Remember Sonic? A cult figure of the 90´s, surely the most famous hedgehog across virtual reality and the main star of the SEGA game factory. For some of us, there is no need for description: we know Sonic, we basically grew up with him, playing the fun speedy games on those vintage SEGA consoles. Back then, you just had one or two arcade games, the luckiest of us maybe even more, and you were either a Nintendo or a SEGA kid. For all those who don’t know about Sonic, you can take a leap back to the past here.
Since 1991 – the year when Sonic emerged – a lot has happened; the entire game industry evolved so fast, facing revolutionary progress as well as numerous trends, like gaming on mobile devices or using VR equipment. As for the content dimension, one popular trend is definitely the racing game. Racing games are fun, entertaining and challenging, and can be played as a single player or with more people at once. And there are many out there. After a comprehensive review of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe written by HaikuHunter, here is my review about the dynamic and colorful racing game feat. Sonic in “Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed”.
“Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed” was released by SEGA in 2012. The Wii U version came out in November 2012, followed by PC versions for Windows in 2013 and iOS in 2014, and ultimately Xbox in 2016. Critics evaluated the game positively. The Wii U version however got minus points due to some issues in the online gameplay, but there are plenty of offline challenges that compensate. In multi-player mode, further players can easily join the game, provided they have a controller and a display port.
What´s special about the game?
As the title anticipates, it´s all about racing transformed. The racing car of each character can transform into a flight plane, for air racing, or a boat, for cruising on water. In one race, chances are that you must activate up to all 3 transformations. One of the things good to learn quickly are stunts, for example spinning in the air when taking off a ramp, or drifting in curves. This gets you bonus points and extra speed.
In the “Career” section, the game offers four different modes: world tour, Grand Prix, timed race and single race. These are meant to train your racing skills on different levels, from bronze (easy) to gold (difficult). When you finished a set of races on the bronze level and made it to the podium (top 3), you unlock them in the silver mode, where the competition gets tougher. What I missed here was more variation between levels; after racing through the same scenery several times, you kind of wish more challenging stuff on the next level. In a way, there is a higher difficulty through the fact that in the silver and gold levels, the sceneries are mirror-inverted and the competitors are more fast and furious. If that does it, then you will probably not get too bored seeing the same scenery over and over again. But still, as a single player, you kind of expect more pepper.
If you play as a single user, you can configure whether you use the Pro Controller or the Wii U pad as a main instrument. To make the most out of the game, I definitely recommend the handier Pro Controller. In this case, the Wii U pad will simultaneously show the route map and your position on it during the race. The competitors and the overall ranking per race are also displayed. Personally, I don’t really look at these stats while playing, in order not to get distracted from the race.
Besides Sonic, you can choose between an entire range of characters from the SEGA universe. Some of them are well known from the Sonic game series, like Sonic´s friends Tails and Amy Rose, Knuckles the Echidna, or his enemy Metal Sonic. There are also further SEGA figures like AiAi – the Monkey (Super Monkey Ball), BD Joe – the funky taxi driver or Ulala – the sassy reporter from Space Channel 5. Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses. While Sonic is the fastest and wackiest protagonist, Amy can fly more precisely, and with Knuckles you have a smooth ride on boat. Sometimes it´s wise to choose a certain character depending on the race ahead you. A curvy race can be mastered better with Amy than with Tails, while BD Joe can get very speedy on straight road. Personally, my favorite character is Amy Rose. She can face most races in a balanced way, especially on boat or plane, which are quite a challenge as a beginner. After some practice, I won many levels with Amy, it´s so much fun to hear her cheering “hurray!” and “wow!” on the way.
During the game, you can unlock some further, hidden characters. Among the figures that can be unlocked there are some more characters from the Sonic family (will not spoil the surprise here ;-)
The game presents a very colorful visual universe, a vivid and intense journey for the eye. The diversity in the scenery leads the player through green landscapes, casino highways, winter nights, cities with sky scrapers, Japanese landmarks, rivers, seaside roads, industrial depots, flight platforms, mexican lava rivers, spooky ghost houses and many many more.
Each scenery sparkles in strong colors and is enriched by animated details, which boost your journey with extra joy.
Basically, you have quite straightforward controls to accelerate, drift, spin, use weapons. However, there are more tricks available for doing stunts, and the combinations of controls are not transparent, you have to discover them. This can be a challenge, I dare to say.
