It seems like the LittleBigPlanet brand is Sony’s bread and butter at the moment. After the wonderful discovery of the first game and the refinement of the second Sony and Media Molecule were riding high on the series. What’s next after two successful platformer games you may ask? Well, kart racing of course! Developed by ModNation Racers peeps, United Front Games, LittleBigPlanet Karting is exactly what you’d expect from a cute kart racing game, but with a hint of malice behind it all.
If you have played games like Mario Kart or ModNation Racers then you know what to expect: racing through hectic levels as you pick up weapons to hurl at your opponents. The core mechanic is solid; the racing will keep you engaged as you play through its tight controls and interesting level design. The race tracks mimic ones you may have seen in the original games such as the Royal Gardens and Ancient Temples. Each track is beautifully designed with such attention to detail that if you were to stop racing and look at everything you’d have a great time as well. The detail even extends into the branching tracks of each racetrack. By finding these short cuts you’re finding quicker ways around, but you’re also finding new beautifully detailed areas of the map. I have even taken the time to take several extra trips around racetracks that I have raced through already – just to see if I can find every hidden detail*.
This hardly seems fair. Actually, it seems kind of awesome.
There is also a battle arena mode that pits you against your friends in different levels. You use weapons to try and destroy each other and the winner is the last one standing. The real core of the game however is in the creation mode, just as it is in every LittleBigPlanet game; and the creation mode in Karting is exceptionally powerful.
Remember how I said all that all of the levels are super detailed? In theory**, you can create all of these levels yourself in the same amount of detail using the level creator. While you race, you can pick up items that you can then use in the level creator to build your dream track. The creator tool is very powerful and in the hands of talented people could produce some amazing tracks – seriously, you need to check out some of the user generated-levels. The tool feels and acts very much like the creator tool from LittleBigPlanet, where you grab objects and place them where you want; except now, things are in three dimensions. There are also terrain options to make cliffs and hills for your racetrack. With all of these things put together, LittleBigPlanet Karting gives you the ability to make really fleshed-out racetracks; sadly, though, you may have a tough time enjoying said racetracks.
A day in the life of Ricky Lima.
While the racing is tight and easy and the tracks are well-designed, the computer AI in LBP Karting is totally brutal. It’s as if United Front Games hates seeing anyone pass their AI characters and have created the most unforgiving and weapon-happy characters known to man. At one point I was cruising in first, enjoying life; then, I was hit by a rocket, an electrical charge, and a flying boxing glove one right after the other. Next thing I knew, I was in 8th place, with my self esteem shattered and my hopes and dreams gone. In it’s defense, the game features a way of blocking weapons by using your own weapon; but when you’re hit by a million different things at the same time, it’s impossible to block everything. Either I’m the worst kart racing player in the world or the AI is way too hard. It’s almost as if the game was play-tested by kart racing champs – because I can’t imagine regular play-testers not bringing up the difficulty to the developers.
Difficulty aside, LittleBigPlanet Karting is a solid kart racer for the PS3, a system that is surprisingly lacking in the cute kart racing genre. If you’re a fan of the LittleBigPlanet franchise, then you’ll love this game. As a kart racing game there are better ones out there – but on the PS3, I haven’t anything better. You’ll have a blast playing this game, and most of those blasts will be rockets smashing against the back of your kart – so be sure to practice hard.