previews\ May 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm

LittleBigPlanet Karting preview

It’d be easy to dismiss LittleBigPlanet Karting as “just another kart racing game.”  After all, companies over the years have been pumping out racers left and right featuring characters from platforming games, from Mario to Crash to Konami superstars.  But don’t be so quick to brush off this latest endeavor.  LittleBigPlanet Karting actually has a lot working in its favor.  Sony recently gave us the chance to go hands-on with it at a recent press event in California.

First off, the game’s development team, United Front Games, is very familiar with the kart racing genre.  A couple of years ago, it produced ModNation Racers — a game that was built incredibly well when it came to community features and getting involved in racing action.  With LittleBigPlanet, it actually worked very closely with Media Molecule, the developers behind the original games, to make sure everything felt right when it came to putting Sackboy and company into an exquisite racing world.

Customization also plays an incredibly big part in the game.  While United Front couldn’t quite confirm the “build your own level” features that made ModNation so great, they did state that you could modify races with whatever rules and set-ups you had in mind.  So, for once, you don’t have to worry about AI racers breathing down your neck like they did in ModNation, and you can change everything from weapons to track objectives.

That’s just the tip of the creation iceberg in LittleBigPlanet.  You can also choose from a number of pre-set vehicles and adjust them accordingly, from ones made entirely of straw to souped-up vinyl rides.  You can also tweak Sackboys (and Sackgirls) with a number of designs, ranging from a Mexican bandito (complete with Sombrero) to wild moon-inspired clothing.  And, as in the original LBP games, you’re able to change your character’s expression on the fly, from ridiculously happy to downright angry.  Grrrrrr!

As for the racing itself, LittleBigPlanet Karting has plenty to offer.  The game has some similarities to ModNation in terms of control, with a button set aside for jumping and drifting, the ability to activate power-ups offensively and defensively, and even using a grappling hook in certain parts of a stage — like when you need to jump across a chasm.  The gameplay worked just fine for us, even though there were times the frame rate got a little jumpy.

LittleBigPlanet Karting also mixes up grand prix style races with battle arenas, so if you don’t feel like hitting the open road, you can take part in a fight to the finish in an enclosed area.  The one we drove through featured plenty of power-ups to choose from and the handy option of seeing where opponents were through highlighted tags.

That leads to the multiplayer, and LittleBigPlanet Karting has a lot of it.  Along with being able to share creations with online users and race through the PlayStation Network, the game also features split-screen local action, in case you have friends over who feel like racing.

As for presentation, like we said, United Front teamed up with Media Molecule to make sure the LittleBigPlanet universe is intact.  The graphics look great thus far, with nicely imagined 3D worlds to race through (LBP is usually 2D) and neat little standout moments throughout, like when you go flying through the air the first time and find that neat little shortcut with the bonus power-ups.  The Hub will bring back memories from the original games as well, letting you choose your racing terrain, wherever it is you feel like going.

Sony is set to reveal more information about LittleBigPlanet Karting once E3 rolls around, including a possible release date, which could be later this year.  It definitely feels and looks like a winner, even to those of you who might be burnt out on kart games.  Again, don’t be so hasty.  Give it a chance when it arrives later this year.

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