Sackboy races onto the PS3.
LBP Karting Got Right
- + Fun for the whole family
- + Level editor is great
- + Nearly everything can be customised
LBP Karting Got Wrong
- - Lacks personality
- - Races get stale quickly
- - No Vita release
- - Boring tutorials
Like its recently-released Sony comrade, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, LittleBigPlanet Karting draws similarities to a certain iconic Nintendo counterpart that I’m sure has already popped into your head – but while the basic mechanics may appear the same, LBP Karting offers so much more than what a first glance may presume. It’s a combination of the brilliant minds at Media Molecule (the guys behind LittleBigPlanet and its sequel) and United Front Games, who brought us ModNation Racers. What ensues is a title that possesses the same LittleBigPlanet charm we’ve grown to love, with United Front Games providing a racing and user-generated content focus that fits the series perfectly.
In short, the game's story mode allows the player to travel across various worlds in pursuit of "The Hoard", and reclaim prizes that have been stolen from Craftworld. Upon loading of the game you're given a quick rundown of the game's plot and a tiring, non-interactive tutorial is provided to allow players to grasp the game's mechanics.
In terms of racing, obvious comparisons can be drawn to Nintendo's classic Mario Kart series. While races will more or less play like Sony's answer to the aforementioned franchise, there's quite a few nuances that allow for a different gameplay experience. For starters, goodies and prizes are scattered across levels in story mode, providing an alternative objective in races. You can gather orbs to increase your high score for the level, and each event plays out at a fairly steady pace. Traditional circuit races aren't all you'll face, though. Battle Mode provides a hectic experience where the only objective is to take out as many enemies as possible with the various weapons scattered around the map. You can also partake in GP-inspired contests, where you'll drive around in a first-person view and pull over at pit stops when you're low on power.
On the topic of weapons, they prove more of an annoyance to gameplay, rather than a tactical advantage. The game gives you the option of either firing your weapon and using it offensively, or you can hold onto it and use it to shield incoming attacks from opponents. Theoretically, it sounds like a great idea, but the lack of diversity between pickups (there are very few speed boosts) means you'll have missiles, rockets and all kinds of gadgetry coming at you at a frequency that hinders the flow of play. It can also be difficult to even identify what item you've picked up, due to a simple image on the bottom right hand side of the screen being the only means of identification.
The customisable and creative aspects of LBP Karting are where the game truly shines, though. The LBP series is renowned for its user-generated content and community focus, and LBP Karting is no different. Fans of the series will recognise the pod as the game's main hub, now a huge cardboard spaceship. From here you can choose between characters and an array of outfits for Sackboy, scroll through your unlocked carts, and there's even a vast amount of vanity items such as stickers and general decorations to plaster all over your pod. This isn't some hugely tacked-on, poorly executed idea, either. There are tons of different skin patterns to choose from to coat Sackboy with, as well as various options for eyes, glasses, headwear and so much more. You can even get into the Movember spirit and add an awesome moustache to him. There are literally hundreds of decorations to add to your pod as well, allowing you to personalise your main hub in a multitude of ways.
The ability to create your own tracks and arenas is one of the most fun features in the game and we're sure to see some brilliant efforts pop up online. While it can be a tad counter-intuitive to use at times, it's very simple to create and play your own track. Simply roll the paintbrush around the blank, open world, and possibility is only limited by your imagination. From here you're given a load of options - what sort of terrain you use, respawn points and powerups are all at the touch of your fingertips, and that's only naming a few.
My main gripe with the game though, is that it lacks personality. No sooner than the tutorials begin do you want them to end, and races feel like more of the same as you go on. Though Stephen Fry is back to narrate the story and familiar faces from previous LBP games make an appearance, the cutscenes are purely subtitled and you'll find yourself skipping through most of them. Most of the tracks are forgettable and honestly provide the same few long stretches of driving along with the occasional twist and turn time and time again. Had the imagination that spawned the first two LBP games been implemented in LBP Karting, Sony could have been onto something special here.
The fact that the game isn't seeing a Vita release is also a point of contention. While I'm aware we recently received LittleBigPlanet Vita, a kart racer featuring one of Sony's most popular characters of this generation seems like a fantastic way to promote the handheld and cross-platform play, and is an opportunity missed.
The Final Verdict
IF you're after a light-hearted, family friendly or multiplayer means of fun, LBP Karting is certainly worth the purchase. It's the only game of its kind on Sony's console and while purists won't get a whole lot of enjoyment out of the game besides the level creator, it'll be a hit with kids and LBP fans. If you consider yourself more of a "hardcore" LBP fan, stick to the core titles in the series if you're after an enjoyable storytelling and creative experience.
By Jake Galouzis