digital, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is a marriage of all things SEGA in the guise of a really simple racing game. There's drifting, power-ups and tons of SEGA heritage in a neat little package of nostalgia.
What's great about Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is that it'll appeal to two sets of players. Mums and children will enjoy the chaotic action and simple controls, while more seasoned players will enjoy the nods to SEGA heritage in every inch of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing's presentation. Ryo Hazuki's there, racing his motorbike and forklift through the Shibuya stage from Jet Set Radio. Your girlfriend might not understand the significance of that — but she'll enjoy racing as the pink car called "Amy Rose".
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing will last about 6 hours if played alone, but it's the local and online multiplayer, aswell as numerous unlocks that will keep you playing.
Coming from the team behind the more recent ports of the arcade Outrun gamers, we expected Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing to control well. And it does. Alarmingly so. It's a simple beast - you hold the right trigger to accelerate, and hold the left trigger to drift around corners. The X button allows you to fire any power-ups you might have picked up and, erm, that's it. The simplicity is the key, you don't want the game to get bogged down with mechanics. You just want a fun drifting mechanic (check) and some decent track design.
As huge SEGA fans, we wished All-Stars Racing went a step further. But the game still undeniably pays homage to much of SEGA's back catalogue. The inclusion of Ryo Hazuki from the Shenmue games is a real winner for us, but also all the Jet Set Radio stuff is extremely cool too. If you're a SEGA fan, you'll find plenty of opportunity to shout "ooooooh that's off", which is exactly what you want from a game of this kind.
Disappointingly, the bulk of All-Stars Racing's tracks draw from just a few key SEGA franchises. Reassuringly they're all really well designed, look great and play into their fiction really well. This is flashier than Mario Kart. It's also sickeningly cute.
Anytime you're driving in All-Stars Racing, you'll be earning SEGA Miles. SEGA Miles can be used to spend on unlockable tracks, characters and music. They also help to increase your Driving License. Everything you unlock is well spread, meaning the game pushes you to keep playing for the next "thing". The trophies are also well spread out, giving you good recognition for every accomplishment you make in the game.
Jump into a lobby and experience lag-free racing with up-to seven other racers. Simple and, most importantly, great fun. You can even turn AI opponents on to flesh out smaller matches.
We had preconceived expectations that, given the nature of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, it'd run at a solid 60FPS all the time. Well, it doesn't manage that. In fact it struggles at times to stay at 30FPS. That can make the game look a little rough at times. It's a shame Sumo couldn't lock the frame-rate, and we anticipate a patch.
All-Stars Racing is great with the SEGA heritage but there are definitely times when we wished for more. Why are the power-ups so generic? Instead of homing rockets — why not summon the dude from Space Harrier and have him take out the car in front? Instead of more generic audio — why not Splash Wave? Etc. etc. Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing goes a long way to appeal to SEGA fans, but it doesn't go ALL the way. Perhaps the game's ambition was held back a little so it could appeal to more casual players, which seems fair. But we wanted more, dammit.
SEGA fans will lament Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing not going the extra mile with every inch of its presentation, but few will disagree this a fun racing game without pretense.