Developer: Sega
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Sonic & All-Stars Racing is a kart racing series that is better than it has any right to be. Transformed, the second in the series, gives Sonic and his Sega pals more to do than just drive around in karts, which is quite welcome, but the f2p-inspired additions made to this mobile version do a lot to hurt the experience.

SonicTransformed-9It’s easy to point out “Why is Sonic in a car?” but thankfully the Transformed sub-title justifies Sonic’s vehicle-boundness by having him fly in the air and boat across the water. He has a lot more trouble with that. Plus, the racing game where he wasn’t in a vehicle, Sonic R, had music so bad that there was literally an option to play the tracks without lyrics. Thankfully the music cue from Sonic R in Transformed is a lyric-free version.

But really, that there’s music from Sonic freakin’ R shows that the game is full of fan service for Sega diehards. There’s even one clever taunt, as Ryo Hyazuki of Shenmue fame drives an OutRun arcade cabinet that has the license plate SHEN 3. The Shenmue series only had two entries. Cold-blooded, Sega. But amusing. Really, this kind of cheeky and self-aware Sega needs to come out and play a lot more. Sega is a company with a rich history that needs to celebrate itself like Nintendo is wont to do more often.

The racing holds up well on its own, though. Racing in karts is solid enough, with a risk-reward drifting system that can grant lengthy turbo boosts for good drifters. As well, there are spots where the vehicles transform into their boat or plane modes, introducing new challenges for how to approach the tracks – which can change dynamically – and add a great dash of variety to the game. The numerous modes beyond just races including checkpoint challenges, battle races, and more, are just part of that equation. There’s daily and weekly challenges, online multiplayer, and iCloud syncing for the cherry on top.

SonicTransformed-4The game does suffer a bit from “free-to-play”-itis with two currencies, costs to enter some races, and the ability to buy boosts – including in the middle of a race itself, but thankfully rings and stars are handed out pretty often. It could have been a lot worse, but that a game with a $4.99 asking price (which was a sale price for the Steam version not long ago) is being so brazen with the IAP sits a bit off with me. Again, it could be worse, but this is where we’re at.

It’s a shame because the rest of the game is such a great kart racer and does so much to be its own weird little thing. The core game comes highly recommended, the extraneous elements not so much. But if players want to play the game on the go and don’t have a PlayStation Vita, then well – they have to deal with it.

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