Occasionally, a game comes along that expands its genre beyond expectations. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. It adds nothing new to the kart-racing formula, but that doesn’t make it a bad game — in fact, players who enjoyed Mario Kart 7, which features a similar transforming mechanic, might find a lot to like in Sonic’s latest racer.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed isn’t a poorly made game by any means, but it’s unlikely to beckon droves of gamers to the store immediately upon release. As seen in the debut trailer that released a few months back, the transformations of the various vehicles are aesthetically pleasing, and are way more “cool looking” (for lack of a better description) than the transformations in Mario Kart 7 — but a video game can not rely on graphics alone.

In the demo being shown at E3 2012, three courses are available, each with different environments and difficulties to choose from. The game is obviously designed to appeal to a young audience, but offering a choice of difficulty levels could help bring in players who want more of a challenge.

Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed E3 2012

Only half of the game’s characters are available to use at the event, but being that this is a Sonic game, he is clearly the one to pick. Shadow the Hedgehog, Dr. Eggman, Tails, AiAi from Super Monkey Ball, Amy Rose, Knuckles and a few more are also available, but there is another “character” that SEGA really hopes gamers will be interested in.

SEGA promised a “big” reveal at this year’s expo, and given that the game’s title has the word “All-Stars” in it, the company had to pull-out the big guns. How could SEGA afford not to put the NASCAR and GoDaddy Girl herself, Danica Patrick, in the game? She graced the audience with a big smile and surprised everyone by announcing announced that she will be playable in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.

“This is a really fun day for myself and everybody at SEGA that’s been really working very hard on Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We’ve wrapped up all of my voice overs for the game. You can play me in the game for free, so I guess that’s good. You may have had to pay before, maybe I’ll charge you.”

Not only will Patrick be in the game as a playable character, but she will be driving a SEGA sponsored car at the Texas Motor Speedway in October. Naturally, Patrick claims to be the fastest character in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, though she was not offered as a playable character during the demo (SEGA didn’t want to ruin the big reveal). We’ll have to wait and see exactly how fast Ms. Patrick can go.

Danica Patrick Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed

One of the courses in the demo is inspired by Golden Axe. Filled with lava, giant bees, caves and, of course, giant axes, the track neatly showcases All-Stars Racing Transformed’s deeply interactive — and dangerous — environments.

It’s one thing to make your cars transform into planes, boats, and more, but the interactivity of the environments is the neatest part of the game. Even the transitions from land, air, or water/lava are done rather well. The track design is really nice, in that courses aren’t completely linear. Separate paths can be taken in order to pull away from the pack, avoiding congestion and threats of being frozen or bombed.

The weapons from the first game are back for the sequel, but they still come up a bit dull: there is an ice gun, a shield in the form of a baseball glove, a remote control car bomb and a few more. Not that many weapon were offered in the demo, and little inventiveness was on display in the available options.

Gamers eagerly awaiting a new kart-racer for consoles — particularly fans of Mario Kart 7 — should take a look at Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Whether it will have the staying power of Mario’s latest racer, though, remains to be seen.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed releases Winter 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, 3DS and PC.

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