LittleBigPlanet Karting is an appealing concept at first glance: take the winning formula of ModNationRacers, combine it with the highly-successful world of LittleBigPlanet—known for its undeniably cute Sackboys and charming, artistic backdrops—and you should end up with an amazing addition to the franchise. Sadly, this idea has gone somewhat wrong along the way.
Don’t take this to mean the entire game is bad: Karting draws much of its look and feel from LBP, ensuring wonderful narration and as creative a story as ever. With quirky cut-outs and creative track layouts, you’ll find the beautiful scenery eye-catching and a joy to watch as you zoom around the track. The background music is extremely catchy, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll be humming along in no time.
LBP was well known for being highly customizable, and Karting does not disappoint in this area. Selecting Sackboy’s costume—as well as the type of kart you’ll race—is as fun as ever, and you can even add stickers to your planet to increase the overall level of customization. There are also tons of collectibles to find on each track, which increases the replay value of each level. You can choose from a number of racing modes: Battle Mode, Waypoint Races, Treasure Hunts, Score Attacks, and more. The battle-specific modes are riotous chaos, with rockets flying left and right as you eat up the track.
So, then, what’s so wrong with Karting? The gameplay just isn’t that fun. Despite the obvious comparison to ModNationRacers and the decent in-game racing mechanics, this title suffers from a lack of defensive weaponry. Offensive-only weapons—each overly-powerful and capable of hitting for maximum damage—quickly lead to a frustrating gaming experience; getting slammed by some rocket and dropping to the back of the pack happens about every ten seconds in LBP Karting. The only way to stay ahead is to go on the defensive and hold onto your weaponry, which means that for the majority of the race, you won’t fire a single weapon. Since racers in first or second position are the most heavily targeted, the easiest way to overtake other players is to wait for the computer-controlled characters to destroy each other, making Karting more about luck than skill.
Then there are other small annoyances: for example, if you get bumped from behind, you slip backwards. Common logic dictates that the opposite should occur. When you’re drifting, even slightly nudging a wall slows you down completely. It would make more sense for your kart to slow and make you have to stop drifting to get back up to speed. When you fall off the track, you get placed back on, with Sackboy sometimes facing backward for some unknown reason. And be prepared to spend most of your Karting experience digging through menus or staring at loading screens.
LBP Karting’s one saving grace is its immensely detailed level editor: anything you can think up, you can make possible here, and you’re not limited to merely creating more racing track. Along with potential for complex level design, however, comes a steep learning curve. Learning the editor will take time, despite the tutorials, which are all visual and seem to take take forever to get through. The editor uses LBP’s PoPit menus throughout, but they can be confusing to sort through, so patience is required.
Those composed individuals who do make it though the level building process will have undoubtedly uploaded their levels online for you to play, and it’s astounding to see how creative people can be. What does tower defense have to do with karting? No idea, but it’s completely possible to create a tower defense game in Karting’s level editor. Check out some of the online maps, and hopefully, someone else’s creativity will inspire you to make your own amazing levels to show off to the world.
LittleBigPlanet Karting has an incredible amount of potential. Sadly, it’s hard to enjoy a race when you’re grinding your teeth after being hit by four rockets in a row. Even if you retaliate and naively eliminate another racer, you’ll get hit by three more rockets in quick succession and fall back even further. ‘Holding onto your weapons to win’ is a rather boring strategy for an arcade racing game. If you’re a fan of LittleBigPlanet, you will undoubtedly love Karting and all it has to offer. On the other hand, if you don’t care much for the franchise and you just want a good racing game, look elsewhere: there are far more satisfying games out there.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of LittleBigPlanet Karting developed by United Front Games and Media Molecule and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment.
- Fun Racing Mechanics
- Lots of Customization
- Super Detailed Level Editor
- Weird Physics at Work
- Power-Ups are Over-Powered