Thursday, March 21, 2013

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3) Review

We kick off the road to 500 reviews with LittleBigPlanet Karting. If you recall, we took a look at another kart racer this month with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Can Sackboy and friends outperform the Blue Blur's racing effort? Let's find out with SuperPhillip Central's review of LittleBigPlanet Karting.

Have Kart, Will Travel

Out of every new franchise that has been born from this past generation, my favorite would have to be the LittleBigPlanet series. It allowed its players to enter a craft world full of whimsical charm, platforming fun, and a massive amount of creation, giving people like me the chance to make their own levels and utilize their imaginations to the max. The series hasn't really moved out of its genre as of yet... until now. LittleBigPlanet Karting is Sony and United Front Games' attempt to cash-in on the Mario Kart crowd. Whether that crowd owns PlayStations is up in the air, but what the final product is is one worthy of a look. Rev your engines, Sackpeople across the planet, and get ready to race. It's LittleBigPlanet Karting time.

The main mode of LittleBigPlanet Karting is the Story Mode. This sees a monstrous menace known as the Horde madly picking clean every area they infest. It's your Sackperson's job to save the craft universe through visiting multiple planets to right the wrongs the Horde have caused. Each planet takes you through a varied round of events, some as simple as three lap races while others are more involved, such as fighting Horde members in a battle arena, participating in a waypoint race against the clock, and playing keep-away with a dinosaur egg.

The first track of LBP Karting takes players
back to a familiar setting for fans of the original LBP.
Make no mistake, however, with LittleBigPlanet Karting. Despite its childlike and easygoing presentation, the game is anything but in the difficulty department. There are two challenge levels that can be switched between as you play: Casual and Normal. You will only be able to post your scores online and compare them with friends and the rest of the world by playing on Normal. That is fine and all, but playing with Normal level computer bots is an effort in serious frustration. They are absolutely ruthless in how they race and how they attack. Even on Casual LittleBigPlanet Karting nabbing the necessary third place to advance (or moreover earning first, for that matter) is an arduous task. This is one of the main problems with LittleBigPlanet Karting. It's a sometimes infuriating game for adults, and considering the game is one marketed more towards kids, it's hard to see a child having the patience to play and stick with this title, just due to frustration alone. It's not quite as crazy as Mario Kart Wii, but it approaches that game's insane levels of cheapness.

Beware! The AI can be pretty cheap.
Like the main LittleBigPlanet games, LittleBigPlanet Karting houses prize bubbles within its various levels. They are placed from easy-to-reach to hard-to-find, requiring players and completionists alike to comb through every corner and inch of a given track to uncover every prize bubble there is. It's a fun optional task that adds content and features to the Create Mode. Of course, if you are not in the mood for a scavenger hunt, then you can simply purchase a pass that grants you all of the items in the game without the need to search for them. It will set you back a few bucks, but perhaps saving you from aggravation would be worth it.

Use the L1 button to grab onto these blocks
and swing across large chasms.
Any kart game of its own worth needs zany power-ups to be at its most manic fun, and LittleBigPlanet Karting does not disappoint in this regard. Weaponators, as the game calls them, are like the Item Boxes of Mario Kart, strewn around each track, ready for you to nab them. There are little mines that you can drop ahead of you or throw in front of your Sackboy. There are missiles that temporarily blur the target's screen. There's even a blue shell equivalent in the form of a blue rocket that automatically targets the player in first place. Thankfully, all homing attacks can be blocked if you have an item of your own to use. When the icon behind your Sackboy turns into a shield, that is your cue to press the square button to block.

What is this, Nickolodeon with all this slime?
As for the kart racing in LittleBigPlanet Karting, it is well done, offering two ways to play, either with X as the accelerator or a shoulder button to accelerate. Drifting is simple in the game, allowing players to not only take corners better but also get a boost at the end of the drift. The longer the drift is held, the longer the boost given will be. While in midair, whether through coming off a long ramp or hitting a slope and jumping into the sky, you can spin around. The more revolutions you perform, the more of a boost you get when you land... pending you land straight. Overall and with these additions to the gameplay, racing is tight and you never feel like you're on the verge of losing control like with some other kart racers.

By far the most ingenious part of the LittleBigPlanet series is the ability to create your own stuff and share it with the community at large. Instead of making 2D levels like the series proper, you're making your own fully 3D track, and it's as easy as paving a road through driving a Sackboy across the lay of the land. You can even have the game auto-finish your track if you're really lazy. You can create the typography, time of day, what music is played, ambient sounds, camera angles to bookend the race on your track, and objects that will line your track (or you can use the ones already pre-made). Breadcrumbs can be used to let players take the road less traveled instead of being restricted to solely the track you paved. This is the way to create shortcuts and other interesting routes.

A look at my own work in LBP Karting.
If you're ambitious, you can even do some advanced track creating course fun like programming conditional branches using objects that look like microchips. The great thing about LittleBigPlanet Karting's creator is that you can create a great track whether you're a beginner or total professional. Truth be told, however, that creating a cool track takes a lot of time, so with proper patience and a little imagination, you can create tracks that spark envy in the minds of those who play them. If you lack a creative bone in your body, the LittleBigPlanet Karting community is full of players who are immensely creative and talented. You can simply play online with friends, with strangers, or by your lonesome against the CPU to get some inspiration. There is some really awesome stuff online.

What some creators have made is simply incredible.
LittleBigPlanet Karting runs rather well. It's obviously not a game that pushes the PlayStation 3 to the limit, so perhaps that is to be expected. There is the occasional dip in frame-rate, but all-in-all it doesn't negatively affect the races in a big way. The soundtrack is composed of original music as well as licensed music from indie artists. There's a little something for everybody in LittleBigPlanet Karting.

While it's not the best kart racer on the PlayStation 3, or even the best kart racer released in 2012, LittleBigPlanet Karting is a serviceable racer that doesn't really do much to entertain in the Story Mode, but really shines when you dive into the creation and community aspects of the game. You have to give the developer credit on taking the LittleBigPlanet universe and effectively transposing it to the kart racing genre. You don't, however, have to give credit to the cheap AI even on the easiest difficulty. That will certainly turn off a lot of younger players, and possibly even the less patient older players. That said, LittleBigPlanet Karting is a charmer, a competent racer, a nice addition to most PS3 owners' libraries.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

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