For moving forward, you use the same control, no matter if you race on road, on water or in the air. A race consists in 3 laps. Usually, the first two laps are quite the same, while the third one gets a bit more difficult requiring transformed racing. Before starting a race, you can choose an available gear for your character. For example, for a curvy route, you might go better with the “Balanced” gear than with the “Turbo” gear. The effects of each gear work differently for each character. As you advance in playing, more gears get unlocked for your character.
During the race, there are collectibles on the way: coins, surprise items you have to hit, in order to get a weapon that can be used against your opponents. The currently available weapon can be seen in the top right corner of the screen.
Here is my list with some of the coolest weapons:
Hotroad – a kind of enormous speed boost like fire gear; you must end it actively with a blast, to sweep the opponents in range away (but if you don’t activate it on time, it will blast you up, to your disadvantage, and slow you down; this happens after a few seconds, so you have to activate the blast quite quickly!)
All Star – a kind of absolute power state that lasts for a short time; you float with super speed accompanied by the character-specific song – Amy´s All Star has a fancy song and unleashes pink hearts while she’s drifting with super speed ;-) With All Star you can easily overrun some opponents at a time, quite a cool thing.
Blowfish – a big round fish to be released on the way, so the cars behind you bump into it – when this happens, they get slowed down. The fish itself has a funny face too!
Ice (Snow balls) – with snow balls you can shoot on the opponent in front of you (precision is required!)
On the road, there are glowing pink arrows that add turbo power, if you drive on top of them. On water and in air, these are pink glowing gateways – if you fly or swim through them, you get a turbo boost. It takes some practice to learn to drift successfully in a dramatic curve right after getting a turbo boost… But that makes the entire game so active and fun.
Obstacles like bees swarm, blowfishes, lightning bolts, spiders etc. are placed on the way to challenge your tenacity. The game is very entertaining and dynamic, each race and scenery is unique. Watch below Amy Rose mastering the Mexican “Samba de Amigo”…
…and Sonic ruling the race in the “Carrier Zone”:
By the way, with collected coins you can play casino (5 coins per chance) – if you’re lucky, you can win a pre-package for the next race, for example start your next race with a Blowfish or a turbo boost. :D
+ Good gameplay, for Wii U very cool to play with the Pro Controller
+ Fun racing with collectibles and boosts
+ Diversity in available characters, more characters can be unlocked
+ Nice graphics, lively scenery, brilliant colors
+ Entertaining music and game voicing
– Loading: quite long loading sequences between races or game modes, can sometimes take up to minutes
– Not much diversity between easy and difficult game levels, mostly same sceneries (yet quite many, though)
– I would have loved a story, a story that twines everything together and establishes connections – for instance, a story around Sonic and his friends would have been nice.
– There is no central user manual or game rules directory. I had difficulties to find out how to shoot different weapons (some can be shot even to the rear, others just to the front). You just get some random hints while the game is loading, which is not quite enough. But perhaps it was intended like this, to challenge players.
All in all, I enjoyed playing this game. Driving Sonic is quite a speedy thing in this colorful game, just as usual. My great hope is that the next Sonic racing game will evolve around a story and maybe even combine racing with jump&run adventure – thinking further, I would love something like that – Sonic would be the perfect character for such a mixed fun hullabaloo.
Argh, this game and so many other great ones with fantastic AAA production values like say Assassin’s Creed games would’ve been to me so much more immersive (and thus valuable) in first person.
PS: SOOO Much beautifull!!! I wanna explore that world that way!!!!!!!
The Tempest pirate/open water one seems impressive and tempting, reminding me of 15+ years ago exciting in the PC space, and similarly I’m happy to see Planescape Torment out, I might get it yet once more :P Amazing the thought of such games of exploring a world existing on mobile!
I had no idea a book even existed until we accidentally saw one on the shelves of a small store while visiting a new town. Had to get it out of respect for the game though not expecting much from the book. It is however turning out so far slightly better than anticipated. It’s relatively close to the events of the game so no big surprises there, and of course it’s impossible for a book to do okay in comparison to a big game world, especially one which excelled not so much via storytelling as much as in the environmental attention to detail and environmental storytelling, the mixture of natural beauty & human turmoil, the stories inside that and the feeling of exploration and discovery.
