Little Big Planet Karting
Little Big Planet Karting
Developer: Media Molecule/United Front Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Modes: Singleplayer, Co-op, Multiplayer
Crash Team Racing, Sonic-R, that Mortal Kombat Armageddon game where you race karts. All games that have been overshadowed by the big daddy of kart racing games in plumbing overalls. Now, it’s time for Little Big Planet to take its first steps from platformer to crazy racing title. Does it get a few laps around the track before puttering out or will finish first in Grand Prix? I don’t know how car racing works, but let’s get into reviewing this game.
There are really only two genres’ that truly make my blood boil and they are platformers and racing titles. The former because of the intricate moves it takes to get from one area to the next and the latter for the single decisions that can cost you the race, the key idea for both genres is the importance of staying focused and knowing where you’re going. Little Big Planet isn’t your typical racing title where you just play your little character and zoom around the track, it always wants to remind you that you’re a part of a bigger world, a little bigger world to be exact.
The game has you as your usual little Sackboy fighting against the evil and greedy hoard as you drive from track to track and help people with their problems. So far, so Mario, but it’s the incredible amount of detail, even in the gameplay that make this game shine. You will complete a series of levels, usually in two styles. First, your typical race track type and second, your battle arena style, which you are pitted against hoards capture the flag, get the highest amount of kills or something else equally fun.
You have a series of weaponators you pick up as you drive around the track in the racing modes. You use the weaponators as defending or attacking mechanisms, which will help you win your race or battle. Each weapon has their own distinct advantages and disadvantages and help balance out the level. For example, you may get certain items depending on your placement in the race, akin to Mario Kart’s powerup balancing act. This gives each race a heavy amount of tension in the final lap as anyone can win and pick up the top three positions with a finely placed dynamite box or the use of a fast-forward power up. The power ups are great and the driving is quite well done too. They’ve shifted the drifting to a single button rather than the usual sliding and grinding most driving games have, it’s a bit refreshing not having to worry about it, but hardcore drivers may find it lazy.
The multiplayer mode is even more fun when you and a friend can jump into a co-op match midway through the story line. All you need is a willing friend, family member or local drifter and you’ll be on your way to some fast and loose gameplay. The co-op games really change up the storyline from your usual game campaigns or moving through different tiers, they all have their own unique motif or characters and all revolve around either collecting a relatable item or beating a series of tracks to get to the next planet. It’s not a game changer but it’s the simplicity that makes it so easy to get others playing and enjoying themselves.
The game’s multiplayer extends out into creating, sharing and rating other people’s work, which is something I never really got into in the other LBP titles, but I think for those who enjoy it, you have a whole other medium and genre to share your constructions. I always feel it’s a bit superfluous and I’m not the most creative when it comes to building things in 3D space. The point I’m trying to make is this portion of the game was never really for me, but if you enjoyed it before, you’re still going to love it here.
The only issue I have is sometimes the defensive weapons sometimes don’t always work properly and if you try and join in the co-op at the last second, it sometimes may need a second to register. I wasn’t sure if this was a fault with my controller or the game, but I’m feeling it might be the former. The online multiplayer and customisation is something truly to behold with a game like this. The entire Little Big Planet franchise is built around creating whatever you want and customising your pod and planets and it didn’t stop at platforming.
Little Big Planet may be the Forza of the kart racing genre. The amount of customisation in the cars, Sackboys and levels is unfathomable and it makes me think I’m barely a creative person with the amount of freedom it gives you. I got bored with the original kart about three levels in and decided to make my own racer. I was flicking through some of the options and my eyes widened when I saw I could turn it into a hovercraft… with cans for floaters… and give my Sackboy a space helmet. It was glorious seeing my big-headed Sackboy, now with a white dome upon his head, drifting and sliding through the tracks and making daring turns and jumps with glee and delight.
I understand that Mod Nation Racers already exists and if you enjoy that game, you’ll love this. The point is the game is trying to put the Little Big Planet world into a car and it works incredibly well. So well, that it’s no wonder they got the guys from Mod Nation Racers to help work on the game. The customisation and level creation is fairly easy, but I would suggest putting aside a few hours before embarking on a crazy level making endeavour. It may not be TrackMania, but it’s incredible in how intuitive the interface of each section, whether it’s the Pod or the level making, their main demographic (See: Kids, your parents, drifters) can create it with a bit of tutorial help.
The game takes everything amazing from every racing game and puts it altogether without it ever feeling clunky. It has the sideslaps from Road Rash, the customisation of Forza, the cutesy funness of Mario Kart and the power-ups from every racing game across the big asphalted spectrum. I think we may have the perfect racing game for everyone and it only took three years to overshadow Mario Kart on the Wii.
I’ve always loved the Little Big Planet style with its mix of pantomime and wood-cut characters. The first game had this weird magical-realism to it that never strayed too far from reminding you that Little Big Planet is the world that every crafty imagination is made up of, however I did notice with LBP2 they moved closer towards a well-made world of their own.
A few characters from the platforming series return and humorous storylines and different characters which pop up to help you, are all a part of the world and are cohesive to creating their own respective planets. It’s great to see how each planet is annoyed by the hoard and yet always so original. I understand the mechanics are usually the same: ‘Oh no, they took this, help me get them and it back,’ or ‘Oh no, they’re annoying me, chase them down and beat them.’
As always, Molecule and United Front need to be commended for their creativity in both constructing the levels and characters. Each one has a distinct style relating to the planet, but each track and the amount of obstacles always give a different feel to each level. There is always something you missed with gifts or a shortcut you didn’t take or a jump that can slice a few seconds off your time.
The game series has gone from the usual real-world appropriation of dreams to something that has a stronger style and more dynamic feel when it comes to each level, character and construction. Even when crafting your own cars, you can make and colour the wackiest vehicle you can think of but it still fits into the LBP Universe.
The game has always had a specific world soundtrack that matched each level you went through and Karting is no different. The Mexican Halloween levels have some amazing Latin rhythms and melodies, the monster islands have a great tropical feel and the menus and cutscenes all have their own specific soundtrack and they’re almost always a joy to hear.
The dialogue which is mainly gibberish still has a cute and colourful quality to it that makes you wonder if they’ve crafted a real language, like Simlish to be fed to the different voice actors of the Queen and the habitants of the different planets. The voice work is almost always humorous and really my kind of comedy, I’m not sure how it may fair to some other people but it reminds me of old cartoons such as Bagpuss, Pingu and Clangers, where the key thing was tone and significant sounds rather than outlandish or over the top dialogue and sound effects.
The sound, much like this section of the review is short and sweet and really comes into its own when you’re drifting between planets and even when you’re focused on your racing. The only issue I have is at times some tracks don’t get your blood pumping and your heart racing like some other racing soundtracks do, but again, it’s a kid’s game to some degree and they’re not exactly trying to go for the hardcore racing market.
- Strong gameplay, both single and multiplayer
- Wonderfully crafted soundtrack
- Pick up and play controls
- Incredible amount of creativity and levels
- The Voice-Over
- Collectables may be for purists
- Some weaponators may be considered cheap
- Hate to say it, but sometimes there’s too much awesomeness on the track to take in
Little Big Planet Karting is the racing game the world has been waiting for. It blends the creativity and customisation the entire series has been based upon and adds another genre to its lineup. But it’s not just another feather in Media Molecule’s cap, it’s a full-fledged creative experience with enough personal levels, online content and fun to be had for hours and hours. The replayability and the personalisation alone is enough to bring anyone back for more. Forget Forza Horizon and F1 2012, Little Big Planet has something for everyone and that something is everything.
Written by HE