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Review

Little Big Planet Karting Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

The racing in Little Big Planet Karting is enoyably off the wall, but a poor level editor tutorial saps some of the game's potential.

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Sushi roll tires. It's a trio of words not often found together in polite society, and yet Little Big Planet Karting uses such oddities to lure you into its delicious world. As you slide through the cardboard-cutout levels, a homing missile fast on your cupcake tail, it's hard to contain your smile at the ludicrous nature of it all. And yet, despite the charming facade, Sony's mascot racer struggles at times. Odd physics interrupt your freewheeling fun, and an impenetrable tutorial ensures that only the most dedicated designers can create something worthwhile with the powerful creation tools. Even with the roadblocks, Little Big Planet Karting still combines genuine thrills with well-realized aesthetics.

Saccharine charm defines Karting, and the best way to experience this infectious sweetness is to head off to the Story mode. Here, you're greeted by affable narrator Stephen Fry, who not only mentions the miscreants who trouble this colorful world, but teaches you how to control your nifty ride. It takes no more than a lap or two to get a handle on the responsive controls. Boosting requires you to drift through turns until your wheels burst into flames. The longer you slide, the faster you fly, so there's a delicate balance between trying to milk that last bit of nitro and getting back to the bump-and-grind action. Thankfully, stick wiggling doesn't factor in, so those who enjoy snaking will find no way to cheat the system here.

Aside from boosting, there are a few different maneuvers that you make periodic use of. Grappling onto perches lets you swing over treacherous pits, while spinning in midair gives a helpful boost once you touch back on solid ground. These techniques make up only a small fraction of the racing action, but if you want to consistently nab the checkered flag, you have to master your item usage. Missiles, land mines, and other handy items can be collected while you cruise around courses, and these can be used to hamper your enemies or give yourself an advantage. The most creative of these resembles a fast-forward button. This moves your kart at warp speed, screen flickering as if you're scanning a VHS tape, which is a clever visual technique that's also a handy speed boost.

Almost every item doubles as an offensive attack and a defensive shield, which is both a blessing and a curse. Hitting an enemy with an offensive strike means you can move up one spot in the rankings, but if you're the recipient of such aggression, you can drop from first to sixth place (or worse) in the blink of an eye. Because of how punishing Karting is to those who are attacked, it's smarter to hang on to your item if you're in the top half of the group. That way, you can defend yourself from your devious opponents, and you can still gain position by sliding through turns with speed and power. It's an unfortunate balance that favors the cautious. Weapons often add a layer of volatility in kart racers, but here the balance is shifted so strongly to the defensive side that much of that anything-goes mentality has been evaporated.

Jostling with your opponents presents new problems. Unpredictable physics mean your kart doesn't always react like you'd expect when you get slammed into unexpectedly. For instance, one of the power-ups is a novelty-size boxing glove. Sackboy rides upon this like a tiny boxer, punching those in the way when he speeds on by. You might think that being slammed from behind would make you fly forward in an out-of-control manner, but you're just as likely to pop slowly in the air, your momentum inexplicably halted. This kind of behavior is unfortunately the rule rather than the exception. You so often grind to a halt when another driver slams into you that you start to fear even the slightest contact, as if everyone else is a leper, which feels downright lonely for those who enjoy throwing their weight around.

The myriad quirks lessen the appeal of the go-karting action, though excellent track design keeps you focused on the road ahead. Shortcuts abound for those with eagle vision, so there's a learning curve while you figure out which line is best for your abilities. Collectibles litter courses, giving you small objectives while racing that keep you invested in the action. Point bubbles are merely for leaderboard rankings (though snagging a group in a perfect powerslide is eminently enjoyable), so the real prizes are the presents hidden in out-of-the-way places. These provide stickers, kart parts, and other tools in the editor, so it's well worth exploring the breadth of these cleverly designed courses to nab every package.

Much of the appeal also comes from the aesthetics. Karting draws heavily on the cardboard-cutout style from the Sackboy-starring platformers, and the arts-and-crafts atmosphere is immediately welcoming. Whether you're cruising through swampy locales or racing through a futuristic city, every stage in the extensive story mode has an enticing visual theme of its own. The music feeds into these artistic pleasures. Songs ranging from tribal chants to '50s-style "world of tomorrow" pieces ensure there's plenty of diversity, and you'll be nodding your head along to the beats while guiding Sackboy across the finish line.

