When a small Sackboy first emerged onto the Playstation 3 in 2008, no one could have anticipated how quickly fans would build him an empire. Now in 2012 Sackboy is helping launch the PS Vita in a series of new titles, the latest PS3 title is ‘LittleBigPlanet: Karting’.
LittleBigPlanet Karting is in many ways the first full-featured title where the gameplay takes center stage. While previous titles had a strong ‘create and share’ mechanic that made them rocket to popularity around the world, the actual gameplay took a back seat to the magic.
In the latest Sackboy adventure, gameplay and creativity are equally paired. It is a kart racing game with a solid racing structure and well-crafted controls. In addition to that, the game carries an unparalleled track-creator that stills reflects the original LBP creativity that fans love. The gameplay should feel familiar to anyone that has played a kart racing game in the past, but it also brings a few new surprises along for the ride. With updated PS Move controls and amazing graphics, the title blends kart-racing and creativity together like never before. The game was developed by United Front Games who has experience with racing titles, most recently they developed ModNation Racers for the PS3.
It would be easy to make comparisons to former kart-racing games, there are a lot of elements that seemed ‘inspired’ by previous titles, but United Front Games gave these gameplay mechanics a LittleBigPlanet twist, which offers a fresh take on the Karting system. Things like picking up power-weapons or cutting into a turn for a speed-boost are all ‘classic karting’ mechanics, and even though LittleBigPlanet didn’t event the genre, United Front Games did manage to create something unique and something that is instantly fun to play. After all, if you take out everything that players loved about former kart-racing titles, then you would be left with what people didn’t like about them.
LittleBigPlanet has a lot to offer but learning all of the tricks can be frustrating. At first I didn’t know that I could counter enemy power-ups, which led to me being blasted out of the lead and into my death on more than one occasion. The game does a fair job at explaining most of these tricks and tactics but some did fall through cracks and I picked up most of them as I went along. The dynamic racing mechanic can also work against the good-natured theme that is Kart racing. More than one time I would be so concentrated on winning that being knocked into last place by a homing rocket, then by another, then by another, would cause extreme frustration. It’s really when you start battling with your friends or delving into the other game-modes that are available, that the urge to have fun overcomes the frustrating feeling of having to win.
That’s an important tip that I want to pass on. I found it best to take the game in shorter bursts when I was on my own. Kart racing is designed not to be fair and purposefully designed to stop the winner from winning. When you are playing against all computer players in a game like this, most of the time you’re in the lead with a target on your back, which causes you to suffer more than anyone else. That’s kart racing, and if you like winning because you’re a better driver or are easily frustrated, then I wouldn’t suggest Kart racing to you.
Luckily if you do get frustrated, there is amazing content to be explored outside of the story-mode. From the initial announcement of the game I felt that United Front Game’s biggest challenge would be to recreate the magical “create and share” landscape that made LittleBigPlanet such a success. The ‘toy box’ style world that you race in, is a perfect homage to the LittleBigPlanet franchise. The endless track formations and thoroughly designed creation tools that you can challenge yourself in, fit in perfectly with the franchise. With worlds created of cloth, wood and other miscellaneous fabrications each new location is another imaginary wonderland.
[quote_right]Building levels has never been my strong suit in LittleBigPlanet and for me the track creator seemed harder than the level-creators in the original titles. [/quote_right]The tools that are given to the player to create new tracks are both amazingly simple to use and incredibly complex to master. I have always been astounded at what people are able to create within the LittleBigPlanet universe and the tools that United Front Games has given players.
You aren’t even restricted to racing, you can basically create actual levels with specific goals in mind for the player, which they will of course have to complete with a kart. Building levels has never been my strong suit in LittleBigPlanet and for me the track creator seemed harder than the level-creators in the original titles. There is a lot going on in these tracks, from physics and moving objects, to terrain and speed variants, there is a lot to control and understand if you are planning on making new tracks of your own. The game does explain a lot of these mechanics in tutorial form, but I felt that prior experience with LittleBigPlanet creation would have been a gigantic plus.
United Front Game’s previous racing experience paid off in folds for LittleBigPlanet Karting. The game is a solid kart racing experience, with more content to dive into than any other kart racing game in the past. The world of LittleBigPlanet is just as colorful, vibrant and eclectic as any of the previous titles and both the story and online components are equally impressive.