In an alternate universe, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is Mario Kart for a generation weaned on the Master System and MegaDrive. An accessible and lightweight racing model crosses paths with colourful approximations of the icons of yesteryear; the whole thing bundled together with themed stages based on the likes of Monkey Ball and House of the Dead.
Initial impressions are positive. Sumo Digital’s fantastic Outrun engine underpins the racing, with powersliding and powerups providing a satisfying freneticism that balances difficulty and frustration without too many hiccups. A series of unlockable tracks, tunes and characters complement a rudimentary but surprisingly playable online offering; both of which provide a required injection of longevity, structure and motivation.
And yet the problems soon mount up. Firstly – lest we forget – Mario Kart already exists, so even though All-Stars wears it’s fan-service heart on its sleeve, an inevitable air of appropriation surrounds it from the start. We’ve been here before; many, many times.
Secondly – and I’m speaking as somebody that owns every Sega console known to man – the cast list simply doesn’t match up to its Kyoto-based competition. Reaching deep to include the likes of Billy Hatcher or the much-publicised Ryo from Shenmue may well cast Sega in a positive light, but there’s no mistaking they made the cut simply due to a lack of viable alternatives.
And therein lies the ultimate problem. Sega and Sonic isn’t a bad racing game, but within a saturated genre, simply existing – even with a licence – isn’t enough. The smattering of Sega stars and nostalgia ultimately doesn’t elevate it to the realms of a necessary full-price purchase. As DLC or a budget release, the prospect would have been much more enticing.