Mario has long been king of the Kart racing genre, even though this crown has been challenged so many times over the years. From the simple and disappointingly basic entries into the genre, such as Crazy Frog Racing, to the serious contenders, like Crash Team Racing. None of these young upstarts have ever been able to wrestle the crown from our aging moustachioed plumber.
But now, Mario’s oldest rival has gathered a few of his friends together in an attempt to out do the kart racing king. This is not the first time that Sonic has made a grab for the title; letâ€™s hope that it fares better than the previous attempts.
Developed by Sumo Digital, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is available on most of the major platforms. Well, the games title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue does it? Letâ€™s call it ASR.
Right from the word go, it is obvious that this game has been a labour of love for the developers. Players are able to race as a selection of different well known Sega characters, alongside some slightly more obscure ones. Sonic, Amy, Tails, The guy from Shenmue, Ulala from Space Channel 5, Aiai from Super Monkeyball. The roster is quite huge. Some of the characters are available from the offset, with others that have to be purchased with Sega Miles.
The Sega miles are an interesting addition to the otherwise standard Kart gameplay. As the player completes races or succeeds in challenges, they manage to gather these miles as a form of in game currency. The player is then able to visit the store and unlock either extra playable characters, or extra tracks.
The tracks are a thing of beauty in ASR. Each track follows a particular theme, based on a Sega character. These themed tracks, such as a Sonic Casino based track, or a devilishly tricky Monkeyball track, are stunning to look at and offer a faithful representation of their given characters game.
Playing the game is what you would expect from a Kart racing game. The player has one button to accelerate and one to brake. Drifting is a big part of most decent kart games, and it is well recreated here. By managing to pull a drift, not only is the racer rewarded by getting around potentially hazardous corners with ease, but they also receive a speed boost. The boost is of utmost importance and players will have a hard time winning races, especially online, without mastering this technique.
The tracks are littered with power-ups that can be triggered with a press of just one button. Nothing unusual there. The selection of power-ups includes shields, speed boosts and numerous ways to hamper your fellow drivers. As with the boost, learning the different ways that these power-ups are used will often mean the difference between winning and losing.
Once you have mastered the intricacies of racing, which should not take long, then it is time to test your mettle and go multiplayer. Alongside the regular racing modes, the player will find some more time wasting ways to play ASR. The battle type modes are again standard amongst kart racers now. Players hurtle around an arena and try to shoot their opponents. There a re a couple of interesting variants on this, such as grabbing as many crystals as possible and then trying to hit your opponent to make them drop theirs, or scoring points whilst loitering in a given area whilst your opposition try to remove you. At the end of the day though, these modes are only fun for a while and, whilst no better than those in Mario Kart, they are certainly no worse. The racing is where the real fun is, and so it should be.
ASR certainly makes a damn good effort at taking the title from the tubby plumber, but, somewhere along the line, it just falls short. The game looks great, sounds great and even plays great. But it doesn’t quite hit the spot. Maybe, after all of these years of Mario being on top, we have just become conditioned to believing that kart racing games are lacking if they do not feature the Bros. I don’t know.
Anyway, ASR is a damn good game and I would be hard pressed to find anything to complain about. Sega fans everywhere will rejoice in this epic cast of Sega characters and kart racing fans will love the game just as much. ASR may not be the new King of kart racing, but it is certainly a member of the Royal Family.