Sonic & All Stars Racing: Transformed is harder than Dark Souls.
There, I said it.
Clearly you think I’m mad. But make no mistake, the devil wears blue quills and red sneakers. I’ve been trying to beat the above race for a good half hour now and it’s kicking my ass. I started on hard mode, then I whittled it down to medium. Now easy mode is beating me and I want to just want to turn my Xbox off. I feel like a dick.
But it’s not because the game is difficult, it’s because it’s unfair and because the karting genre is tricky to master. Super Mario Kart on SNES remains a leader of its field because of its simplicity, and when you start adding in blue shells you’re widening the margin of error and risk making an infuriating experience.
This game ticks many crucial boxes and I actully really, genuinely enjoy it, but it still manages to play every bum note in the karting genre and in racing games as a whole. Let’s run down a shopping list of complaints shall we?
1) Rubber banding. Like rabid fuckwits gleefully pointing out a typo in a game journalist’s article, other racers will hound you until you crack. Consider this: is it right or fair to chain together multiple boost pads, stunt boosts and drift boost -which can require much skill – and fail to broaden the gap between you or your pursuer by even an inch?
No it’s not fair. Throughout each race you’ll feel like OJ Simpson fleeing the scene of a crime, the entirety of a mobilised police force on your tail like white on rice or something. The difference here is that you won’t get off with a slap on the wrist and go on to write a tell-all book about it. Instead Shadow the Hedgehog will overtake you while murmering some tired 90s buzz word.
It’s not fucking “awesome” you car wreck of a villain, it’s annoying, and removes all sense of skill, gratification and risk-reward from the game. Gaming is supposed to give us pleasure and a sense of progression in exchange for skill, not a mental beating. It’s like Pavlovian conditioning for toddlers.
2) Speed? Picture this: you’re neck to neck with another racer -let’s say Amy Rose because she’s a bastard – and you both hit a speed pad at the same time. She bolts off at triple the speed you do on impact leaving you behind feeling like a spare prick. Where’s my boost you pink jezebel?
See that’s not right is it? It creates this sense that trying is futile, and that whatever you try will result in failure. You’ll come to realise that the AI is on par with that IBM chess computer, except more of a cunt. This is partly why the game is harder than Dark Souls because every time you fail in Dark Souls it’s either because you weren’t smart or disciplined enough. You restart and do a little better next time.
But this never gets any easier. How are you supposed to learn when the game is running hoops around you like mad? I’ve thought about comparable examples to help you understand just how unfair this game can be.
Super Mario Bros. without a jump button. No mushrooms.
Final Fantasy 7 but the enemies give off no XP. All enemies are also Ruby Weapon. Fuck you.
Half-Life where the crowbar degrades and then breaks after ten uses. All guns have one bullet. Also Freeman talks, voiced by Andy Dick.
Time Crisis: one reload only edition, with ten seconds on the clock because you’re a wanker.
Assassin’s Creed 3 where each step costs you a Scottish pound note. Feed them into the bundled slot peripheral if you can find one.
Logic time: young kids playing your mean-spirited game will not be able to finish it, will get upset and will have their parents trade it in for something else. Its just bad design and does nothing but infuriate people.
3) Come at me brosephine. This next one makes my piss boil, like, it’s a problem that has persisted in gaming for a long time, yet developers keep fucking up. When an enemy racer nudges my car on purpose, he/she should be punished for a) foul play b) maintaining a shite racing line and c) being a fanny. I shouldn’t have my speed reduced to a crawl only to watch Shadow the Hedgehog ride off into the sunset. Off a fatal drop aye, but no part of this makes me enjoy the game any more.
It happens constantly. I could be going down a long straight at top speed as Sonic and for no logical reason the statistically much slower Wreck-It Ralph will zoom past me and give me a cheeky wee dunt just to annoy me further, sending me back several places. That’s not fair. There are no tools at play to help me avoid this, and it serves absolutely no one.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted’s brutal cop-car AI was the same, although probably worse actually. It felt like being locked in a room and forced to fight the Ultimate Warrior, Iron Shiek and Hulk Hogan AFTER having all your limbs lopped off and the bloody stumps doused with salt.
Just fuck off.
4) Fire! You enter the last corner of a race: you’re on your 50th restart and you’re mega-pissed off but -holy shit! – you’re actually going to win this time. Suddenly, despite there being no weapon drops around, Shadow the Hedgehog suddenly gets all the weapons and opens fire on your pink, tender ass. You get hit, causing you to tumble back to fifth place, then someone called Danica Patrick hits you with another weapon she didn’t previously have and sends you back to eighth.
Seriously, fuck it. That’s utter horseshit and this is in no way the first combat racing game to do this and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s worse than blue shells, because blue shells were a ill-judged and incredibly lazy rubber-banding mechanic that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Here’s an idea Nintendo: make a better rubber banding mechanic or simply let people tear ahead. If they’re skilled enough then they deserve it. Why punish players for doing well?
But in Transformed this is just savage. The game advises that you can repel enemy fire by dropping a projectile behind you or using a catcher’s mitt to grab the incoming shot. Fine, but when only a few weapon types actually give you a warning that you’ve been fired upon, how are you supposed to know when to deploy your defensive move?
It’s like the Lightning Strike in Black Ops 2: you’ve just been exploded into a red mist by an overhead missile and some wanker pipes up over the radio, “Oh aye, here lads, there’s a belter of a missile about to fall on your heads so you might want to bolt out the way, ken?”
It’s just annoying and makes you feel like the AI is picking on you, which – in this instance – it really is. Transformed isn’t the only racing game to do all of these things as there are many piss-poor racing games with the blood of
children on their hands.
Yet I still enjoy this game as a person who was raised by Sega consoles. It’s nostalgic as all buggery, pays massive fan service and yes can be a great hoot when it’s not caning your arse raw. But when things turn sour I don’t get mad, I feel disappointed because this game is essentially a celebration of my childhood. It shouldn’t get me down or make me feel aggrivated at all, but it does and that’s a crying shame.
So please, developers of all future racing games: I know none of you are reading this – in fact I’m sure absolutely no-one will read this – but please avoid these problems in future and your games will kick bonus ass.
Also, I hate Shadow the Hedgehog.