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GDC 2011: Sega demos Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing

At the 2011 Game Developers Conference, Sega revealed that it has decided to port its Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing game to the iPhone and iPod touch (no iPad announcement yet, but presumably it's coming). Sega then handed us a demo of the game to try out. It was (surprise?) a pretty standard kart racing game, with the added bonus that it uses official artwork, settings, characters and music from Sega's most popular franchises, from Sonic the Hedgehog to lesser-known classics like Billy Hatcher and Space Channel 5.

This game's been out on other console platforms already, and to be honest, it's missing a little content, with fewer characters and tracks than the other versions. But the gameplay is all there; up to two players on Bluetooth or four players on Wi-Fi can race against each other across 12 tracks using 10 different characters. There are also three arenas to play in, as well as 30 "challenge missions" to play. As you race, you collect "lifetime miles" which unlock items in the game and break open official Game Center achievements and leaderboards.

The controls are about what you'd expect. While I played an "early alpha" version of the game with placeholder buttons, the controls had a slider for steering (that could be switched to tilting the iPhone), and virtual buttons for braking, using special power-ups or "drifting" your kart for speed. Each character has their own individual power move as well. Sonic, for example, can go into his golden form and fly down the track ... as long as you stay on it -- I couldn't. The track I played also had a branching path, so you could choose various routes.

As with most Sega games, the quality was impressive, and it was a more than reasonable port of the console versions. The fact that content is missing is disappointing, though Sega hasn't decided on a price yet, only saying it "will be competitive" with other offerings.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is due out sometime this spring. If you'd like to play a kart racer and have a soft spot for Sonic and all of his Sega friends, keep an eye out for it.

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