SEGA took pretty much every character they could think of from the Sonic titles, added in Banjo and Kazooie (so popular they got their name on the front cover), Billy Hatcher, Ryo, and a dozen others and gave them all racing carts, to great effect I must say.
The result of the amalgamation of game worlds? Excellent, for a cart racer that is. In fact this might be one of the finest, and largest, cart racers ever done. The game offers a wide variety of play styles including single and multiplayer (XBLA and local 4-way split screen). On top of that the single player has six grand prix circuits, 64 missions and time trials for every single track as well as just single track races.
There are simply hours and hours of good old fashioned battle cart racing to be had in this game. Each racer brings not only their own stats with them but also their own All-Star move. That’s the move you get from the powerup boxes if you’re having a particularly bad race and find yourself needing to do a ’worst to first’ run at the leaders. It pretty much makes you turbo-charged and invincible. While some of the racers have two-wheels (cycles) and others have four they all play fairly similarly. There are some small differences in speed, turbo and handling that give each a hint of flavor. It appears to me that the cycles are slightly faster and Ryo (from Shenmue) seems to be the fastest. At the end of the review will be a list of all of the drivers.
Speaking of turbo charging, as this is SEGA, in order to get your racer charged up you have two options: run over a turbo pad or drift through some corners long enough to get one of three turbo boost levels (amber, blue or red) which will propel you for a short period of time. In fact, I’m fairly certain that you could, if you so chose, drift your way around entire tracks and perhaps even still win the race without ever getting a turbo.
Drifting is also one way to score stars that are required to pass some of the missions. Each mission gives you a specific goal including: blast your opponent a certain number of times, drift to gain enough stars, collect a certain number of something on the track (bananas for AiAi, Rings for Sonic) or simply be the last racer going with last place eliminated each lap. In the time trials you can race against ghosts of your previous best, ghosts from some of the staff and of course against the best of the best online.
All of that set into an extremely well done universe of fast track, interesting scenery and, I must say, very well done graphics all around. Each of the racers has their own animations as they drive and each has several stunts they can pull off while airborne to get a boost when they land. Cart and Cycles will flip and spin through the air in some exciting visuals.