After being somewhat disappointed to Modnation Racers' lack of what I believe to be true kart-racing spirit, I looked to the next best thing: Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing. Now, at first glance this really does come off as a cheap cash-in on Sega's various franchises and characters. Which is why I partially ignored it when it first came out, instead looking forward to Modnation Racers for my kart racing fix.
Anyway, it seems I was wrong to do that. Is Sonic and Sega All-Stars worth $50-60? I don't think I would buy it at that price. Is it a good game? Yes.
The whole thing that makes this game great is how straightforward and relatively simple it is. In other words, precisely how a kart racing game should be. There's no apparent story; just a few modes to jump into, each packed with gameplay content.
The main mode is the Grand Prix, which is separated into several cups, which in turn are each separated into several races. Each finishing position (1st, 2nd, etc.) is assigned a point value. The higher the position, the more points you get. The racer with the most points at the end of the cup wins. You'll be no stranger to this system if you've played any racing game ever.
Next is Mission Mode, which is probably designed to introduce you to various characters and play styles. As it's name would suggest, you are assigned a character, a task, and usually a time limit to complete that task. Maybe you'll be cruising through a stage as Beat, trying to pull off as many tricks as possible. Maybe you'll be collecting rings as Sonic, or even participating in mini-race cups as certain characters. There's over 60 missions total, if memory serves, so there's plenty to return to here. Additionally, your performance in each mission is ranked (just like in most Sonic games).
Also present is Time Trial mode. The game ships with a staff ghost (basically a preset time) for each stage, and there's also local and online leaderboards showcasing the best times. Speaking of online support, this game features a very healthy suite of multiplayer options. In addition to local 4-player, there's 2-player splitscreen online, and 12 player online racing available. You can either play with strangers or set up games with friends.
Participating in any of these various play options nets you varying amounts of Sega Miles, which act as a currency you can spend in the shop to unlock more stages, characters, and even music tracks to race to. The game is packed with characters, locales and other things from Sega's past, including the major Sonic cast, the Bonanza Bros, Billy Hatcher, and even Shenmue and Alex Kidd. I for one was pleasantly surprised to find Can You Feel the Sunshine (a song from Sonic R) as an available track to be unlocked. You can view detailed information on every unlocked stage and character in the Collections menu, which is a cool addition if you're looking to learn a little bit about gaming history.
I'd say Sega nailed the spirit of kart racing in this game. There's a simple balance between the use of skill and items, with a proper slice of both being essential to grab victory. Just as in any and every other arcade racer out there, drifting is also an important skill, and one you'll probably find yourself forced to use near-constantly to stay on top. Overall, gameplay is fluid, and feels just right.
The game also runs pretty well with no dips in framerate, glitches, or particularly long load times to speak of, and the graphics aren't bad. Nothing special, but I don't think anyone will find vault with the game's visuals.
Put simply, Sonic and Sega All-Stars is Sega's answer to Mario Kart. It's not innovative, inventive, or even particularly standout in terms of quality. But if you're looking for a decent time, this is most definitely a viable replacement for Nintendo's venerable series. An 8.0/10.