Before I explain why this is my favorite game on steam and my Game of The Year for 2013, I'd like to give a bit of history of my experience with Kart Racing games.
I've been a huge kart racing fan since SNES's Super Mario Kart. They're fun to play especially with friends but I felt they lacked something. As technology advance with the introduction of online, modern kart racing games had online sessions where you can play with others. I remember waking up early at 5am to playing Mario Kart Wii to play with a friend via online. It was fun playing with her causally, but when we played 1 v 1. The experience was boring and it felt like just playing a normal racing game since the items weren't made for 1 v 1. This made me realize that the fact is that many contemporary Kart Racing games such as Mario Kart and other MK clones aren't designed to be intense, fast or competitive. If you tried to play competitive 1 v 1, you're going to get a boring experience because modern kart racing games are design to be with 10+ players with explosives items and just pure luck. Basically, anyone can play, blindly, and it manage to win. Some may like it, but I felt it was boring because it lacked challenge.
On January 31, 2013, my friend preorder the game for me without me having no idea what it was going to be about. I figure it would have been another clone of Mario Kart, so I just wanted it for the online. But, I was astonished...
YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LONG I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR A KART RACING GAME LIKE THIS.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is a immensely fast, competitive, challenging kart racing game. It is a game you can pick up and expect to get your butt kicked at Normal level. If you think Hard is impossible, this game offers Very Hard mode which will test your skills. It requires mastering maps and developing skills while fantastic music playing. It's like if someone mixed F-Zero with Mario Kart.
Unfortunately, where the game fails is that it does not any introduction or tutorial. I highly recommend checking out guides before playing.
But when you begin to master the game, you'll realize just how good, if not better, competitive kart racing games than causal fun kart racing games. What Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does what many kart racing games fail such is combine map advantages, fair items, and skills together. Majority of these maps are designed for a player to use the map at their advantage such as drifting and stunts. Stunts are tricks you can perform with your right analog. Performing more than one will reward a player with a high tier boost. Drifting also plays a key role as if a player has better drifting skills than others, they're able to drift smoothly and avoid crashes and hazards. Mixing the two together can give you a insane amount of speed up to a level 6 boost. If you have some skill in stunts and drifting, you'll be able to destroy any novice played easily and make an entire lobby receive a "Did Not Finish"
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed's items are some of the most balanced fair items I've seen on a kart racing game. Any of the items are very easy to avoid just by drifting and preforming a stunt. There items that shoot directly, set traps, or just gain boosts. The most interesting is the Bees or Sky tigers. They can either target first place or shoot back, but what it does is spread a ton of bees that blocks or hits 1st player. BUT, if you're really good at the game, you can drift and slide your way out of the hazard or any item.
Being more specific, the game introduces Boats and planes. Boat, for example, is almost like karts, but you use the water at your advantage. You're able to do stunts when falling off a cliff or bouncing out of the waves to gain an incredible amount of speed. In my opinion, boat and kart are very similar. On the other hand, a player can also use a plane where it opens creatively for the player. There are almost no restrictions and you can fly how you want. All three, the player is able to drift, stunt, and preform a variety of skills to gain speed. What makes the game play different from other kart racing games is that the game rewards you for taking risks, which pushes you to try your best and learn how to go faster. If you try to avoid crashes and hazards uses boosts, you get a risk boost or stunt boosts. This gives a player new idea to get better at the game. What I love the most is that there is no "best" path or road. Majority of the paths in maps are balanced and you could take any path you want and still win. It all depends on your skills.
In addition to all this crazy talk about drifting, stunts, and skills, Transformed's maps are some of the best kart racing maps. Rather than looping around the same track three times, the maps actually change as you progress. While the graphic or textures on the maps aren't that great compare to today's graphics, the map's environment is where it shines. If you notice that majority of the maps have some kind of action going on. Even maps that have the same track such as Carrier zone something happen such as planes flying back and forth while there explosions happening. AND, a huge missiles flies up to the sky. It just looks amazing. There even maps where the track changes entirely. There a map where you're just racing and if you look in the sky, there actually a battle happening, at the same time. In your second lap, the plane crashes and the players racing are force to use the water to continue the race. Just as you reach your final lap, a dragon destroys the track and you have to take plane. It sounds insane, right? Some of these maps, you actually feel like you're playing the actual SEGA game where it came from especially if you played the game such as Nights Into Dream's Dream Valley map. These are seriously some of the most creative unique maps I've ever played on.
With great maps comes segantic (fantastic) music! This game offers a variety of abandon songs from Sonic games like You can Do Anything to obscure songs like Carrier Zone to remastered remixes from very old SEGA titles such as Space Harrier. If grew up playing SEGA games, this game will satisfy all your music needs and you'll remember all those valuable moments you had playing your old SEGA games. It does not matter if you played a SEGA game, you'll be nodding your head to the tunes. Some of these songs are addicting such as Race of Ages, Carrier Zone, or Amigo's Spanish song. What I love about these songs is that they improve the game play significantly as they make the game play more suspenseful, intense and climactic. For example, I've played with players who are WAY better than me, but what I was impressed was the fact that I did not care about 1st place. I just wanted to beat the person that was preventing me from getting the closest place. There moments when I was battling against a player trying to keep a place and I eventually beat the person, but laugh when I realized that I was fighting for 4th place. I simply did not care about getting 1st place, it was all about having fun and trying to beat your friends or rivals. I've seriously had some of the best intense moments in this game that no other game can offer. It's like being a driver of the ending of a Fast and Furious movie where it all comes to your skills.
What really impressive me is the fact that many players seem to enjoy the game's contribution to old SEGA titles that went and bought old SEGA titles they loved from Transformed. SUMO Digital or SOL did a wonderful job showing their love for their SEGA best classics. You can tell a ton of love, and effort when building this game.
Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed should be on history for separating kart racing games from Mario Kart Clones and try something entirely different. Now, there causal racing and competitive racing. In fact, it's obvious that Mario Kart 8's maps and game play were heavily influenced by Transformed's maps.