LittleBigPlanet Karting – Game Review
Title: LittleBigPlanet Karting
Developed By: United Front Games / Media Molecule
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Based On: LittleBigPlanet Series
Console: Playstation 3
Review Conditions: Playstation 3, Physical Media
Special Thanks: Sony Computer Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this title to review
In 2010, development studio United Front Games released ModNation Racers on the Playstation 3, carrying over the Play, Create and Share aspects from the LittleBigPlanet series and while I never reviewed the game itself it was pretty enjoyable despite a few flaws. Move forward into 2012 and the company has chosen to develop another racing game but this time removing their unique characters known as “Mods” and building a LittleBigPlanet themed game based around the racing genre. Given the original platformer basis for LittleBigPlanet it proved to be a considerable shift from the norm…. but did it excel gameplay wise? Did it maintain the same charm as ModNation Racers? Read on to find out!
As with all other installments in the LittleBigPlanet franchise, there is a light storyline element to the game which does not serve as a main driving force of the game but instead pushes you along and gives purpose to your racing. What is provided is short, simple and comical, focusing on your Sackboy once again being left to protect Craftworld from a group known as ‘The Horde’. ‘The Horde’ is a group of racing enthusiasts who pose a big threat to Craftworld, and given their speed your normal array of tools and creative objects are going to do very little. Taking one of the vehicles from the group, Sackboy sets out across many different worlds to out race the rest of them.
In ModNation Racers, United Front Games provided a fun storyline with many comical segments featuring narrators Biff and Garry, as well as commercials and a cast of eccentric characters. Given this is the realm of LittleBigPlanet where conversation is delivered by text and the voice acting of Stephen Fry, it took a different direction which came across well. However after going through a fair few races I found myself becoming compelled to skip over the storyline scenes at the beginning of each race – as they didn’t do enough to keep my attention to it.
Ever since the series was launched in 2008, the concept being the visual design has not changed, and even with the change to the karting design provides the same creativity inspired track designs as well as a diverse number of customization options for both your kart and Sackboy. Unfortunately to unlock many of the goodies for you to create any of these three you are required to play through the entire game which leaves you unable to just jump in and let your imagination run wild. However, visually the games design is bright, colourful and diverse and what you would expect from any of the platforming installments of the LBP series you should expect to find in this game.
Audio / Voice Acting
LittleBigPlanet Karting once again provides a sizable and enjoyable music tracklist which are used within the levels both custom and built-in within the game. They are generally suitable to a couple of themes each and as you are unable to import music for your custom tracks, it will be both the design/theme of your dream track as well as your own personal preferences which will impact your preference towards the tracks you are provided with.
Aside from a few incomprehensible mumbling from NPC characters (Which are overlapped with speech bubbles), the only character who has any voice over work is the main narrator Stephen Fry. While his presence is primarily focused in the earlier parts of the game, as all his previous roles he does a brilliant performance at what he does and is clear and precise for both newcomers and experts alike to appreciate.
LittleBigPlanet Karting follows the same core kart racing formula which has been seen in many games in the past – from United Front Games own ModNation Racers to the recently released “F1 Race Stars”. You race on a track against seven other players in a bid to come first, while using the environment, boost pads and item boxes to give yourself a competitive advantage. The “Story” race tracks are present to give you an idea of what you could develop in your own free time given a bit of effort, and for the most part they handle well without major issues – but at the same time none really stand out as the platforming stages of LittleBigPlanet (1) (2) (Vita) did. To be fair, this does help keep your focus on the gameplay, but asides from collecting the items that litter the track and possibly working towards first place there is nothing much to encourage you to spend much time in the single player mode after completion.
Outside of the easiest difficulty setting you are provided with ample challenge within the games story mode which may see you having to repeat tracks occasionally and are also provided with some creative (Some LBP-themed) offensive, defensive and boosting items which offers solid challenge especially on the shorter and more clumped together tracks. But while the CPU racers do pack some challenge, as you would expect to really enjoy the game you do require access to the multiplayer modes – which especially for online modes do function well.
While the single-player story campaign is pretty hit or miss depending on a number of factors, they do alter the mechanics a bit for a few of the races where the gameplay does shine and the creative team seemed to be given a bit more freedom in working their magic. Similar to Mario Kart’s ‘Battle’ mode, one special race type sets the Sackboy in an arena challenge against others, where crossing a line first doesn’t matter as much as using battle items against other racers to rack up the most points. On the other hand, Checkpoint races provide you with no competitors, a track full of goodies and a limited time to cross through all checkpoints contained on the map. Once again, these modes are more fun with other players but are the stages that mostly shine amongst the rest.
Outside of the racing environment you are provided with many of the same tools as you were with LittleBigPlanet – the Pod which serves as your “Hub”, your Pop-It menu to customize your Sackboy and Kart using goodies collected during races and the My Moon feature allowing you to develop your own tracks. ModNation Racers included a feature that after generating a track you could auto-populate the world and have a working track (Most of the time) that was very beginner friendly. On the other hand, LittleBigPlanet Karting as with LittleBigPlanet is less pick-up and use, with a bulky (Less hands-on) set of tutorial videos and while you get more customizability out of it – to create anything but a bland level much time, effort and planning may need to be put in which will turn off casual gamers. That being said some of the track designs I have seen so far have worked quite well – so evidently they are capable of producing great level designs.
While for the purpose of this review I did not spend too much time on the games online multiplayer, I found very few issues with it with the experience being mostly lag free. As you were able to do in previous games, you can play with others by selecting a track from the Online Creations or Story mode screen which shows how many people are playing it – then selecting to go online rather than playing offline. Upon completion of the race, you can vote for your next track.
LittleBigPlanet Karting is as the title suggests, a LittleBigPlanet experience with racing instead of the usual platforming. In this regard the game pulls off what they set to do while retaining the aesthetic appeal which has captivated me and I am sure so many other players to the series. BUT unfortunately as a racing game while overall solid it falls short of delivering the experience I have come to expect from the series.
I would have personally preferred to see them build more upon the ModNation Racers franchise which is more tuned towards the racing genre – especially given portable installments have been (whilst limited in scope) pretty fun to play through, but in the end LBP Karting proved to be an interesting experience with good aspects and bad aspects… which ultimately kept it from shining.
Storyline/Character Development: C
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Opinion: C+
Overall Score: C+