|Dev: United Front Games, Media Molecule|
|Release: November 6, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief|
by Josh Wirtanen
Ah, kart racing. It’s a game genre that’s decades old. While gaming’s favorite Italian plumber introduced us to the concept back in the SNES era, the formula has barely changed since then, with the biggest evolution probably being the exchange of sprites for polygons with Mario Kart 64. And most of us are fine with that. But is LittleBigPlanet Karting fine with that? Let’s take a look.
Let’s just put this out on the table right away: LBP Karting is really Sony’s answer to Mario Kart. (Well, one of Sony’s answers, anyway. We’ve also seen classics come and go, such as Crash Team Racing back in the PSOne era.) Mario Kart has a huge advantage in terms of sheer iconic value; the idea of firing red and green turtle shells, for example, is almost synonymous with the kart racing genre itself.
While LBP Karting can’t really match those sorts of iconic power-ups, the power-ups here aren’t all that shabby. Sure, they probably won’t end up being permanently connotative to the genre the way shells and mushrooms are, but it’s undeniably fun to turn your kart into a gigantic boxing glove to ram people, or to hit a button that fast-forwards your progress on the track.
But LBP Karting knows it would never topple Mario by being a Mario Kart clone, so it focuses instead on the things that make the LBP franchise in general so great. The first one is the loveable aesthetic. You can’t deny the sheer adorability of Sackboy and his friends, and the world of LBP is filled with that sort of craft shop charm you can’t find anywhere else outside your grandmother’s attic.
And that brings me to the major advantage of LBP Karting: the customization. Sure, we’ve had ModNation Racers to fill that creative kart-shaped hole in our hearts, but that doesn’t have the same sort of natural charm that LBP is known for. It’s those two things together—charm and customization—that has always made the LBP series a beacon of hope for the non-Nintendo E-rated demographic.
But there’s a third thing, too, and this is something that I think will unfortunately be missed out on by a majority of players. LBP Karting, just like its platforming brethren before it, offers a substantial amount of non-racing content. Yes, I’m referring to the odd little minigames here. And yes, I understand why the very word “minigame” makes the hair on the backs of the necks of most gamers get all prickly—the Wii, after all, has soured us to the very idea with its second-rate minigame comps that are way more fun as Frisbees than as actual game discs. But the LBP franchise—especially since LBP 2—has always offered side activities that are insanely fun and innovative. And they’re completely optional. LBP Karting is no exception.
In fact, I want to encourage anyone who decides to pick this game up to explore some of the non-racing activities. I guarantee you’ll find something that charms your socks right off your cute little feet. For example, there are some egg-related challenges—one has you try to hang on to an egg for as long as possible while the other players pick up power-ups they’ll use to knock it out of your arms; another has you pick up eggs and deliver them to a set location before your time runs out. There are also some side-scrolling challenges; for example, there’s a one-button minigame that has you jumping over pastries while riding a cupcake car on a conveyor belt. Some of these challenges must be completed in order to progress the story mode—and they do a good job of breaking up the routine of the whole thing—but many of them are completely optional.
I understand that Mario Kart Wii had a few minigame challenges as well, but I think most of us would agree that not many of them held our attention for long. LBP Karting offers minigames that are truly fun and innovative.
Now, this simply wouldn’t be a LittleBigPlanet game without an overwhelming creative suite. LBP Karting delivers here, offering you tools to customize pretty much anything you want. Sure, you can dress up your Sackboy in a plethora of cute costumes, and you can carefully customize your kart with some pretty cool options (like making it hover or adding tank treads), but this is just the beginning. The main course, though, is the level creation suite, which you’ll undoubtedly spend hours just learning the basics of. Not only can you build and customize your own racetracks, but you can customize the power-ups as well. I found one user-created stage, for example, that replaced all the missiles with cows. Needless to say, my friends and I had a hysterical time shooting each other with exploding flying cows.
Of course, many people will be flat-out intimidated by the sheer wealth of options here, and the amount of command you have over any map is absurdly overwhelming. LBP has a dedicated and creative following, though, so we can rest assured that we’ll see some insanely cool creations showing up in the Community section.