Regardless of the Wii U's disappointing specs and questionable future I have to admit that I still pre-ordered the system without a moments hesitation. The reason for this is because there are a few essential franchises, which can only be experienced on Nintendo platforms that I simply can’t live without. Mario Kart is one of these franchises and although the plumber and his friends won’t be racing on the Wii U anytime soon, I’m pleased to report that Sega and Sumo Digital are busy prepping the next best thing!
Last week I was given the opportunity to sit down with the Wii U version of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed. As a huge fan of its processor, I was eager to see how Sumo Digital could both improve upon the original game while incorporating enough new features to make the Wii U version feel unique.
At first glance Transformed on the Wii U looks identical to its PS3 and 360 counterparts. You won’t notice any fancy new graphical flares or anything to suggest that the game is running on “next generation” hardware. This is likely to be the case with all Wii U titles going forward but as the game is no slouch in the visual department this is hardly a bad thing. As I'll have a full review of the PS3 game very shortly, for this preview I’ve decided to mainly focus on the many aspects of Transformed that are exclusive to the Wii U version.
The most noticeable feature for Transformed on the Wii U is the ability transfer the action from your TV to the Gamepad's screen with a simple finger swipe. Those who live alone may not appreciate this feature but as someone who has to constantly battle with family members to use the TV, I’m all for this feature! Playing directly from the gamepad also improves the games local multiplayer offerings. You can now play 2 player races without having to share TV space and the Wii U version supports up to 5 players locally instead of the traditional 4.
When playing alone, the Gamepad’s screen is incredibly useful. The screen displays both a course map and a rear view mirror which can be triggered by jolting the screen forward. You can also use the Gamepad to track your items and witness their destruction first hand! If you’re crazy and/or like a challenge, you can choose to enable tilt controls and steer using the Gamepad’s accelerometer. This will probably appeal to casual gamers or the iPad crowd but I chose to stick with traditional analog controls.
Speaking of controls, Transformed supports a wide variety of controllers including the Wii Remote (held sideways or with a nunchuk), the Wii’s classic controller and the Wii’s U Pro controller. Regardless of your preferred control method, the vehicle handling in Transformed always feels buttery smooth. After just a few seconds getting to grips with the controls you’ll find yourself speeding down raceways, drifting around corners, travelling down hazardous creeks and soaring through the sky with precision! The action is also extremely fast and frantic which should excite those who felt dissatisfied with the likes of Mario Kart Wii or LittleBigPlanet Karting.
The Wii U version of Transformed also has an exclusive multiplayer mode which is sure to become a party favourite. Monkey Ball Heist supports between 2-5 players and puts the person with the Gamepad in control of a giant Monkey Ball. All other players must race around a selected arena collecting bananas which litter the track while the Monkey Ball attempts to crush them. Once crushed, another player can revive you by racing over your flattened carcass but if all players become crushed its Game Over! It's also worth noting that Transformed on the Wii U does not support voice chat when playing online, which may be a complete deal breaker for some.
While I haven’t played enough of Transformed to whole-heartedly recommend it, I will say that my initial impressions were extremely positive. There are many exciting courses, game modes and gameplay systems that I can’t wait to experience more of and discuss further in my official review. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed not only has the potential to be one of the Wii U’s best launch titles, it just might be the best Sonic spin-off to ever created!