Thanks to HaikHunter for another great proposal! Usual rules: 3 tries per person. Winner gets to propose a gameSketch. x5 multiplier for first timers. Newcomers: you may ask for 3 freebies even if you didn’t yet guess anything. Outstanding credits: Ange, PettyX90 x7, 47Crows x7, Haikuhunter x9, Jaco x97, Firefish x30, Pori x2, player347 x7, Tarpo x5, player347 x9, Diana x6, Radu x45, VideoGamesAsArt x2 , thegazer x9, BiaHawks x7, rsocu x5, Teofil S. Awaiting scenes from you guys.
Ever since the WiiU’s fate was sealed, gaming enthusiasts wondered what the next Nintendo console would be like. Would there even be a next home console from Nintendo? A bunch of patents suggested a hybrid between home- and portable console while others showed new gimmicks. When Nintendo then showed of their new console Switch – formerly known as NX – the main feature was immediately understood by everyone. This was very different from the revelation of the WiiU which even more seasoned gamers didn’t understand at first.
The console was released March 3rd this year for $299/€330 and has been a huge success since. It’s still not in stock at Amazon and other big retailers but you might ask yourself if this new thing from Nintendo is for you. I’ve been using the Switch since launch (a bit over 6 weeks at the time of writing) and will now try to tell you if you’re ready to make the switch.
If you don’t know what the Switch is, Nintendo explains the Switch like this: the Switch is Nintendo’s new home console, that attempts to make the “home” part optional by giving you the opportunity of taking it with you, wheter you want to play it in your garden, in your bed or on the train. Many people will probably describe the Switch as a handheld console with a docking station to play your games on the TV. The truth is: it is neither one, nor the other.
The difference between the Switch and something like the 3DS or even the PlayStation Vita is the hardware power of the console and the way its makers are going to support it. While 3DS and Vita most of the time got the low-fi games of the best selling franchises the Switch will be Nintendo’s flagship device. As such Nintendo put more power in it than it would have in a regular handheld and it also renounced features like Streetpass that were prominently put in their 3DS devices for the past 6 years.
But the Switch is also not your typical next gen console. To even have a chance of being portable, Nintendo’s engineers had to find a partner to supply them with relatively powerful but small CPU and GPU hardware that would also be easy to program for and be as battery friendly as possible. It found that partner with NVidia which provides a custom Tegra SoC. It’s a powerful chipset – at least 2 times as powerful than what the WiiU is with room for further improvement if early adopter developers are to be trusted – but compared to the PS4 and XO ports will probably need to be noticeably downgraded in asset quality to run well. Some are calling Nintendo out for daylight robbery because of its hardware power and price, but there is one important point that often gets forgotten: form factor. Being a console that you can take on the go the Switch is hardly 1/6 of the WiiU’s size and circa 1/25 the size of a PS4 Pro.
The picture above shows the PS4 Pro, WiiU and Switch and shows the huge difference in size. This is of course because the Switch can be taken anywhere (a proper case is recommended) and this works beautifully. The Switch has accompanied me almost every time I left the house in the past 6 weeks (except for some jogging workout and visits at the barber because I know I never have to wait long) and I have played games like Breath of the Wild (find my review of it on artsygamer as well), Shovel Knight, Binding of Isaac and others; let me tell you this: I don’t want to take a train ride without the Switch ever again.
The JoyCon controllers work fine for me most of the time, especially using them detached from the Switch is an amazing feeling for me; something that other people might have to get used to admittedly. They can’t compete with the Pro controller though which might very well be the best gamepad I have used so far (disclaimer: I didn’t get the chance to play with the XBox One Pro Controller so far), save for the shoulder triggers which sadly are digital triggers; it would have been difficult to put analogue triggers on the JoyCons – I get it; it would have been a nice feature for racing games nevertheless.
Battery runtime is another important topic as well for portability and I am happy to report that mixing games I get 5 hours out of the Switch most of the time. While this may seem little compared to the 3DS, it actually is close to my experience with the PlayStation Vita’s battery life and somewhat remarkable compared to the battery runtime of smartphones when doing some non-stop gaming. Luckily Nintendo uses a USB type C on the Switch which allows for some cheap battery pack setups that will prolong the Switch’s life on the go easily to something around 8 to 12 hours. I have an emergency battery pack in my bag all the time (mainly because smartphones and friends who may need a quick recharge on the go) but so far never had to use it on my Switch.
