It's not the fastest car, but it's one worth driving.
Many racers with their own progression and mods
Tons of missions that will last a while
Some great track design
Drifting is fun
Framerate issues and other bugs
Poor collision detection in some spots
Online races like to disconnect
Sonic Racing Transformed mixes and matches characters from all four corners of the Sega globe. Sonic characters dominate this game, but there's enough variety mixed in to satisfy people that have been turned off by recent Sonic games. It doesn't take living under a rock to not know who a lot of these people are. Vyse, Ulala, Alex Kidd, etc. are all unfamiliar territory for I bet a lot more people than just myself. Regardless of roster, you'll be switching out characters regularly as each one has their own sense of progression with leveling up and unlocking mods to change up their driving style. You'll be racing on a lot of tracks from different Sega universes but knowing the back story behind each one isn't necessary to enjoy racing on these colorful and unique environments. Sega made a good decision on keeping the art the same as their respective games rather than coming up with a universal style to keep things consistent. This is how mash up games should be.
It's not the best looking game ever but it hits hard where it counts. The tracks are beautiful especially the Sonic stages with their luscious green scenery, beautiful lighting, and sky structures enclosing tracks. Other tracks, such as both from Samba de Amigo, have dancing buildings and cactuses that I feel never gets boring to look at. Racing on water will happen a lot and the water physics are well done. Big and small things will bounce their way in and out of the water creating waves for you to ramp off of and do tricks. Even if you're behind other racers who use a wave before you can, just knowing that it dissipates at a certain point is a nice touch. The lighting is also very nice except that it seems to show more on Sonic than anyone else. His car seems to create a lot more light reflection than anybody else which isn't a big deal but it's rather strange. Like a lot of other kart racers the characters acknowledge each other by turning their heads as they pass which is always good for a cheap smirk.
The visuals fall flat on their face in the same spots every time. For example, in the Nights stage there is a boat section which always take you off a huge jump if you go the right way. There is a stone arch shortly after this jump that you will always clip completely through if you're going fast enough. Like it was put there but they forgot to make it a physical object. This happens uncommonly in a few other spots where you can jump straight off the track through a rock wall and glitch completely out of the race where it might not even respawn you. The framerate is great in all but two tracks where things can go horrendously slow. The Skies of Arcadia track and the Carrier Zone track to be specific. After the first lap more destruction and battles seems to happen in the environment that just causes the framerate to plummet. It makes racing on these tracks a chore because it always happens and you know what you're in for. The aforementioned issues were on the Wii U version of the game and I haven't tried the other versions to compare.
The music in this game is comprised mostly of remixed songs from other Sega games. The Sonic songs are great as I have always loved Sonic music and BD Joe's theme music is a great punk rock track in spirit of the Crazy Taxi games. My familiarity with Sega properties ends there but playing this game introduced me to some more great music. The Samba de Amigo songs I enjoyed so much despite having never heard them before. I find myself racing on these tracks more often than others just to hear the music and pretend like I understand Spanish. What I found interesting is that the game use 5.1 surround sound better than any racer I've heard before. Drive past characters in the middle of shouting their annoyance of getting hit and listen as the sound travels behind you to the back of the room. Perhaps I'm just easily amused but good sound design is always appreciated.
It doesn't add much to the genre but it does improve in some areas. There are many characters to choose from each with their own set of variables in their driving mechanic. As you play through the game you'll unlock more balanced options for each person and it's a great way to keep you turning on the game again and leveling up all of your characters so anybody will come in hand in any situation. There is a full single player mode which is comprised of many events such as racing, battle racing, drift challenges, and more. It's a well designed mode full with characters to unlock if you can collect enough stars. You'll start out with three difficulty settings then eventually unlock a fourth one and the curve feels right and fair. The worst missions in the game are pursuit missions. In this mode you have to collect item boxes to get missiles and shoot them at a tank that's dropping missiles behind it as you go along the tracks. It starts out simple but at a certain point the tank starts dropping walls that are almost impossible to avoid so you'll just keep taking damage until failure.
The driving itself feels great but the mist fun is in the drifting. Drifting works like Mario Kart as in you get various levels of boosts for how long you can hold the drift and the controls feel tight and responsive. Racing in boat form feels a lot more floaty, as would be expected, so getting a feel for the drifting can take a bit of getting used to. Flying feels great and is easy to get the hang of. Drift and your plane will be completely sideways taking those sharp corners and looking cool but the skies are filled with invisible walls if you go too far off course. There also loads of weapons that feel balanced well. There is no blue shell that will ruin the fun of the player in first and most of the weapons require good aim and are satisfying when you get that hit from far back. There is an item called the twister that spins you and your controls backwards if you get hit by it. This is a clever idea but whenever you use it against the AI they seem to adapt like it's no issue at all for them so getting this item can feel useless most of the time. The AI also favors using weapons against you than each other as you can be in last place and still get blasted with fireworks and other items coming from in front of you.
The AI rubberbanding is not a big issue but it is still there if you can get far enough ahead to notice. Even while going on long straightaways with a character with max speed and a good bit of a lead, you can see that people are easily catching up to you. It's a minor gripe and something that can be overlooked. If you don't want to race against the AI then you can go online and race with up to 10 people. When online races go great then they are seamless and lag free which doesn't happen as often as you'd want. More often than not, however, you'll be disconnected from the race at any point whether in the lobby or just about to cross the finish line. It's really frustrating since it ruins an otherwise fun kart racing game competitively.
Most of its flaws can be easily brushed aside and underneath is a great kart racing game with a bg cast of characters and awesome music. Fans of the genre will love the drifting and the balanced items and with its lower price point, you really can't go wrong.
It's not the fastest car, but it's one worth driving.