Review: Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed chugs along at a good pace (PS Vita)
After reviewing the console version of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed a few weeks back, I was curious to see how the PS Vita version would fare. So I went ahead and pre-ordered a copy, only to return to GameStop various times because it was delayed week after week. Then, right before the Christmas holiday, I was informed it finally came in, but was left wondering just what effect these small little delays would have on the portable racer. The truth is, not much.
Though the game does have its issues (we'll get to those in a minute), this is a pretty good kart-racing debut for the PS Vita, outdoing ModNation Racers in terms of content (mainly unlockables), as well as diversity.
That diversity comes with vehicular transformation that happens throughout the race. No matter who you choose (Sonic, Wreck It Ralph…and Danica Patrick?), your vehicle changes once you pass through blue rings, whether it's into a boat, a plane or a cart. (It does it automatically, so you don't have to worry about tapping buttons.) No matter what form you take, you'll compete with other drivers, executing tricks and drifting to earn boosts and grabbing power-ups like blowfish or ice balls to throw them off your trail.
The track design is one of Transformed's biggest highlights. Sumo Digital really went all out to recreate nostalgia from Sega's heyday, between the bright and colorful Sonic worlds, the fast-paced After Burner track and the eye-popping Panzer Dragoon world. The drivers also offer quite a bit of memories, including the likes of NiGHTS (I hear he drives like a dream, ha!), Ulala from Space Channel 5, Golden Axe's Gilius Thunderhead and…well, again, Danica.
The game does take a slight step backwards on the Vita. The frame rate isn't as fluid as the console versions (thus explaining some of the delays, I'm thinking), though it's still good-looking enough that only the most dedicated fans will be bothered by it. The characters are fun to watch, especially Joe Musashi from Shinobi, who does ninja poses while his car is moving – which is kind of trippy. The tracks don't really lose that much of their luster here either. It's not bad.
As for the sound, this is a game that you'll want to get headphones for to get the most out of it. Transformed's soundtrack is brilliant, featuring remixes of familiar themes like Panzer Dragoon and After Burner, but more upbeat, matching the tempo of each race. The voice effects are fun to listen to (though you can tell Wreck-It Ralph has a fill-in actor), and the sound effects fill their role nicely.
Then there's the gameplay, and like previous versions of the game, Transformed just feels right here. Utilizing the left analog stick for steering, the right analog stick for tricks (best performed in mid-air) and button presses for acceleration, braking and power-up firing, it's good enough that you'll feel like you're right at home with a quality kart racer – even if it's not as typical as others. That's good news.
However, Transformed hits a slight snag when it comes to multiplayer. The single player content gives you a lot to unlock and complete, but when it comes to facing others, you have to brave the somewhat weak online servers to match up with people. We barely got into a couple of races, which run fine, but not good enough to make it a consistent favorite. This would've been one of those times when PS3 cross-over play would've been welcome.
Without full-flowing online play and a completely smoothed over visual interface, Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed loses a little speed on the Vita. However, if you're a fan of the game and don't mind a secondary version to take with you, it's not too bad. Just make sure what quirks are happening in this car before you make a down payment.
[Reviewed on PS Vita]