The LittleBigPlanet franchise takes a different turn with LittleBigPlanet Karting, a kart-racing game that will feel right at home for those familiar with the Play, Create, Share formula. Media Molecule is still overseeing the project, but the game is being developed by United Front Games, the studio that brought you Modnation Racers. If you played Modnation Racers before, it's easy to see that LittleBigPlanet Karting is essentially Modnation with a LittleBigPlanet flair. From the controls, the weapons and physics, it feels like a Modnation Racers sequel. Despite not being original, I still had a good time with the LittleBigPlanet Karting beta. It is a solid offering for those itching for a new kart racing game.
While it plays like Modnation Racers, this is a LittleBigPlanet game from top to bottom, as far as presentation goes. You start out from your pod just like in the main games, accessing the menus to play story mode, customized levels by the community, or creating your own material. In this beta, there a few story line levels to play, including a tutorial to get accustomed to the controls for new players and actual tracks set in diverse locales in the LittleBigPlanet universe. The rest of the beta (and likely the full game) is your typical LittleBigPlanet fare, with creating and sharing aspects by the community. There are levels made by the community to play through and rate by yourself or with other players online. You can filter out which style of track you want to play, whether it is a normal race or a Mario Kart-like battle mode. In addition, players can customize their own planets how they see fit, which I’ll get into more later.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Sackboy can be dressed up in a variety of ways, and there are several karts to choose from, including a normal-looking car, a tank and a UFO. Despite having customized karts, I did not really notice much difference in their mechanics, as they all control the same way. The weapons system is simple, yet effective, with homing missiles, electric shields, a bullet bill-like punching glove and a fast-forward, among others. Sackboy’s grappling hook becomes mandatory in certain courses that have long gaps players must swing through. One cool mechanic with these weapons is how some of them are used defensively. Usually in Mario Kart, you hold your banana peel or shell as protection. In LBP Karting, protecting yourself takes a little more skill as you have to time your button press when a weapon is coming for you in order to block it, which is something I appreciate. Also, there are the blue bubbles, stickers and decorations to collect, like the main games, for more points on the game’s leaderboards. Boosting and nailing spins is also similar to Modnation Racers, where you can spin around while in the air for a good amount of time for a boost with the right analog stick. My only gripe with the gameplay is that the karts themselves feel a little slow at times.
The creation portions of the game will be fine for those that are familiar with the tools the main games and Modnation Racers provide. Creating a simple track can be done in just minutes, but you still have to take your sweet time making it more appealing and cool to get high ratings from the community. Usually with these type of games, I’m not that into creating my own stuff because of the time required, but there are tutorials available for new players to go through. Of course, this is a beta, so there is a limited amount of material to work through, but I can’t wait for the final game to see some amazing creations, since most of what I've seen in the beta are pretty good.
From what I played so far within the last week, LittleBigPlanet Karting is everything I expected it to be ever since it was announced earlier this year. This is pretty much a Modnation Racers sequel, but with 100% LittleBigPlanet from the presentation and charm the franchise has been known for. Even the announcer guy from the mainline games lends his voice to this new entry. Considering it is a beta, the framerate does hitch up below 30 frames per second at times, but that should be polished up in time for the final game. The game comes out this fall only on Playstation 3 and those itching for some new kart racing should watch out for this title.