Posted on November 12, 2012 AT 04:00am
Fans of Sackboy will be thrilled that he has a new adventure, but the rest of the population probably won’t bother to pick LittleBigPlanet Karting up. That’s OK, though, because this game is designed for the LBP fans anyways. Yes, it was developed by the same guys that made ModNation Racers (United Front Games), but at its heart, LBP Karting is clearly a LittleBigPlanet game, not a racing game. If you’re looking for a solid karting game in the same vein as Mario Kart or ModNation Racers, you won’t find it here. However, if you want the classic LittleBigPlanet experience, including the typical community that creates wonderful new levels, then hop on into the Craftverse and have a faff about!
The art style of LittleBigPlanet Karting is exactly how it was in the first two LBP games. The cut scenes throughout the story feature the amusing characters that appear to be cardboard cutouts that move, and all the items in the environment look like they belong in the Craftverse. The characters also speak in the amusing and creepy garbled voices (I’m still not sure how I feel about that). The big difference in the environment is the new dimension. After all, karting games are in 3D, so Sackboy gets a new dimension to move about in while racing and creating.
Speaking of creating, the new editor is just as easy to use as it has been in the past. I especially enjoyed how the track builder works. Initially, I assumed that I would select pieces of track and lay them down, similar to how the RollerCoaster Tycoon games work. It’s easier than that. You actually drive the track as you’re laying it! It’s just a giant paint roller that paints the track as you go, so you can make it as bendy and hilly as you like, without any restrictions on what track pieces are available. It’ll even finish a track for you so you don’t have to worry about lining up with the start line as you finish. The create mode is a blast to play around with, but in order to maximize your fun, you really need to play through the story mode.
You see, the story mode is where you unlock all your prize bubbles. They’re scattered across all the tracks, and they unlock costumes, karts, stickers, and other items you can use in the editor. This isn’t a new feature in LBP; after all, the prize bubbles have been featured in every LittleBigPlanet game. However, in Karting, the story mode can sometimes feel like work rather than play. Rather than being made up of a series of circuit races, the story forces you to play battle modes with the AI as well. Battle mode is typically an arena with lots of weapons to pick up, and you race around trying to score the largest number of hits. I’m not a big fan of this mode, so I dreaded when one of these would block my progress to the end of the story. In order to continue the story, you must place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the event. Fortunately, the game was never challenging enough to make this a huge problem, but I would have rather stuck with the circuit races.
The circuit races and battle modes aren’t the only types of events in LittleBigPlanet Karting, though. It turns out that when you combine the typical LBP formula with karts, the minigame possibilities are endless! There are a few examples of what can be done in the story mode, such as side scrolling and top down racing modes, but anything is possible with the editor. In the end, it was worth going through the story mode all the way to the end, because the last event was a blast! Of course, it’s also worth going through the story mode because you get plenty of narration from Stephen Fry, who is as wonderful as ever.
The actual racing in LBP Karting is fun, but it’s not as good as previous karting games. As I said before, this is a LittleBigPlanet game, not a karting game. This doesn’t mean that the racing is poorly handled. On the contrary, the karts handle well for the most part. Drifting is well done, and the boost feature that you can activate while drifting is great. My only complaint with the controlling is while flying through the air (which you’ll do a lot of). You can rotate your kart in the air, but it’s very difficult to precisely rotate it to the point where you’ll land correctly. I generally avoided rotating in the air, even though you can get a boost when you land if you rotate 360 degrees. The weapons are easy to use and pretty typical fare for a karting game. Rockets and mines explode, and some of the pickups transform you into the weapon. The great thing about racing in LBP Karting is the balance of all this. Even if you’re in 8th place, there is always a chance you will recover and end up in 3rd.
At the core of the LBP experience is the community, so if you have some friends over, you can play through the story mode cooperatively (with up to three other people). Every story mode level has a VS mode as well, so you can go online and race against up to seven other people. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of people playing online. As with other LBP games, each level shows the number of people currently playing, and I found those numbers to usually be zero. My best chance at playing online was to find a group of five and join in. At the end of each race, you vote on where to go next, so it’s easy to stay with the same people for your entire session. As you may have guessed, it’s much more interesting to race against actual humans.
Summary: I absolute love the LittleBigPlanet world, so I’m a little biased when I say that I had a blast playing LBP Karting. It has everything that I want from a LBP game, and I was completely satisfied with the game. That being said, this game is only going to appeal to people like me. If you’re in the mood for an awesome karting game but have never played LittleBigPlanet, then go pick up ModNation Racers. LittleBigPlanet Karting is a game for LittleBigPlanet fans.
- THE GOOD: This is a LittleBigPlanet game, and that means it has an awesome create mode.
- THE BAD: This game won’t appeal to anyone that isn’t a LittleBigPlanet fan
- THE UGLY: The karting controls in the air are very difficult to manage
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