Sackboy is undeniably one of the most adorable characters to come out of this console generation. So, it should come as no surprise that as this year's holiday season ramps up, Sony's little bag of burlap of cuteness is making appearances in two of their biggest games. While he may have to share the spotlight in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal, he is, quite literally, in the drivers seat of his own title, the appropriately named, LittleBigPlanet Karting. Bringing together two of the PS3's most unique games, LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers, LBP Karting may be one of the best karting games to come along since a certain plumber decided to hit the racetrack with his brother and some of their frienemies.
Kart racers are pretty straightforward gameplaywise (it's one of the keys to their ongoing success), and LittleBigPlanet Karting is no different. The object of the majority of the levels is to be the first sack across the finish line, or to otherwise come in first place in the challenges set forth in each level. LBP Karting strays a bit from the standard karting formula and mixes in both battle and boss levels throughout its main game to change up the pace of things, as well as to prove just what the level design tools can do.
As a nice, and somewhat unnecessary, twist, LittleBigPlanet Karting works a story into the single player mode. Similar to the stories in the other LBP games, Sackboy must help out various denizens of the Craftverse by eradicating baddies known as "The Horde." The Horde are going all over LittleBigPlanet and stealing everything to keep for themselves, (in other words, they're hording things), and Sackboy has to help stop them. It provides a nice backdrop to the game, and helps give the various levels and settings some much-needed context.
As far as the actual racing goes, the ever-important controls in LBP Karting feel much tighter than the controls in the original LittleBigPlanet games. Whereas the platformers can feel floaty at times, the gravity at the racetracks seems to be much more believable. Karting has all the standard features you've likely come to expect in a racing game at this point including drifting and drafting, as well as a full arsenal of weaponry at Sackboy's disposal to help him defeat his foes.
One of the best parts of the LBP games is that they're easy to pick up and play. Friends and family can join in and adapt to the four-button control scheme pretty easily, and after that it's just up to them to stay on the track. If the controls still seem a bit too intimidating, perhaps you could give the Move Racing Wheel a shot, as Karting is one of the first game released that offers compatibility with it. The Racing Wheel makes the controls more intuitive and easy to grasp for even the most novice of players.
The levels throughout Karting are well designed enough to offer variety without diluting their overall enjoyment. The battle levels are kept to a minimum, but come up at the right times throughout the story to break up the gameplay without ruining your rhythm.
One of the fundamental aspects of the LittleBigPlanet series is the freedom that it imbues on the player to turn their experience with the game into whatever they want it to be, and Karting is no different. Included alongside the story mode is an extensive level creation tool that lets players have their way with the game. Just to prove just how robust the creation tool is all of the levels in the game have been created using it. As an added bonus, it's not that complicated to use and creationists can have a basic track up and running in seconds. They can then spend hours upon hours tweaking it to their heart's content.
Again, taking a cue from its predecessors, once you have created something that you're proud of you can share it with the bolstering LittleBigPlanet Karting community. Uploading and sharing is as easy as it is in the other games, again giving creators the ability to focus on their tracks more. The presences of the community also means that gamers have a continual supply of new tracks to test out and explore, extending the value of your investment almost infinitely.
LBP Karting does leave a few things to be desired though. One of the joys of the LBP games is always finding new things throughout the world to customize your Sackboy, or Pod, or, in the case of Karting, your kart, but one of the drawbacks is that these customizations only change the appearance, and not the abilities. Nothing is going to make you faster or fly higher; you're just going too look more and more adorable as you lap around the track.
In the same vein of customization, Karting does not let you import your previously created Sack characters, or downloaded outfits, yet. While the feature is coming, it seems like a misstep to not include this feature at launch, and even though its entirely superficial, it somehow puts a bit of a damper on the enjoyment of the game.
Overall, LittleBigPlanet Karting does a solid job of recreating the LittleBigPlanet experience in an entirely different genre of game. The humor, the creativity, and the tools to create are all there, and executed to the same high standards that LBP fans have come to expect from their darling franchise. Much like the other LBP games, one of the biggest highlights of Karting is the potential for never-ending, fresh, and free gameplay courtesy of the game's community. If you're a fan of the LBP games, and are looking for a slightly different experience with Sackboy then LittleBigPlanet Karting might just the game to scratch your creative itch.