LittleBigPlanet Karting PlayStation 3

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by United Front Games

It's easy to be a little cynical when you see a series such as LittleBigPlanet diversifying into other genres. It's happened to many gaming series in the past of course and most of the spin offs haven't been a success. The LittleBigPlanet series is one that's famed for its customisation and community sharing and it would have been a shame to see the LittleBigPlanet name slapped on a generic kart racing game. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened here. The developers, who also happen to be the developers of ModNation Racers, deserve praise for not only making this a kart racing game that's enjoyable in its own right but also keeping the game faithful to the spirit of LittleBigPlanet. 

The story goes that the world of LittleBigPlanet is under threat of invasion by the evil Hoard. Once again taking on the role of Sackboy, it's up to you to repel the Hoard and you'll need to do this by defeating them on the race track. Initially, this may not seem that interesting an idea, but it is thanks to an enjoyable kart racing experience. As you complete the races you'll unlock side races and versus races. There are also plenty of reasons to return to races you've already completed thanks to the amount of items you can collect.  

As in previous LBP games, your hub is a cardboard box pod from which you'll get to choose your desired planet and race in the game's Story mode. You can customise your Sackboy and his kart with a variety of wacky designs to select. You can even create your own custom tracks and battle arenas. You have your own planet and moon that contains creation craters into which you'll place a custom track or arena. Your customisation options increase as you play through the game thanks to the items you'll collect as you compete on each of the Story mode's tracks. If you're really feeling keen you can even create your own custom objects too and use these on your custom tracks and arenas. 

The kart racing itself is for the most part enjoyable thanks to tight and responsive controls and cleverly designed tracks that offer the usual assortment of weapons and shortcuts. There are even battle arenas that help to provide a change of pace from the usual races and these certainly help to freshen up the experience. The game gives a good sensation of speed thanks to a solid frame rate that remains smooth throughout. There is a wide variety of weapons to collect when you're racing around a track. However, weapons are not only for attack and can be used defensively. It could even be argued that they are more effective when used as a means of defence, preventing you from losing your position and slipping significantly down the pecking order, rather than simply hitting the opponent in front and gaining a position or two if you're lucky. Close to the end of a race, it may be advantageous to displace the one in front if you're if you’re challenging for the lead, but generally, I find it better to save weapons for defensive purposes. It could be argued however that this defensive element does some remove some of the fun from the experience and that's certainly a valid point.  

There are some disappointing aspects to the game however. LBP Karting is not a game in which you'll want to make contact with the other vehicles. If you're hit you'll float up into the air for a moment and return to the ground having lost a few places whilst the one who smacked into you speeds away without any penalty at all for having made contact. The process of creating your own tracks is straightforward but it's a shame that you can't auto-populate the environment as you could in ModNation Racers. Having to place every object yourself is time consuming and will inevitably deter some people from creating their own tracks. Whilst it's great that you can customise your kart as well as your Sackboy, it's a shame that it’s only an aesthetic difference with no performance boosts to be had. Whilst it's great that you can race online, it's a shame that there is no direct way to access the online play as you're required to go back through the Story mode and access the versus tracks that you've unlocked. What's more, your online progress is only recorded in the form of a leaderboard for each of the game's levels. This doesn’t provide a sufficient incentive for making you want to return to the online races. The game also supports the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel but whereas the controls for the standard controller feel tight and responsive, with the motion controls they feel loose meaning most will want to opt for the standard controller to feel in full control of their kart. 

The visual quality of LBP Karting is just what you'd expect from the LBP series and the game looks just as impressive here as it does in the other LBP games. There are cardboard cut-out courses, knitted characters and other design elements taken from the main LittleBigPlanet games. The most impressive aspect of the game however has to be the frame rate that, as we've already mentioned, remains smooth throughout making for a very fluid racing experience. The load times are a little on the long side however which is slightly disappointing. 

LBP Karting is subtitled but unfortunately, the subtitles aren't enabled by default. When you first play the game, you'll be oblivious to Stephen Fry's narration so you'll want to press the start button and enter the options menu to enable the subtitles as soon as you can. Thanks to the subtitles, you can get to grips with the game with hardly any effort at all. The game comes with over fifty tutorials that cover everything from the control system to the intricacies of creating your own tracks and arenas. The tutorials are clear and explained with a minimum of fuss. However, they would have been more useful had they been interactive and provided you with a chance to get to grips with things one step at a time rather than having to watch a short video and try to internalise everything in one go. You'll also be able to follow the game's oddball storyline too and whilst you could argue that the storyline is simply window dressing, it's bizarre enough to hold your interest. The game makes a good use of icons to alert you to dangers. During the race, you'll see icons that warn you of an impending attack as well as icons that give you an indication of when you should fire your weapon as a defensive measure. In short LBP: Karting is accessible for deaf gamers. 

There's a lot to like about LittleBigPlanet Karting, particularly if you're a fan of kart racing games and the LittleBigPlanet series. I suppose the real question is does the game manage to surpass ModNation Racers? In truth, I don't think that there's much in it but certainly, in some respects, ModNation Racers has the edge in regards to the simplicity of creating your own circuits and having a more accessible online component. It could be argued that the AI definitely feels fairer in ModNation Racers. That said however, the basic kart racing elements are enjoyable and the Story mode is pleasingly lengthy and enables you to unlock plenty of additional content. If you can't get enough of LittleBigPlanet and have a thing for kart racing then LittleBigPlanet Karting should definitely appeal although for a pure karting experience ModNation Racers may be the better choice. 

In our opinion this game is: Respectable
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5 out of 7

Deaf Gamers Classification

DGC B

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