There's more than just driving on offer in Karting's story mode. Battle arenas pit you against your stitched foes in an anything-goes test of your physical might. These types of face-offs are standard in karting games, and though it's still fun to pelt your enemies with missiles while avoiding their retaliatory attacks, there's little to distinguish this mode from the glut of similar experiences that preceded it. Other diversions are more interesting. A top-down competition echoes R.C. Pro Am's pint-size challenges, and a side-scrolling level has more in common with an endless runner than a traditional race-to-the-finish racing game. Although these extracurricular activities are entertaining, their role is more to show off what you can create with the extensive creation tools than to provide incredible content on their own.

And once you have a taste for what Karting is capable of, you can try your hand at creating something that rivals the best tracks from the developer. Just be prepared to pour hours into learning how to use the editor first. Unfortunately, the tutorial does a terrible job of walking you through the process of designing your own tracks. Each of the more than 50 included lessons is a noninteractive video. So instead of trying out the various features on your own, you're forced to watch while the game slowly lays out what everything does. Sitting through every video takes more than 90 minutes, and good luck retaining everything you've watched once you set in on your own tracks. Considering games are about doing, rather than watching, there's no excuse for such a poor tutorial.

If you do learn how to use the editor, a wealth of possibilities open up to you. Developer-made examples show levels that are far different from the standard racing and battle fare that populates the campaign. Everything from tower defense to tile-flipping match games are possible, so those who are properly motivated can concoct tons of different game types. However, don't expect these forays into alternate genres to supply the thrills of a stand-alone game. It's certainly novel being able to play a first-person shooter in what was designed as a kart racer, but the controls and weapon design are far below even standards set by the most rudimentary entries in recent memory. And don't get too excited by the prospect of boat races, given that the water physics are closer to a wet roadway than an undulating ocean. Still, being able to design far-reaching genres shows how powerful this tool is, but it's unclear if the non-racing levels will mature to more than simple curios.

Little Big Planet Karting resides in a tricky position. Taken on its own, it's little more than a standard entry in a genre that offers far more enjoyable experiences. It's up to the level editor to separate this game from the pack, then, and the lousy tutorial limits those tools to only the most dedicated designers. At least there are extensive sharing tools to make it easy to play others' creations, opening the door for a wealth of imaginative content. Thankfully, the core racing is exciting, and the lengthy story mode offers a variety of well-designed courses to compete in, so even if the community never takes off, there's still plenty of entertainment to be had.

'
The Good
Fantastic audio and visual presentation
Lengthy and varied story mode
Extensive and powerful creation tools
The Bad
Poor tutorials make learning how to use the editor difficult
Wonky physics when karts collide
Weapon usage slanted too far toward defense
7
Good
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Discussion

0 comments
blamix99
blamix99

its fun but not as fun as Crash Team Racing back on ps1

mulder_000
mulder_000

Well this is on sale for $10 on PS+.  Seems like a good time to get it.

agehaelhaym
agehaelhaym

Too bad Sony released a demo, at least not in the Singaporean PSN store.

dragonfly110
dragonfly110

It looks decent enough, I just don't understand why this needs to exist in a universe where Modnation Racer is a thing.

 

unaminous
unaminous

Nice to see the user score has gone up to 7.6 from 6.8 last I've seen it.

joshphillips
joshphillips

This is the type of game that needs a demo.

Chitochu
Chitochu

I really want to play this, Im so unsure about it.

Cant believe it only got a rating of 7!

 

I will wait a few months and pick it up second hand and give it a go ha

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

Damn. Wouldn't expect a LittleBigPlanet game to get a 7...

I'll pick it up for $20 though.  :3

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

How many people are RFDers and scammed and got it for $9.99 or less ? :P

SoNin360
SoNin360

Such an underwhelming release... might still pick this up eventually, even if only at a rent. The gameplay didn't seem very far off from Modnation Racers, which I didn't enjoy that much. It's too bad, this game did have some potential, but I guess I'll still have to play it to make a full opinion.

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

I think F1 race stars will be better and probably the Sonic and All-Stars as well. Still going to give this one a go though!

joe_b1_kenobi
joe_b1_kenobi

Was hoping this game would be awesome. Ive been waiting for a decent kart racer since I sold my wii (and therefore mario kart) Maybe F1 race stars will be the ticket.

jcuffley1209
jcuffley1209

Littlebigplanet was a shotty platformer at best anyway and should have never produced a kart game that is obliviously dwarfed by mario kart. 

