Sonic’s first kart outing was a massive surprise. It was slick, beautiful, competitive and quite frankly the definitive racer for fun family four player action so far this gen. Then suddenly we had LittleBigPlanet Karting, F1 Race Stars and then Sonic Transformed all pop out within 7 days. It’s been a karting dream but before Christmas comes along I want to tell kart racing fans one thing – this is my favourite of the trio! Here’s why:
S&SAT firstly has three types of racing thanks to the transformable vehicles (hence the name). The game has been built with this in mind and tracks incorporate not just karts on land, but boats at sea and planes in the sky. Each of the 20+ characters pass through way points and their vehicles seamlessly twist into their new guises. This opens up the game immensely. Suddenly we have tricky wave sections to ride on, and the plane sections can see the maps open out with various routes round and through the landscape. The tracks are built around this mechanic and are very creative – usually de-constructing as the race unfolds ala Motorstorm Apocalypse. That made Motorstorm Apocalypse my favourite of that series, this helps make Sonic’s kart game the best in this genre. You can go from driving around the Skies of Arcadia circuit only for it to be bombed by sky pirates and all you’ve got left is to fly through the ruins!
Secondly the handling is spot on. F1 Race Stars handles like a fat cow after Christmas dinner. LPBK has not quite the same sense of speed. Here speed and turning go hand in hand and that’s down to the drifting mechanic which feels responsive and balanced. I had some friends over for some four player split screen and all of them said “You know this game feels like a real kart game should. I know exactly where I’m going.” It’s a strange comment perhaps in its concept but actually, it is integral as to why the game is fantastic.
Then we have the multitude of characters, two from various Sega games past and present plus Danica Patrick?! I was delighted to see Pudding there! The tracks see just one returning track from the previous game. You also get mirrored tracks and battle arenas too. There’s drift and ring challenges, boss battles that throw things at you whilst you try to blow them up and of course multiplayer locally up to four and online up to ten. Online works excellently and local suffers from little slowdown or loss of detail. We had an absolute blast.
Lastly for the single player, there’s tons of fun to be had because the AI is mega quick. It doesn’t resort to cheap missile attacks constantly on the harder modes – they just know all the shortcuts and make every drift count. It’s been a real challenge and a pleasure to try and win on Expert mode (I’m still not there yet).
~Fantastic control system
~Creativity in track design and layout
~Genuinely excellent single and multiplayer modes
~Very high production values
~4 player local FTW!
~Erm… it has to end?
I seriously cannot recommend this game enough. Easily one of my favourite games of the year and my favourite karting game of this entire generation. This is the golden boy. I can’t wait to see what else comes of this superb franchise.