In a genre owned by Nintendo, pretenders to the karting throne need to offer an innovative, ground-breaking experience to detract attention from Mario’s evergreen speedsters. But while LittleBigPlanet’s karting debut is a luscious-looking racer that’s every bit as charming as its retina-sizzling rivals, Sackboy’s skills behind the wheel as nowhere near as satisfying as his exhilarating platform adventures.
On the surface, LittleBigPlanet Karting hits all the right marks with its beautifully-designed characters and tracks, all of which are based on the same stylings as the LBP platformers and hurl players around cute courses made from cardboard, fabric and other craft scraps. The driving controls are also deliciously simple, allowing even the greenest gamer to master boosts by drifting around impossible corners, while a devious selection of pick-ups such as a device that boosts your kart as if you’re fast-forwarding through an old-fashioned videotape add extra depth to the action.
But while it all looks great, delve a little deeper and the cracks begin to show. In terms of basic racing, the action screeches to an unceremonious halt when you smack into a rival or are hit by certain weapons, destroying the game’s frantic pace and adding unnecessary frustration. Weapons that are biased towards defensive rather than offensive play also taint the experience, forcing pack leaders to hold back and keep their items in reserve, and rarely offering the same sense of delirious chaos as a Mario Kart scramble. And while the main meat of the game – the incredibly detailed track editor – allows gamers with imagination to create their own flights of fancy, using the tools is complicated and requires users to view and memorise complex training videos, meaning that this ingenious mode will only appeal to the most hardcore builders.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen