On my way through the SEGA booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo I popped by the demo station for Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed expecting a fun turn around the track, but instead I got a white knuckle ride through a dragon infested canyon. It was only once I finally put the controller down (apparently other people would like to play the game too) I was convinced that SEGA may just be getting the hang of this kart racing business.
Like its predecessor, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed is a kart racing game that takes you through the various worlds of famous (and even obscure) SEGA franchises. All the classic staples are here: arcade-y gameplay, loose controls, and of course vehicular weapons. Where Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed differs is in the actual vehicle you control. Every stage in the game will have you transforming between the standard car to either a boat or plane, sort of like Diddy Kong Racing, expect all in one level.
The course that I tackled was based on the Panzer Dragoon series, which I was very excited to see getting some much-deserved recognition. The race began pretty mundanely, driving around, shooting projectiles; the basics. Then some pretty angry dragons showed up and started destroying the level. I was soon sent crashing into a river where my car turned into a jet boat and the race continued uninterrupted. I then re-found the road only to have another dragon destroy the bridge I was on, but instead of plummeting to my death my car turned into a jet and once again the race went on. This uninterrupted gameplay makes for fast paced races that never lose their flow and give you more options as to how to best reach the finish line.
One of the things that impressed me the most with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed is how dynamic the levels are. With destructible set-pieces that alter the very race itself it makes every lap feel like a completely different race. Also, from what I played, the opposing A.I. is fiercly competitive; they spent more time trying to run me off the track than trying to actually win the race.
My time with Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed was short but what I did see, I liked. The gameplay feels familiar and comfortable but at the same time innovates with air, land and sea racing. Add to that all the various SEGA all-stars coming together (Panzer Dragoon, baby!) and you have a game that should definitely be on your radar. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed will be launching later this year for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.