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Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (iPad)

Sonic Racing on the iPad was so close to being a one star game. There is two control options for the game: the default, and the one that actually works. Why the developers decided make tilt controls for turning the kart default is baffling, but, once you change over to the touch screen controls, you’re in for a really good time.

It is a really bad first impression, to be told in the tutorial that you’re going to be tilting the iPad to steer. Not only will that mean you’ll never play this game in public, but the reflective screen of the iPad doesn’t lend itself well to tilting. Control option B places a small bar on the left hand side of the screen that slides back and forth to control steering, which works far better, but the game doesn’t do a good job of telling you it’s there. I discovered it by accident when I was about to quit the game in frustration, but paused first. It’s like the developers wanted us to use tilt controls.

Silly developers.

Wouldn't Sonic run faster?


Aside from that though, this game does a remarkable job of taking a console game and putting it on the button-less iPad. Sonic Racing automatically accelerates your cute Sega character through the courses. Your control is limited to a brake buttons, a power slide, and an items button. And, if you switch to control option B, a remarkably responsive and comfortable steering slider.

Those virtual buttons positioned intelligently on the screen, and so comfortable to use that once you get going, you’ll be able to play without needing to look down to find the buttons. Which is just as well, because Sonic Racing is a fast paced and busy racer. Tracks are filled with colour, animation, and personality. Karts scoot across the tracks with amazing fluidity. On the home consoles, this was a game that was billed as an inferior compared to Mario Kart of ModNation Racers. On the iPad, it’s still not as good as those games, but it does rule the roost as a remarkably clean racer with a lot of personality and some well designed tracks.




The weapons and items are all as you would expect and cribbed entirely from the Mario Kart stables. Rockets replace Koopa Shells. Mines replace Bananas. Taking an idea from the more modern Mario Karts, characters also enjoy powerful, individual items (my personal favourite is AiAi’s, which takes him out of his kart, and puts him in an all-powerful Monkey Ball for a while). And, just like the Mario Kart games, the computer AI has a tendency to cheat and magically stay close behind – but Kart racing veterans would be used to this by now.

And you get a lot of content for such a cheap asking price. There are 15 tracks, representing themes from across Sega’s various franchises. You’ll get to race on everything from Sonic right through to House of the Dead. And unlike many iPad games, there’s some depth in the gameplay options too. You’d expect the standard quickplay and grand prix, but that’s not all – there’s also a mission mode (not a whole lot of fun, but some people will get a kick out of it), and a time trial for anyone keen to show just how fast they can go (and the added challenge to beat the challenging ghost data just adds more longevity).

It doesn't have quite the same personality as Mario Kart, but it's still charming


There’s even multiplayer, both online and local, and there’s a battle mode in addition to the quick play. I found some significant connection difficulties in getting into online games which took away from some of the excitement in being able to kart race online, Sega style, but when it works, it works well enough.

And, of course, the character list is well rounded and Sonic fans will lap this up. Though AiAi is and always will be the best, there’s a range of characters from the obvious (Sonic), to the obscure (Billy Hatcher), and the downright weird (why is Ryu here?!?). It’s that all-star lineup that makes these kart racing games attractive in the first place, and Sega has a better line up than many.

Just make sure you switch the control mode to turn off the tilt controls. Your initial impressions will be turned on their head – for such a cheap game, Sonic All Star Racing is amazing value, and just more proof that the iPad is a legitimate gaming platform.




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Review: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing (iPad)
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