LittleBigPlanet Karting Review
The fifth game released in the series (not counting Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves) and the first to not be a strict platformer, LittleBigPlanet Karting gives the player exactly what’s in the title: a LittleBigPlanet-themed kart racer. It’s fitting that United Front Games was given the task of its creation, considering their previous work on ModNation Racers, but this only raises the issue of whether or not LBPK will be a worthwhile investment or a derivative spin-off. Not to mention that being a kart racer means it will inevitably be compared to the monolith of all kart racers, Mario Kart. LBPK has a lot to prove.
What I Liked
It Feels Like LittleBigPlanet
There are so many kart racers available on the market and most of them are absolutely terrible. The easiest way to counter this seems to be to try and make your racer feel as much like Mario Kart as possible. To LBPK‘s credit, the mechanics feel distinctly its own (okay, it feels a little like ModNation Racers). Sure, a lot of the essential ideas are the same, such as the weapons, drifting, and kart hopping, but it feels different here. You know why? The jumping feels kind of floaty, like in previous LittleBigPlanet games. This isn’t a bad thing! The game runs fine and it’s easy to get accustomed to LBPK‘s style of driving. It’s a nice touch, though, and makes the game feel like LittleBigPlanet.
The art style certainly helps, too. The concept of everything being homemade is an interesting one. It doesn’t give LittleBigPlanet an iconic image so much as a motif. There are tracks that pay homage to other games, like Mario Kart or Wipeout, yet feel all their own thanks to the various household objects, cardboard boxes, sponges, and knick-knacks that are held together with glue and tape. It’s not all homage, as worlds from previous LittleBigPlanet games have been remade into circuit tracks and battle arenas to great effect.
The Game Sounds Great
No really, it sounds great! From buzzing timers and steaming kettles, to laser beams and exploding rockets, the game sounds like LittleBigPlanet. The real standout, though, is the music. Simply put, LBPK has the best combination of original and licensed music I’ve heard in a soundtrack since Max Payne 3. There may not be any tracks by HEALTH, but the inclusion of artist such as the Mexican Institute of Sound and Anamaniguchi (of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game fame) make me itch for a release of the OST. This is without even mentioning the fantastic remixes of older LBP tracks. They were catchy before, but they’re now more befitting the high octane nature of the game.
Superior User-Generated Content
Faster Load Times
For anyone worried about ModNation Racers level of multiplayer load times, fear not. LittleBigPlanet Karting has eliminated that problem! Tracks online, user-generated, and otherwise load quite quickly.
What I Didn’t Like
Buggy (this isn’t a kart-related pun)
The faster load times, great soundtrack, and awesome track editor don’t amount to much if you can’t play the game. For the most part, LBPK is a great. Unfortunately, it has this terrible habit of locking up. The occasional lock-up isn’t a big deal, as LBPK wouldn’t be the first game to have this problem, but it occurs fairly frequently. Whether playing single-player offline, match-making online, or working in the level editor it can happen with no real rhyme or reason. Bam, game’s frozen. Better force restart the PlayStation. It’s incredibly frustrating, so hopefully it’ll be patched out soon.
The Enemy AI
Wow, don’t let your children play this game single-player. Really, I hope if you’re playing LBPK you’re not one of those people who hate to lose. This game has some of the worst instances of rubber-banding I’ve seen since, well, Mario Kart. It’s not even really a case of where enemies magically speed up when the player is in 1st, but a problem with the weapons. I mean, the game does give you the option to defend. If you have a weapon you can sacrifice it to block anything, even the game’s equivalent of the blue shell. Only problem is, you’re just as likely as not to have three or four missiles fired at you in a row. Have you ever experienced being in first on the final lap only to wind up getting shot a half dozen times four feet from the finish line resulting in your placing sixth? If you haven’t, you’ll probably experience it here. So really, don’t let children play this on Normal. Not that Casual is much better, it’s still frustrating and will probably result in broken controllers, only you don’t get to rank your score online.
This is a big issue, but thankfully only seems to occur on circuit tracks. Any other game mode in the campaign functions fine, it’s just that circuit racing makes up a vast majority of the levels. I had just as much trouble in the early tracks as I did the later tracks struggling to even place in third. Winning truly felt arbitrary. It seemed my only course was to reply a level again and again until I lucked onto the podium. The only solution to this is to play exclusively online with other human players.
This has been an issue with every LittleBigPlanet game. The campaign isn’t that interesting and you have to play it in order to unlock all of the creation kit extras. You can mercifully play the entire campaign with friends, but you’re still required to locate all the prize bubbles in each track to get 100% completion. It’d be nice if this was all just provided so people could jump immediately into the track editor without missing anything.
Better Than: ModNation Racers
There, it’s out there. LittleBigPlanet Karting is indeed better than ModNation. I mean, really, since it’s been developed by United Front you can view it as a sequel of sorts, and most sequels wind up being improvements upon their predecessors. That’s the case here, as LBPK improves upon ModNation in most facets, though especially in track creation.
This is a great game that is unfortunately marred by a number of glaring issues. I hate to say it, but LBPK will probably be a more worthwhile purchase in the future. You know, once some of the bugs have been patched out and the community has had a chance to release some more interesting custom tracks. There doesn’t seem to be a huge online presence at the moment, so hopefully more people pick up this game and start playing as time goes by because it certainly has more potential for fun and replayability than most other kart racers.
LittleBigPlanet Karting was reviewed with a copy provided by Sony.