KgameX
KgameX

Good, that is the word that appears right under the score, 7.0. Everybody seems to get carried away by a single number.  Dust: An Elysian tail got the same score, guess what the game was actually really fun.  At the end of the I play games for enjoyment, I read reviews to get a general idea if a game is worth the monetary plunge.  Life's pretty short why not take it easy, play a game maybe.  Hahah, or pull your lip over your head and swallow real hard.   

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

Make this for the PS Vita!

TonyDanzaFan
TonyDanzaFan

Tom McShea is the worst reviewer on any website period. He should just go away and never come back. 

ildvm
ildvm

The bad he mentioned does not seem even relevant. The score was decided earlier and then the review. Reviews are so shit these days and this guy is just bad. Reviews are just the numbers matter to some so it looks good on paper.

 

 

 

burrito_tester
burrito_tester

IDK why they let United Front make this game. Its Media Molecules series, they are awesome. But UF sucks

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

What a surprise, a bastardization and a game no one wanted to buy.  Got a poor score..

LiveandLedZep
LiveandLedZep

Looks like im gona get ModNation Racers instead

MafiaMusic
MafiaMusic

sony first party and ps3's 2012.... just ROFL

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

Quite a disappointing score, but at least not as harsh as IGN's. It seems that Karting will not be the "Mario Kart killer" people are searching for.

tourdefist
tourdefist

Yay! The latest round of disappointment from Sony.

peladex31
peladex31

Another so-so game for the vita. What a pity.!!!

Granpire
Granpire

Tom, you started two sentences with "and". Weren't you an English Major?

wantbackin
wantbackin

Did I miss something? I went through both pages but there is no mention of online. Is there online for LBP Karting? If there is, should that be talked about. I want to know how good the online performance is and how easy it download and share other people's levels.

But if there is no online, then how the heck does this game get a 7.0?

Steba93
Steba93

Ah, Tom McShea review. Personally I like Tom, but oh boy... just can't wait for the "Tom can't review shit" and "this should've gotten higher score because my opinion is better than GS" comments...

Wensea10
Wensea10

 @unaminousTrue but even though there is Modnation Racers this game's rating could of been higher.

 

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

 @joe_b1_kenobi Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing is an awesome kart racer for PS3 or Xbox. Hoping the next one will be up to standard!

woodyfr
woodyfr

 @Gelugon_baat Didn't you read Steba93's comment ? It was humour. I have no problems with Tom McShea's review.

H0rizon
H0rizon

 @Gelugon_baat  I've disagreed with Gelugon quite a bit, I feel the need to agree here. He's actual one of the more varied reviewers that I've come to love anyways.

woodyfr
woodyfr

 @Steba93 Tom can't review shit. This should've gotten higher score because my opinion is better than GS.

SecularSage
SecularSage

 @Steba93 Actually, I expect this time he's going to be criticized for giving the game a "7" when the rest of the critics give it a much lower score. It looks like a dreadful and completely unnecessary game, especially considering that ModNation Racers already did most of what LBPK does, but apparently a whole lot better.

joe_b1_kenobi
joe_b1_kenobi

 @SadPSPAddict Cool, cheers. Never thought much about that one. And if they mess up the sequel I could pick up the original for cheap :)

zzamaro
zzamaro

 @Gelugon_baat  @Granpire I'm not English Major, but my English teacher have taught me it's not ok to start something with "and" or "but".

 

Nothing bad with the reviewer's opinion tough, but if he's English Major, we expect more professionalism.

Wensea10
Wensea10

 @unaminousThanks for agreeing; I was even more intrigued with this game when I read that your creations could be of other video game genres.

 

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

 @Gelugon_baat  Where is that pink avatar from? It's almost like I've seen it before.

Granpire
Granpire

 @Gelugon_baat Life's so inconvenient when you have to use discernment, eh?

 

And laugh about yourself. I mean, seriously, who does that?

 

:P

Granpire
Granpire

 @Gelugon_baat  @zzamaro For what it's worth, I was just poking fun, not seriously critiquing his writing.

 

But, you know, jokes are subjective and all that, so you just take statements at face value, right?

LittleBigPlanet Karting More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PS3
    Little Big Planet Karting will provide fans a new means to Play, Create, Share in the form of a competitive and cooperative karting adventure based in expansive 3D environments.
    7.2
    Average User RatingOut of 120 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate LittleBigPlanet Karting
    Developed by:
    United Front Games, Media Molecule
    Published by:
    SCEI, SCEE, SCE Australia, SCEA
    Genres:
    Arcade, Driving/Racing
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief