Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed hands-on preview

It’s tough out there for a kart racer when you’ve got no less a titan like Nintendo’s Mario Kart to compete with. Fortunately, that first-party sensation is limited to Nintendo platforms, which leaves a hole in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 realms that developers frequently try to fill. Sega saw the need and attempted to address it in 2010 with the release of Sonic & Sega All-Stars, a largely successful effort that leaned heavily on the publisher’s roster of wholly owned franchises. Now there’s a sequel zooming our way, set for a holiday 2012 release: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.

I was given the opportunity last week to spend a little hands-on time with a relatively early version of the game at a Sega preview event in New York City. While the mechanics are largely the same as they were before, the “transformed” in the title hints at the big change in the upcoming game. Basically, all of the karts now have the ability to… wait for it… transform depending on the demands of the track. You’re no longer confined to just roads and wheeled vehicles in Sonic & All-Stars Racing; now your vehicles have the ability to fly and cruise along the surface of a body of water (or some other liquid, including lava!).

To be clear, you can’t simply just press a button and take flight whenever you like. It’s a track-by-track thing, with different stretches of each race requiring your vehicle to take on different forms. The course I played on, modeled after Golden Axe, started out with a pretty standard paved roadway. The action eventually gave way to a yawning cavern that needed to be flown through — you’ve got full control over up/down as well as left/right when you’re flying — and a lava river that needed to be navigated. All the while, you’re looking for speed pads to drive over and snatching up power-ups to use against the opposing drivers.

There’s not much more to say here. If you know and appreciate a good kart racer, then you’ll be happy to know that Transformed is looking like it’s shaping up to be a good kart racer. There are more features to be discussed and showcased, such as collectible stars that can be spent on driver/vehicle-specific powers once you’ve collected enough. Not to mention a roster full of familiar Sega faces from the publisher’s various franchises. Only 14 of the 27 total racers have been revealed so far. You can expect to hear about a few more next week when Sega brings the game to San Diego Comic-Con. As it stands, however, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed is looking like another more-than-capable kart racer that is coming to platforms which don’t see enough of those.

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