I don’t want to conceal some caveats I have with the system however. The first thing is the system’s management of space and how it doesn’t allow the user to control it. The system’s internal space is 32GB and of course not all of it is useable. The Switch can handle Micro SD cards however which means you can expand the memory by 128GB for as low as €35 (even lower if you access speed is no concern for you). But the way the Switch handles storage is annoying. If there is not Micro SD card present, the system defaults to its internal storage of course. If a Micro SD card is present, the system defaults to the Micro SD card as long as there is space. And the user has no option to transfer data from one to the other. Most of the time this is just fine but if – for example – you want to take advantage of the faster internal storage for a game like Zelda, you need to take out your Micros SD card to force Zelda to download on the system’s memory and then insert the SD card back into the system. I haven’t tried out yet how the save files are created. Of course you’ll want them on a Micro SD card because you can just backup the encrypted data on your PC, but as with the games themselfes the save data can also not be transferred between SD card and device. This means if your Switch breaks your savegames might all be lost. And since there is no cloud saving yet (more on that later) the same goes for a lost or stolen Switch.
There are also no Video On Demand service apps like Amazon or Netflix on the device yet. Reggie Fils Aime told the press that they wanted to focus on getting out a great gaming device first and that apps for the large services will come later so it doesn’t bother me too much. But in the first 4 weeks after the Switch’s release when I was roaming the wild lands of Hyrule, the only reason I turned on other consoles at all was to watch some Netflix or Amazon on them because I couldn’t on the Switch. I also think apps that allow you to download some content and then watch it on the go would be a huge boon for the Switch.
And the last point on my list is all about Nintendo’s upcoming online services. With the Switch, Nintendo will be the last console manufacturer to join the “pay for our online service”-service providers. Currently all online functionality is still free while Nintendo is seemingly still figuring out what the paid service will offer exactly and how much they will charge for it. From my experience, online gaming works pretty good so far with low latency and reasonably fast matchmaking but other than Fast RMX and the Splatoon Testfire Beta there was not much to test so far anyway. April 28th will see the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which will be the first huge multiplayer title to really stress the Nintendo Network for Switch. It should hold up though since Nintendo is using Amazon’s cloud infrastructure which offers high performance and scalability. A bigger questionmark has to be put behind the free retro game offerings and additional features like cloud gamesaves. Nintendo’s plans for voice chat by smartphone app have already been dissed by a lot of players and we will need to wait what and how Nintendo will show and offer.
Conclusions: the Nintendo Switch is a device that I don’t want to miss anymore. It is not only the logical step to take for a company that needs to break away from the WiiU’s failure but also a major step forward in respect of product design and feature balance. But it’s also a device that will clearly see a lot of improvement in software short- and mid-term and probably new revisions and price cuts mid- and long-term. If you want a rating, here’s my formula for you to find out:
1. How much do you want to have a unique and new gaming hardware on a scale from -1 to 1?
2. How important is it to you being able to seamlessly switch between mobile and living room gaming on a scale from -2 to 2? -2 would be someone who is only interested in playing high profile games on their 4k TV on the sofa, 2 would be someone who is on the train every day and would love to spend more time with gaming that way.
3. How important are Nintendo games to you on a -2 to 2 scale? 2 would be someone who played Nintendo games for a long time and can’t imagine a gamer existence without them, -2 would be someone who avoids Nintendo games on every occasion.
Add the scores up and you have your personal conclusion (kind of) :) I hope you liked my impressions of the Switch, I will of course try to answer any questions in the comments. I would also love to know the score you’re coming up for the Switch.
We got to play this weekend a bit of this game as it was free in this month’s Playstation Plus games lineup and I gotta say I saw a lot of cool artistic elements in there and high content density. There was always something happening, some and the visuals had a charming folding story book style. Thought I’d point to it for those attracted by the style. Bia Hawks?
An old dos game that still stays in my mind with respect as not just it’s excellence for it’s times but also for taking a simple idea and sticking to it with polish and iteration and many levels.
Thanks to Player347 for his addition to the community list of top 5 games of 2016 I saw a couple that I never knew about, such as this one, which surprised me with the originality of it’s concept and treatment. What a great direction to experiment with. Hope it has the success to go higher budget & production values as I would love to see more nature “documentaries” in game form.
