Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is one of my favourite titles on PC. In fact last summer myself and Hayley spent most of our time trying to complete the World Tour together. So when I heard that SEGA were planning to release the game onto iOS, I jumped at the chance to grab the title that features so many of my favourite SEGA characters, but did it match my expectations? Or does the transformation from PC/Console to Mobile cause it to sink?
The mobile version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed feels like an entirely different game that contains the same sounds, features, and characters as it’s more fully-featured counterpart. In some sense it is a completely different game which has been optimised for mobile, and by optimised I mean, it’s had some pretty key features removed in order to keep the game running great on smaller hand-helds.
First off, the games menus are totally different which throws me off a little, now you’re given a more mobile optimised horizontal list that acts as more of a quick launcher than a full blown World Tour menu filled with details, which actually works perfectly for mobile. That’s the one point you need to keep in mind when shelling out almost £3 for this game, it’s a mobile title. All of the features, gameplay, and graphics have been optimised for mobile and comparing it to the PC, Xbox 360, or PlayStation versions just won’t do the iOS and Android version justice.
The game itself gets its name ‘Transformed’ from the way that the vehicles transform whenever the track sees fit, if you end up in water your kart will change into a boat, if you fly off a certain type of ramp, your kart will turn into an airplane, and of course your kart will just be a kart when on the road. The tracks often transform themselves too with certain parts of the track getting destroyed or changing in some way, though the frequency and visuals have been cut down a little in the mobile version of the game.
That’s not the only thing that’s been cut down in in the iOS and Android version, the character roster has been cut down from 33 to 13 with the extra addition of Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue totting it up to a mere 14 all of which can be unlocked by winning certain events though that’s not the only way; as you might expect with a mobile title, certain things can be unlocked via an in-app-purchase. SEGA have ingenuously lumped together locked characters such as P.D. Joe from Crazy Taxi and Gum from Jet Set Radio as rather pricey in-app-purchase as well as offering the chance to unlock every level for £6.99, though doing so would deem the game pretty pointless.
As with the console counterpart you can choose a difficulty level which will reward you with more stars if you finish the race in first place, in the mobile version however the first and easiest race is ‘free’ but higher difficulty levels cost you rings, or if you’re feeling brave and want to take on the highest difficulty leve, that’ll cost you one of the more premium currencies which, as you might also expect, is more difficult to obtain, and can be purchased with real money. Thankfully though the payoff for winning each level is much higher than the cost of entry so it has that on its side. It’s just a little frustrating that a game that costs almost £3 contains freemium features.
The various amount of tracks available in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are plentiful. No longer do the tracks focus on games that the characters in the roster star in, Transformed features tracks based on popular SEGA titles such as Panzer Dragoon, Afterburner, and Golden Axe with all of them almost as dynamic as the tracks found in the console/PC version of the game, more often than not your kart will transform into a boat, or a kart, or a plane, and in some cases all three during one race and unlike other games featuring transforming vehicles, each kart/boat/plane has its own feel and performance when it transforms.
In terms of controls you’re given the usual choice of tilt or touch controls for steering with the latter is my preferred method of controls as I don’t need to remain perfectly vertical in order to stay in control. The touch controls come in the form of an on screen joystick which most of the time is perfectly adequate but on the iPhone 5S your thumb can sometimes slip off the screen causing Sonic to go careering into the edge of the track.
Following the steering controls the controls on the right feature a pretty large drift button – one of the main features in Transformed – a smaller button which you can flick up or down to choose which direction to fire the weapon you’ve picked up, and an All-Star button which puts your character in All-Star mode at any time you please, though you should probably avoid this button as it costs premium currency to use.
Aside from the World Tour that cycles through various challenges such as Drift Challenges, Races, and Boost Challenges, there’s also a Grand Prix mode that gives you the more traditional ‘best of three’ races where the overall winner of each race comes out on top. In this mode you have the option to unlock content to upgrade your character, though you’ll use your rings for this too. Finally, there’s a multiplayer mode that uses the Game Center to connect with up to four players to race it out online, I had no trouble connecting and I found little to no lag which was ace.
Overall Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed feels a little like a knock-off version of the console/PC counterpart, but it contains most of the same features bar a few visual effects and transformations. The menus, on screen controls, and character animations are perfectly optimised for mobile which makes it feel more like a native mobile title than a port. The only thing that lets this title down is the sheer amount of in-app-purchases and the use of premium currency within a game that we’ve already spent almost £3 on.