Game-breaking bugs, choppy framerates, and controversial reviews – these are just three of the things that have plagued the Wii U version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed prior to its release. Indeed, it’s not unfair to say that people have been somewhat skeptical about the blue hedgehog’s first leap onto Nintendo’s new console, especially when compared to the 360 and PS3 counterparts of the same game. But now that Sonic has launched alongside the Wii U, are this version’s exclusive features enough to help it speed ahead of the pack? Or has it turned out to be the runt of the litter?
This particular review won’t be going into a lot of detail about the game in general as that’s already been covered in the TSS review of the 360/PS3 version – instead, the focus here will be on what makes the Wii U version its own unique beast. So, let’s begin by tackling those three major issues mentioned at the start, shall we? Firstly, I am pleased to report that the dodgy framerates seen in some of the early demos for the Wii U version are well and truly a thing of the past. Sumo Digital continually promised us throughout the game’s development that the Wii U version would run at a steady clip, and they haven’t disappointed – everything is super smooth and I have yet to encounter a framerate drop that gets in the way of the racing. As it stands, it’s fast-paced and frantic all the way from the starting line to the chequered flag. In Sumo we should trust.
Now, for what many would consider the biggie. As those who have been following the launch of Transformed on Wii U will know, this version suffered from fatal glitches caused by a day one patch in the US which rendered a number of missions in the World Tour mode impossible to beat. Thankfully, this is a problem that has also been addressed – even if it did take its sweet, sweet time. In Europe, Transformed never received this killer patch so unless there is a monumentally catastrophic error in the future (note to SEGA: don’t screw up!), the Wii U version is absolutely fine and perfectly playable, just like its 360 and PS3 brethren. In America, you can now download a patch which fixes these issues and will save you from playing what would otherwise be the buggiest Sonic game since that monstrosity from 2006 that we shall never speak of again.
As for the final of the three main worries, the previous reviews for the Wii U version have been a bit mixed. Understandably, some of them have had lower scores that reflect the broken nature of the US version – and that’s more than fair comment – but others, most notably the 62% score from Official Nintendo Magazine UK, have caused a bit of uproar in comparison to the high ratings seen for the other versions. Do I find this mixed reaction to be justified? Well, let’s put it this way: as far as I’m concerned, Transformed is not just a great game – it’s one of the best launch titles for Nintendo’s new platform.
I’m not normally one to harp on about graphics, but as a gamer transitioning from Wii to Wii U, I cannot describe just how wonderful it is to finally be playing a HD Sonic game on a Nintendo console. Booting up Transformed and seeing the absolutely glorious visuals left me in awe, and it’s a real testament to the development team’s design skills. Every track looks positively gorgeous on the Wii U, all feeling grand in scale with plenty going on in both the foreground and background. The attention to detail is truly staggering and it really shines through on this new piece of hardware.
Thankfully, Transformed isn’t just a case of style over substance, because this is one solid title. Feeling more like an arcade racing game than your typical kart racer, there is a tremendous sense of speed and a lot more focus is placed on the drifting mechanics – you’ll need to master them if you plan on getting anywhere in this game, but thankfully they’re easy and intuitive to pick up. Let’s not forget the major selling point of the game, either – cars that turn into planes and boats! While the on-road sections handle just like 2010’s Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing and the water sections feel similar but with, well, water physics, the flying sections feel like a different game entirely, more akin to something like StarFox where you duck and dive your way through the various floating obstacles that stand between you and the finish line (all together now… do a barrel roll!). It’s an extremely seamless mix of three different racing styles and makes Transformed very much feel like its own thing, and not just a shameless copy of Nintendo’s own mascot racer.
What’s more, the core gameplay of Transformed is only enhanced by what the Wii U brings to the table. Though there’s always a small map in the corner of the TV screen while you’re racing, having a much more detailed version on the GamePad screen is really useful – the one on the TV only shows you roughly where everyone is on the track, while the GamePad displays a zoomed-in perspective which shows you exactly where you and anyone around you is – perfect for setting up some sneaky reverse shots with a firework or snowball, and because it also shows you if other characters have any items, you can use it to your advantage defensively as well. Another cool Wii U feature is the rear view mirror, which is activated by holding the GamePad up in front of the TV screen, just as if you were looking in a real car mirror to see what’s behind you. These additions may at first sound distracting, but fear not about glancing down to see where your rivals are – it’s about as natural as quickly gazing over at the aforementioned map on the TV screen would be. Oh, and the ability to switch the action over to the GamePad at any time? Magnificent.
Unfortunately I have been unable to fully test the Wii U version’s multiplayer modes, but if they’ve been given the amount of attention the rest of the game has, then I can imagine only good things. It boasts up to 5 players thanks to the GamePad, which automatically gives it (quite literally) one up on the other versions.
If there’s any downsides to Transformed, it’s that the game can be very, very hard at times. Don’t let the cutesy graphics fool you – there are moments when the AI seems to be absolutely brutal, particularly in some of the A and S rank missions in World Tour. They’ll be ruthlessly knocking you about the track and bombarding you with a barrage of items almost as relentless as Mario Kart Wii’s blue shells (emphasis on the almost though, as Transformed never quite stoops that low in terms of cheap tactics). They’re by no means unbeatable, but prepare to have your stress levels rise quite dramatically if you dare to take on the tougher missions, which is compulsory for unlocking many of the game’s features. There’s also a few minor bugs present from time to time, and the physics can feel a little out of whack on a few occasions (especially in the water sections), but they’re nothing that take away from the sheer fun you’ll have racing around the colourful worlds as Sonic and co.
In conclusion, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is undoubtedly going to be a worthy purchase whatever platform you buy it on, but if you’ve just shelled out for a shiny new Wii U and are looking for a solid launch game to play on it, then you simply can’t go wrong with what is possibly the definitive version of SEGA’s latest offering. It’s clearly been crafted with love and it’s full of great moments that will leave the fanboy in you weeping with joy.
Hats off to you, Sumo Digital – you’ve done it again.
+ Transforming vehicles add new depth to the gameplay
+ Stunning graphics on Nintendo’s new system
+ Effective use of the Wii U’s unique features
– Fatal glitches without patches
– Can feel too challenging at times
– A few technical issues still present