A little late, but thought I’d post my top 5 games of 2016. It was a tough fight but the winners to me are:
2) Dishonored 2
4) Dark Souls 3
5) Witcher 3 tied with Hitman
Obviously the choices are subjective though as to my reasons their respective reviews/impressions hopefully explain at least partly my choices. As an honourable mention I’d put in Layers of Fear, a game on a much lower budget but that still managed to impress.
Please leave your top 5 in the comments and I’ll edit-it in here in the post. (games of 2016 as in when you played them, even if they’re older)
1) Dark Souls 3
2) Dishonored 2 tie with Dying Light: The Following
3) Far Cry Primal
4) Uncharted 4
1) Uncharted 4
2) Dark Souls 3
3) The Witcher 3
4) Ori and the blind forest
1) ARK Survival Evolved
4) Sniper Elite V2
1) Sherlock Holmes – The Devil’s Daughter
2) Uncharted 4
3) Shadows of Mordor
5) Tales of Monkey Island
1) Halo 2 for PC
2) Life is Strange
3) Hitman – Blood Money
5) Brutal DOOM
2) The Last Guardian
3) Mafia 3
1) Teeworlds – timeless online 2D shooter, highly addictive
2) The Last Guardian
3) Waking Mars
4) FOTONICA – 1 button game, loads of fun
5) Shelter 2 – open world animal survival, mother lynx hunts and feeds baby lynxes
A long time ago, in a galaxy still owned by Lucas….
The 2nd Death Star is destroyed, the Empire is crumbling (spoilers!). A couple of (no ordinary) mercenaries are sent to investigate a remote Imperial Remnant outpost. A menial task, at best… or is it?
Anyone who’s played Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (long title, huh?) remembers the story of the morally-grey, ex-Imperial Kyle Katarn, on his path to enlightenment (only because you can’t choose the dark side in this installment). What if some Australians took it upon themselves to bring the story to the big screens?
The group has disassembled the game’s assets and gave them a modern polish, using Unreal Engine 4 for the entirety of the project (shader, animation, dialogue, camera work etc.). Some assets (such as character animations) are lifted from the KOTOR games.
Apart from the new, modern look, the group has managed to create an “asset shuffler” of sorts, allowing for varied character outfits (Jedi Academy character creator-style).
It is currently not known when exactly the movie will be released, but, according to the team, “not this year”.
It is the year 1912, and you’ve somehow found your way aboard the largest man-made mobile structure on Earth. Naturally, because it’s a plague-free couple of years, you find time to wander around the ship, bask in its beauty, and overall enjoy the view.
Oh, wait, all of this is about to be on the ocean floor in a matter of hours (spoiler alert).
The dedicated people at Vintage Digital Revival LLC are hard at work recreating the Titanic, down to every last watertight[citation heavily needed] bulkhead. Seriously.
The project is still in its infancy (the game engine seems to be at default settings based on some glitches caused by detail culling in UE4), and at this stage (much like Cameron’s “Titanic”) is devoid of characters. Gameplay should feature both a ship exploration mode, and a story mode.
It is estimated to be available for purchase somewhere in 2018, so sit tight.
There are 2 demos available for download on the developers’ website (alongside a beautiful gallery of in-game shots). The devs recommend having a whopping 8 GiB of system RAM, but it’s worth it.
Remember LucasArts and their cool point ‘n click video games? While all of them had an overall cool storyline and feel, this one stood out throughout the years. For some, it was the classic character and the puzzles you had to go though, for others, the otherworldly design of Atlantis.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is being (unofficially) fan remade by a 3rd party, featuring a modern-ish look and feel. Let’s hope all goes well and they don’t get the axe from Disney. Also, let’s hope for a Day of the Tentacle remake as well.
Are all these video game (and movie) reboots making you feel left out? Don’t worry! Chances are you’ve enjoyed the first two games set in The Old Republic times, and maybe even had a daydream about them being remade.
Dream no more; a small, independent team decided to step up, and treat KOTOR to a nice shine and polish, featuring modern models and shaders, and a first-person mode, among many other goodies.
Don’t forget to check their progress over here.
At the time of writing (August, 2016), Apeiron has not yet received a cease & desist. Good for them.