Done Playing: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Demo (Xbox 360)

Picture yourself, if you will, walking leisurely down the street. Doesn’t matter where you’re going, just know that you’re having a great time and feeling good about the day. Suddenly and unexpectedly you step on your shoelace and — feeling it go taut under your weight — your toes skid into the pavement ahead of you as your body continues hulking forward. Just as your sense of balance is compromised and you realize you’re about to fall face first across the dirty, gritted pavement you blurt out an involuntary expla-tastic swear.

That’s exactly how I feel every time I play a kart racing game! I get into first place only to have some unavoidable Projectile Of Doom come rocketing directly up my ass, spin me to to the curb and inevitably cause the next passer-by to unleash his heat-seeking RocketFist into my slowly puttering face! It’s an engine for blinding rage and boundless fury and it’s why I’ve hated kart racers ever since Mario tossed his first red Koopa shell. That’s why I immediately ignored Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing when it was first announced. But, over the past several months I’ve been on an involuntary IV drip of Sega nostalgia; what with OSV’s talk about the Greatest Hits-styled soundtrack and the lineup of classic characters and cameos that Sega’s been trickling out. All that uneasy anticipation and double-guessing came to a glorious crescendo of love, hate, and swearing as I loaded up the demo on Monday.

The details are great. The one course on offer is filled with unnecessary Sonic nerdery. Besides looking like a 3D Green Hill Zone (which is all I was expecting) there are Gani-Gani scurrying around in your way and bumpers that play hell with your steering if you drift too far off the track. Some nice water and lush vegetation accompany a solid framerate as everyone from Sonic’s cast to Ulala and Billy Hatcher race side-by-side. NiGHTS even makes a trackside appearance alongside Chao that line the course. It’s hardcore fanboy satisfaction that I was totally digging… until I stepped on my shoelace.

Sure enough, there I was in the lead — having even turned into Super Sonic and blasted everyone in my way — only to get slammed back to 6th place just at the finish line. *face planting expletives* I told myself the emotion swelling up inside me, clouding my vision, was blissful nostalgia and I should try again. This time I managed to finish in 4th place after yet another dangling-carrot kind of race where victory was snatched away at the last second. Of all the genres of games to load up with Sega love, why did it have to be a kart racer? I hoped I could do it, that I could overcome my utter loathing of the genre and get all warm and squishy with nostalgia. I’m still planning on playing it (some day), I just hope they keep the old school vibe going and pack in an Invincibility code so I can enjoy the sights without the terrible, derivative and punishing kart racing gameplay.

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