Have you played LittleBigPlanet before? It doesnâ€™t matter, because this is a karting game. Weâ€™ve all played the like: you get a cute kart and race around a track covered in power-ups and traps. Heck, change â€śkartsâ€ť to â€śsports carsâ€ť and thatâ€™s pretty much the pitch for Need For Speed: Most Wanted.
I really struggled to figure out why this game would appeal to me more than, say, ModNation Racers, another PlayStation exclusive karting game with a portmanteued word in the title. That was before Sackboy showed up. I forgot how goddamn cute he was! Yes I can modify the racers and the cars in ModNation racers, but Sackboy... Sackboy has character!
His bobbling little head and propensity for crazy outfits suddenly make this game seems a lot more fun. And, of course, you can modify your karts in a similar fashion to Sackboy.
Just like in LBP, in each level there are large bubbles with prizes in them. These are decorative elements like new fabric or stickers. And just like in LBP you can use them to decorate your cardboard pod house, Sackboy himself, or Sackboyâ€™s kart.
Karts and other prizes are unlocked by winning levels or getting 100% of the collectable items in a level. The karts are made from cardboard and balloons and dinosaurs and tin and all of the crafty things youâ€™d expect from the LBP world. Each kart has six different versions that change wheel size and, sometimes, the look of the kart entirely: regular, monster truck, dragster, hover, lowrider, and tank. Then each element of the kart can be changed: steering wheel, seat, and the wheels. Thereâ€™s something cool about driving a hovering dinosaur with sushi maki rolls as hover jets.
As well as the competitive multiplayer racing youâ€™d expect, there is also a story mode, once again narrated by Stephen Fry. I could listen to his dulcet tones all day, though after a while I found the cutesy language a bit much. Sometimes you forget that LBP really is aimed at kids.
The storyâ€™s main plot is that the bad guys are stealing all of the pieces of â€śImagiverseâ€ť and no one is fast enough to stop them. No one but you (as described in a ridiculously cute intro movie.) So you travel to each of the Imagiverseâ€™s worlds, stopping the horrible evil racers by beating them in races. No it doesnâ€™t make much sense, but itâ€™s better than there being some sort of racing league.
As always, LBP is better with friends, and you can be accompanied through the story mode with a another player. I prefer local multiplayer as a general rule and thankfully LBP offers split screen racing as it should be. Cooperative racing is fun but after a level is completed the â€śvsâ€ť version of the same track is unlocked so you go head to head with your friends.
Not all of the levels are simple races, however. Along the way there are also single player waypoint races, with you against the clock. Stadium battles also pop up. Some, where the number of â€śkillsâ€ť (though LBP never calls them that) determine the winner, and others that are more â€ścapture the flagâ€ť style. I found a few of the arena games to be confusing - especially when the cute language used doesnâ€™t actually describe what you need to do in a clear fashion.
The mini games of LBP show up in LBP Karting as well. Sometimes youâ€™ll be jumping cupcakes, other times youâ€™ll get a top down view of a rampaging dinosaur eating trucks, or be weaving through traffic collecting bubbles. Good for single player fun, but not nearly as good as the racing.
The heart of LBP Karting is still creation. Making a track is incredibly simple, making a good one takes time and effort. Right now the online community is empty and waiting for thousands of wonderful tracks to fill it up. Naturally, I tried my hand at creating a few. While my tracks were glorious pieces of architecture and heck of a lot of fun to drive (one word: jumps), my creativity in decoration left something to the imagination.
Online multiplayer is a big part of any racing game but LBP wants it to be as fun as possible for you, so it gives you the option to only play friendly folk you know rather than potentially grumpy random strangers.
How easy is it to learn this game? My girlfriend has never played a karting game before and, after going through the tutorial and practising for a while, was beating me on fairly challenging courses. Once she discovered the customisation possibilities she fell in love with it. After playing a few races to unlock stuff, we then spent half an hour decorating the cardboard pod with stickers and junk, then modding our karts and Sackboys (and Sackgirls).
The stupid grins on our faces, the uncontrollable laughs and the humming of the music long after the race was over, shows that his game is fun right through to its adorable little core.