Game Review: LittleBigPlanet Karting

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After a rather ambitious attempt with ModNation Racers in 2010, United Front Games is back with a new kart racer for the PlayStation 3 with LittleBigPlanet Karting. Can this brand new experience capture the audience that UFG was trying to gain with ModNation Racers or is this a game with a serious identity crisis? Find out here!

When LittleBigPlanet came out in 2008, I couldn’t wait to see the types of spin-off franchises that could be created from the nearly endless creativity that the community and Media Molecule could generate. In 2010, a spin-off idea from LittleBigPlanet came in the form of ModNation Racers, a game I ran out to buy day one. Much to my disappointment, long load times ruined my experience and nothing really new came out of the play, create, share dynamic besides the much anticipated sequel to LBP. Almost two years have passed since then and we now have a game that looks like it could be a great spin-off on the surface but, it’s not all blue skies for this racer.

LittleBigPlanet Karting borrows a bit of gameplay from LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers and mashes them together to create one massive racing game. That’s the real hook of playing LittleBigPlanet Karting after all, there are 71 levels to play in story mode which go by fairly quickly but by comparison, a game like Mario Kart doesn’t have nearly that many. The problem with having 71 levels is that a lot of those levels don’t really feel very well fleshed out. There aren’t a lot of extras on the tracks, it’s just driving with some crazy turns and random shortcuts but, nothing else. As with most kart racing games, you have your standard weapons and you drift to get around the track faster. That’s all well and good for me but, there needs to be more excitement while still retaining the core mechanics.

Even Sackboy seems to be on the fence about LittleBigPlanet Karting.

Did I say retaining? Well, LBPK drops the boost/shield meter and introduces a new system where you use drifting to boost which is perfect but, then choose whether to defend or attack with your equipped weapon. One of the great things about MNR was the fact that you could defend yourself against multiple attacks, that is completely gone with this game. Use a weapon to take down that opponent and leave yourself vulnerable to an attack, use it for a shield and you still leave yourself open for an attack the next second. This is a huge problem in LBPK and throws strategy out the window. It’s a crap shoot and while a lot of kart racers are, this kind of thing is usually within the users control. If UFG allowed players to store one weapon like Mario Kart of kept the system from MNR, they wouldn’t have had this problem and the game would be a lot less frustrating to players. Let’s face it, most people who play this game are going to be casual players and no one is going to want to sit there and get smacked by weapons one after the other.

Beyond racing, you’ll be looking at the battle mode which has its moments but, is best played against a few buddies than anything else and the weapon list isn’t all that high to actually build any type of strategy to your game which results in a mostly run a gun battle. It’s a fun way to pass the time but, probably not something you’ll be craving to come back to. I’d give the edge to the actual racing mode in terms of fun.

The levels feel very empty and lack creativity.

LittleBigPlanet Karting definitely keeps the stuff that players know about LBP like the pod, the endless creation suite and the general look and feel of the game but, in doing that, they seem to have created another problem for themselves in the race select screen. Like LittleBigPlanet, the level select screen is made up of planets however, in this game the planets get so full of different races that you can barely tell what’s going on. I went into the wrong race a bunch of times because of this. Yes, you can still read what the level is but, it shouldn’t be so congested that you can’t see what’s going on.

The story seems to be the main focus in LBP Karting and while this would be a nice thing to focus on for most games, the story mode in this game leaves something to be desired. It’s not that the story is bad, it’s actually quite good but, is told with subtitles instead of actual voice-overs and the cutscenes look somewhat thrown together compared to the polish in previous LittleBigPlanet games. The story does revisit previous worlds and characters from LBP and does a good job of bringing it all together, I just wish engaged the player a little bit better, the cutscenes were just too uninspired for me.

I have a love/hate relationship with the boxing glove.

Multiplayer is something that didn’t get much love in LBPK. You can player multiplayer matches but, beyond the leaderboards for each race, there really isn’t much incentive to go online. The whole point of a karting game is usually to compete against other players and yet, that seems to be the exact opposite of what this game wants you to do. This is a mostly single-player experience with a tacked on multiplayer mode for the ones that want it there, nothing more. There are no special multiplayer modes to play for fun other than to play other people’s creations which may be all that some want anyways. For me, I’d like a more feature-rich multiplayer mode to dive into.

The creation suite for LBP Karting is the bread and butter of the game and probably what will salvage the rest of the what’s here but, there are a couple things that I noticed that were puzzling to not include. One was the “auto-populate” option being removed, the other was the individual tutorials being removed in favour of non-interactive videos. The “auto-populate” option inspires more creativity so I can understand how that can be beneficial as it will create more unique levels but, the interactive tutorials being removed is a big step back. Those tutorials allowed novice players to access different options that were previously too complicated and actually try them themselves, now it’s simply a video which sometimes makes it hard to find what you’re looking for. There were some nice tracks on the servers already but, I really would like to see players being guided in the right direction in an easier way than this.

The creation suite is the saving grace of LBP Karting.

I had high hopes for LittleBigPlanet Karting and I really wanted it to succeed as a good successor to ModNation Racers but, I really feel like it’s a step back from that game and that it left a lot of room for improvement. The core gameplay is enjoyable but, after an hour you’ll be searching for something better to do unless you’re strictly a creator in which you may have a bit better experience.

*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Sony Computer Entertainment Canada for review purposes.*

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