LittleBigPlanet Karting Review
Sackboy has become something of an industry icon, and now the inevitable has happened to our cuddly pal… a spin off. The first offshoot we’ve been given is LittleBigPlanet Karting, a kart racer where you can dress up your Sack-person, customize your own kart, create your own tracks, and play the creations of others as well. It’s perfectly enjoyable for what it is… but here’s the rub: it feels uncomfortably like ModNation Racers, another game in the “Create, Play, Share” line of thinking. And that’s the thing. It really is ModNation Racers all over again, just with a LBP theme. While this isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, if you own the former, is there really any reason to buy the latter?
In fact, the transition must have been absurdly easy. Everything about LBP Karting follows the tried and tested formula that made the series such a successful franchise: from the hub worlds to the customization to the graphics to the soundtrack, this is LittleBigPlanet through and through, but it was also made by the same people who made ModNation Racers, and you can tell.
The controls are very simple and almost exactly the same as ModNation. Drifting is key, but with more emphasis on speed and less on building up your meter. By drifting for a long enough period, your tires will actually ignite giving you a boost. There are a slew of both offensive and defensive weapons, all stock and standard with a characteristic LBP cuteness thrown in for good measure.
In the end, LBP Karting is exactly like every other karting game I’ve played, recently or otherwise.
The truth is, it’s going to be familiar to anyone who has ever played any game in the genre, harkening all the way back to the original Mario Kart. The fact that you can create your own tracks and play those created by others is fun and engaging… except that ModNation did it first, and did it better in my opinion. What is missing from ModNation is the shield function. It was a clever mechanic that let you stave off those pesky last second attacks if you budgeted properly.
That’s because the standard frustrations of the genre rear their collective, ugly heads. Is there anything more annoying that being feet from the finish line and getting zapped or warped or blown up? You even have Sackbots to help you out, although I’m convinced I fell prey to their weapons as often as I did the evil Hoarders. There is a very fine line between providing a healthy challenge and suffering unfair frustrations in these types of games, and I fear sometimes LBP Karting crosses it without even meaning to do so.
You can race online and off, tinker with your creations (more on that later) or download those from others in the online community. There is even a “Story” mode. Craftworld is under threat from the Hoard. These evil little munchkins are hoarding (get it?) all the collectibles in LittleBigPlanet, not to share but to keep for themselves! Those scoundrels… imagine Stephen Fry saying it, that helps. It’s not much to go on, but at least it’s a good excuse to string a bunch of races together.
Visually, LBP Karting looks familiar, as in cute as a button. Colorful and bright, each track will leave you dazzled. It’s difficult not to feel like you’re missing something interesting as you whiz by at top speed! It wouldn’t be an LBP game without Stephen Fry, and he once again lends his melodious voice to the proceedings. I’m so happy he is sticking with it. I’d like to petition him to do the tutorials for other games. How awesome would it be to hear Stephen Fry tell you how to line up headshots or toss grenades?
There is one interesting aspect that LBP brings to the karting experience: lots and LOTS of collectibles! They are littered all over the tracks. Seriously, you almost need to play most levels twice: once to get the goodies, once to actually try and win. All those collectibles can then be used to customize your Sack-person, kart, hub, and tracks you can create.
The creation aspect is fun and clever, as all LBP games are. There is an interesting mixture of the mechanics from LBP and ModNation. There are quite a few themes to choose from, which basically describe the overall background and space in which you can create. I love the fact that you can “drive” your own track (with the steamroller replaced by a paintbrush, but again it’s virtually the same). However, I always felt like in LBP the creation tools were overly complex and not helped at all by the popit configuration. It’s confusing unless you really take the time to watch all the tutorials and do some exploring on your own. There was such a learning curve to the system that a great many people (myself included) couldn’t be bothered to really explore its intricacies. As a result, populating your track and the surrounding areas if far more in-depth and involved than it was in ModNation. Oh, how I wish there was that “Finish it!” button that would simply auto-populate the track with all the boosts and power ups.
LittleBigPlanet Karting has that indelible LittleBigPlanet charm, but it’s difficult not to feel like Sony is trying to take advantage of a recognizable brand. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Sackboy, and LittleBigPlanet Karting isn’t bad per se, but it’s difficult not to feel like the little guy is being exploited. If you’re a big LBP fan then it might be worth it, but if you’ve played ModNation Racers, I don’t think the slight makeover is enough to warrant a full price tag.
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on copy of LittleBigPlanet Karting for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.