LittleBigPlanet Karting review – Next-level sack racing from the Sleeping Dogs dev
Stephen Fry could read your court summons back to you and still raise a smile, so his return to the Imagisphere for LBP’s racy reinvention is not only soothing but a mark of authenticity. Sackboy is largely under United Front’s guidance in this newest caper, but it’s certainly no spin-off. While it isn’t quite the starry-eyed renegade of racing games that the previous games were to platforming, LittleBigPlanet Karting nails the series’ signature charm, childlike fun and potential for user-created masterpieces brilliantly.
LittleBigPlanet Karting review
A nasty bunch of newcomers called the Horde, you see, have started gathering all LittleBigPlanet’s cool stuff and keeping it for themselves, which makes them the very antithesis of the sackboy ethos. They must be stopped, and naturally the only way to do that is through a series of kart races, rainbow-chasing checkpoint dashes, scrolling shooter stages, vehicular deathmatch arenas, and find-and-collect missions.
The free-for-all karting races dominate single-player, but the breadth of events certainly adds to the experience, with each one acting as a prototype for content creator types on how to expand the out-of-the-box experience.
Narratively speaking, it’s a welcome return to all the delightful, good-humoured nonsense that characterised LBP games past: there’s an enjoyable race through a breakfast machine on a planet that parodies ’50s ‘home of tomorrow’ kitsch, a zombie escape from gone-off food, a space disco that owes more than a bit to Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road, and many more brightly coloured skid-athons set to an infectiously bubbly soundtrack. Realistically, the jaded 20-something gamer isn’t its core demographic, but like all good junior entertainment it’s well-crafted enough for a wider audience.
If you’re going to be finicky about anything, it’s going to be about the handling model itself. The reduced-gravity physics are consistent with the platformers, and while that makes for a more forgiving drive it also struggles to nail the sensation of high-speed that makes a certain portly plumber’s racers so giddily exciting.
And while the variety of homing weapons, manual-fire bazookas, mines and reskinned Bullet Bills work well in deathmatch levels, they create perhaps a few too many random deaths during a race. And there’s no mechanic to give you the cooler stuff when you’re in last place, either – it’s all on you. That said, don’t get the impression that races overly frustrate – by and large they’re just the right side of hard-fought victory. Only occasionally do you end up hollering obscenities at Hordesley And Co.
Of course, making the game is only half the job in LittleBigPlanet. It’ll take a while for the user content to really define the game’s worth, but judging by a) how quickly I managed to build a semi-accurate, semi-rubbish Interlagos GP circuit complete with faithful elevation and camber changes, and b) the beautiful, madcap creations already birthed by beta players, it’s looking extremely promising.
First-person shooters, helicopter blasters and top-down Godzilla stomp-alongs are doing the rounds already, which is a strong indication that United Front’s given the community the toolset it wants. What it might lack in terms of raw driving appeal, LBP Karting compensates for with a charmingly unhinged single-player, chaotic multiplayer and all the customisable bells and whistles you could ask for.