Published on November 15th, 2012 | by Dembonez194
Review: LittleBigPlanet Karting
Developers: SCE Studios San Diego, Media Molecule, United Front Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
System(s): PlayStation 3
Release Date(s): November 6, 2012
Sackfolk, start your engines! LittleBigPlanet Karting has been released for the PlayStation 3!
LittleBigPlanet has always followed the “Play, Create, Share” motto, and LittleBigPlanet Karting is no different. Much of the way it plays is naturally similar to both LittleBigPlanet games before it. However, since SCE Studios San Diego and United Front Games, who both developed ModNation Racers, had a hand in the development of LittleBigPlanet Karting, there are a few differences that need to be addressed, especially the differences that altered what made LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet 2 so fun.
First, let’s begin with “Play”. Many have compared LittleBigPlanet Karting to ModNation Racers, which is to be expected since SCE Studios San Diego and United Front Games got behind the wheel of this game too. There have also been comparisons to this being “yet another Mario Kart clone”, but again did you expect any less? Mario Kart is the trailblazer of gimmicky kart racers, so every kart racer after it would most likely follow a similar formula because it simply works.
LittleBigPlanet Karting was developed with online play in mind. The items are balanced enough to the point where there is no guarantee a player can maintain a lead throughout an entire race. Since a player can block any oncoming attack with any weapon in their arsenal, it was important for the developers to make it so that it isn’t so easy to block everything. This is why it is possible for different players to launch multiple 1st place homing missiles at a time. If there were not as many homing weapons, the leader would have a smooth sail since typically, the other positions would need to play defensively as well. This is great for online play since everyone is playing to win.
On the other hand, playing in Story mode even with Casual Mode turned on instead of Normal, it could be a pain to have multiple 1st place homing missiles traveling behind the player right before the finish line. These sorts of cheap shots are pretty frequent. It adds an extra challenge to the race, but it could also be frustrating since in order to move on in the story, a player has to place 1st – 3rd.
The weapons themselves are actually really cute and pay homage to the LittleBigPlanets before this. They range from the old explosives from Boom Town to a fast-forward power-up like the ones found in My Moon. There is a large range of weapons, and each of them can be customized in Create Mode for specific tracks. They all serve a unique purpose, and they can all save a player in the heat of a race or a battle.
The racing controls are easy enough to learn. There is a tutorial level in the game that Stephen Fry walks the player through in typical Stephen Fry fashion. There is the option to choose between racing with R2 or with X guaranteeing comfort depending on which play style you are used to from playing other karting games. As far as race speed, the game feels kind of slow-paced. Even still, the Story tracks are really exciting and exploding with creative clutter and amazing music.
The Story progression is the same as it was in the other LittleBigPlanet games. There is a break between each world without a real link to any of them. All of the worlds are themed though and have their own mini-stories that fit into the big picture since each of the worlds are affected by the Hoard (Sackboy’s enemies this time) in different ways.
“Create” is where the developers really dropped the ball. Part of what makes LittleBigPlanet so amazing is the ability to customize Sackpeople with stickers and costumes so that no two Sackpeople are alike. In LittleBigPlanet Karting, this is nearly impossible. The stickers applied to Sackpeople and karts bleed into other areas. Before, if the player wanted to paint a blue sticker over a t-shirt to make it blue, all the player had to do is make the sticker large enough to wrap around the shirt. Now, if you make a large sticker to place on the front of the t-shirt, it only adheres to the front. Not only that, but it also bleeds into the body of the Sackperson and any other items of clothing he or she is wearing making sticker application extremely sloppy. Add to that the fact that you cannot turn the Sackperson around to stick anything on its back with ease without him or her sitting in the kart, and you have taken away one of the more fun elements of LittleBigPlanet. It’s too much work for what it’s worth, and the end result is a bunch of Sackpeople who look similar in online play.
Luckily, if this is ever patched, there are thousands of stickers, objects, and costumes to choose from to customize Sackpeople, karts, tracks, pods, and planets. Nearly every standard costume from the first two LittleBigPlanet games have made a return as well as the stickers and objects. These are available as prizes in the Story races. It seems as though the Hoard got a hold of them all forcing players to recollect them from before. Downloaded costumes from the previous games will eventually be patched into this one as well!
My Moon is another feature from LittleBigPlanet that was brought back. This time, however, an entire 3D world is available to customize. Create Mode actually has a steep learning curve, and it could easily turn new players off to creating tracks because of the fact that it takes so long to adjust to. Objects often don’t snap properly, and there is a lot of back and forth adding and subtracting just to get simple objects to work the way they are supposed to. For some reason, Stephen Fry constantly reminding you that “it’s easy” makes it that much more frustrating because it isn’t. It takes a lot more practice than in previous LittleBigPlanet games, but once you get the hang of it, it can actually be enjoyable.
The only problem within Create Mode that deserves its own attention is AI. The positive is that AI bots can be controlled to be as easy or as difficult as the creator wants them to be. Item adjustments can be made to avoid those cheap shots mentioned earlier for your specific track as well. The big issue is that if you wanted to create a themed track with themed AI racers, it cannot be done at this time. This could add that extra bit of customization to a track so that players do not have to race the same old hoard members, Sackbots, and standard Sackpeople every single time. It would be a good idea to add in the option to implement your own AI characters as well as their karts into a race to break the mold a little.
Finally, we have “Share”. For those with the patience and ability to create wonderful tracks, they typically share them for the world to play. With new tracks released every single day, there is always a new place to explore so that the karting adventure is never truly finished. The community is amazing, and it is what makes LittleBigPlanet thrive by shooting the replay factor through the roof. The only downside is that if you are playing online, the only tracks available to be selected from are typically Story tracks and staff picked courses which means playing online with a cool level that isn’t popular with the developers could be a difficult task unless friends are invited to play too.
Fortunately, there are many communities online like lbp.me that help players find specific tracks that they may love. The tracks can be queued and saved for play once the game is started up again. The navigation through each of the tracks and battle arenas is pretty much the same as it was in LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet 2. You have the option to search for the most popular tracks, most recent packs, developer selections, or a lucky dip if you’re feeling like letting the game choose for you.
There’s no telling what kind of track you will run across when playing online. The weapons could all be different, and with such a variety of race and battle game play options, you could find yourself in a standard race, a game of keep-away, or even a first-person shooter! That said, the ability to create your own levels is not a necessity with so many user-created levels available online.
Whether you have the patience to give Create Mode a try or not, new tracks will be released every day meaning play can commence without ever having to take a pit stop.
+ Customization variety
+ Weapon balance
+ New user-made tracks released every day
– Sloppy sticker application
– Steep learning curve in Create Mode
– Cheap shots from Story AI
– Freezes on and offline
Final score: 3 out of 5