Next to Super Smash Bros, kart racers are probably the most fun multiplayer experience anyone ever came up with. Zipping around a themed track in super deformed vehicles while attempting to inflict harm upon your fellow racers with randomly generated items has become a staple over the years, but rather than the genre becoming stale and "same-ish", it's actually making a lot of headway with Sonic & All Starts Racing Transformed currently leading the pack.
As one would suspect, you take control of a number of Sonic and SEGA characters, and then you race on tracks from those various series as well. What makes Transformed different is that...well, the vehicles transform, and the tracks too on occasion. Each vehicle is a kart, a boat, and an aircraft all in one, and will automatically change to fit your needs. Your vehicle will also handle differently in all 3 of these modes!
The character roster has lots of Sonic characters, as one might expect, but it also has other SEGA mascots such as Ulala and even some more obscure characters such as Vyse. Many of these characters must be unlocked through the games career mode, which is quite robust and a big step up from the challenge mode of the previous game.
The game can be displayed on both the television screen and the gamepad simultaneously, but the image on the gamepad is of significantly lower quality. The coolest feature of the gamepad is that in local multiplayer, players using gamepads look exclusively at their own screen, reducing the amount of screen splits on the television. The gamepad also functions as a map during single player. The gamepad serves its purposes well as a controller, and is my preferred controller for this game. It also supports the pro controller as well as Wii classic controllers or wiimotes and nunchuks.
The game also supports online play, and finding matches is easy. This game has the most active online community of any multiplayer Wii U game at the current time. That doesn't mean the online is perfect, though. I did experience a few dropped matches (possibly my internet's fault), and as one would expect players tend to drop out if their losing, which is annoying.
the graphics are very crisp and full of life. From the drivers to their karts, and especially the tracks, everything is gorgeous. I couldn't find a single thing in the game that didn't look up to par. I was especially impressed with some of the water effects.
soundwise, it's a mixed bag. While vehicles sound fine, and the music certainly isn't shabby, none of the voicework is that great, and most of the songs aren't anything special either. With a couple exceptions, the soundtrack is recycled or unimpressive, and you'll have to turn down the volumes on your gamepad to hear any of it clearly as well. The game pumps engine noises and such through the gamepad, which helps to immerse you, but they're way too loud and overpower your televisions speakers unless you have it set to an insanely high volume, in which case, you should seek medical attention.
Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is a fun and surprisingly challenging kart racer that delivers on most fronts. My biggest complaint was the sound design, but when everything else about the game is so superb, it's easy to forgive. This is a huge step for the Sonic and All Stars series, and also one for kart racers. While Nintendo has yet to announce Mario Kart U, they've got a lot of catching up to do.