When it comes to betas, Sony seems to have everything going in its favor right now. It’s just kicked off a special PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale beta for certain PlayStation Plus subscribers, and it’s also in the midst of testing out its enormous online first-person shooter Dust 514. But another beta that’s making the rounds – and probably more suitable for an all-ages sort of audience – is LittleBigPlanet Karting, the latest from United Front Games, the team behind the ModNation Racers series.
United Front is working closely with Media Molecule to make sure the inspired world of LittleBigPlanet is faithfully recaptured in this racing game, filled with Sackboys and Sackgirls alike as you compete in both battle arena and racing events, using whatever power-ups you can get your hands on to assure a first place victory. The beta, consisting of seven levels (more will be included in the final game) and a battle arena, gives ample room to test out both the single player component and online.
Obviously online is the winner here, as you connect with friends over the PlayStation Network and fire off all sorts of power-ups to keep the lead. Though the diversity in power-ups isn’t that great – missiles, mines and shields are the main ingredients – they are effective, and it’s really fun mixing it up with others, using boost pads whenever you can run over them and, on occasion, activating a pull string to get across large gaps, while trying not to lose your momentum.
The controls are very similar to ModNation Racers, with a special technique for drifting (which can earn you boost if you do it the right way) and decent vehicle handling that assures you won’t be careening off the road unless you’re hit by an attack. We also noticed that, unlike ModNation, the difficulty is a bit more balanced. You can either choose an easier setting if you feel like coasting through the game, or bump it up if you really want a challenge. That’s in single player, by the way. In multiplayer, all bets are off, and you’ll need to fight for survive.
Another thing we noticed about LBP Karting that’s an improvement over ModNation is loading times. The tracks are still quite intricate, having you twist and turn through LBP-inspired worlds and employing a nice amount of visual effects, but the loading times weren’t nearly as strenuous as United Front’s previous racing endeavor. Guess they’ve learned a thing or two over the years, yes?
Lastly, the customization featured in LBP Karting really gives you an open opportunity to create your dream Sackboy or Sackgirl. A number of nearly unlimited options are available here, as you can create anyone from a wild and crazy cowboy to an esteemed (yet angry) gentle-Sackboy from the roaring 20’s. And the final game should offer even more costumes, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Don’t be surprised if United Front and Sony Computer Entertainment of America open up a whole realm of customization options, showing what creative minds can really do when they’re up to it.
Overall, the beta wowed us and left us wanting more. And while LittleBigPlanet Karting doesn’t quite have a release date, we’re expecting it later this year, just in time to cruise through the holidays with. Be sure to check back for the final review…that is, if we can stop drifting long enough to bang one out.