Sackboy Doesn’t Need To Snake

LittleBigPlanet Karting carves out its own niche in a crowded field.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: November 30, 2012
I sometimes wonder if the Media Molecule offices are simply covered in burlap sacks on every available surface. They’ve cashed in on Sackboy for the last few years with nearly a half-dozen titles featuring everyone’s favorite moppet and he’s become enough of a mascot to be featured in the recent PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Now they’ve fused Sackboy with 2011’s ModNation Racers to bring the world LittleBigPlanet Karting.


On the surface LBPK isn’t all that different from every other kart racer ever made. The core gameplay doesn’t add much to the racing/battle motif where you fire various homing and non-homing weapons at each other as you tear around tracks. You’ll find your requisite pick-ups that zoom you ahead if you get too far behind. Why fix it if it ain’t broke, right? It wouldn’t be a LittleBigPlanet game if everything didn’t look like a paper cutout and pop with bright colors, so the aesthetic is certainly unique. Media Molecule has always been able to license brilliant music from all over the world and this game is also no exception. Naturally there IS an amazing amount of ways to customize your kart so you can drive something with sponge wheels and wingnuts, float in a hovercraft, or even just ride inside one giant bicycle tire if you want. Everything on your Sackboy and your cart can be decorated to your little heart’s desire.

The single player campaign will run you through about 25 tracks on half a dozen planets in the LBP style as all the other games. Those races will vary between standard races, arena battles, checkpoint races you go through solo and even a couple “boss battle” races all intertwined around a delightfully absurdist story will the usual top-flight narration from Stephen Fry and others. The whole thing is so saccharine-sweet and adorable that you feel like you might melt watching it. It also wouldn’t be a LBP game if there weren’t twice as many mini-games splattered all over each planet. A lot of them are just VS. versions of the main levels but just as many are one-off non-karting games that might not show the diversity of the mainline franchise but are just as creative. You’ll easily get 10-15 hours of play out of just running through all the content one time, and just like the rest of the series you can keep running through the levels to try and collect all the prize bubbles strewn throughout the levels.

Speaking of those bubbles… there is of course one thing that sets LBPK apart from all the other competitors out there. The “Create” side of the equation is just as robust in this game as it is in all their other titles. Veteran creators from past games will feel right at home with the amazing set of tools that allow you design your own tracks, arenas, objects and weapons. Clever designers don’t have to feel limited to just creating racetracks either, as the parts at hand can be used in creative ways to make shooters, sidescrollers and other genres in the right hands. Again, it isn’t QUITE as flexible as the main series, but oh my does it come close. New designers might feel intimidated when they first see the create interface, but 2+ hours of video tutorials will help clear a lot of things up and get you making your own levels in no time.

How do you find your way through all those user-created levels if you want to check them out? Well, this is a LBP game so you head over to the “Community” section of your planet and browse through the Top Picks, MM Picks and Search function to peruse everything that is available to you. You can jump right in with other players or check them out on your own, and of course once you are done you can rate it and leave a little review. No one has done more to make the community creation aspect a two-way street and it’s been refined to be as smooth as possible at this point and the top-level creators have already started to churn out some really great stuff.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem to be able to get away with publishing levels that are unplayable, as I ran into numerous tracks that had impassable objects placed all over them making it impossible to complete a single lap. Or just empty arenas with no effort at all put in. Sure, you only waste a few seconds in them before you realize you have to jump out, and the loading times aren’t nearly as egregious as they were in ModNation Racers but it still takes a few minutes to get in, see how terrible things are and then get back out and find another level. Sure, you can always just only play “mature” levels that have been around long enough to get good ratings but where is the fun in that? Oh wait, there is a lot of fun in that.

If you’re looking for a kart racer for your PS3, there really is no other choice out there. I mean, yeah, there are other choices like the aforementioned ModNation Racers and F1 Race Stars but that would just be a silly waste of money because LBPK offers better racing out of the box and the vast network of creative designers to keep churning out new tracks and even non-racing levels for you to mess around with. Plus none of those other games had the adorable SackBoy in their corner.
The Verdict
8.5

LittleBigPlanet Karting jumps ModNation Racers up to the next level and gives the PS3 a viable competitor to the Nintendo karting powerhouse. The creation tools shine as the best in the business.

8.5Graphics:

MediaMolecule has mastered masking the mundane with magnificent materials. The game is bright, colorful and just plain adorable with a TON of customization for your kart and driver.

9.0Sound:

Sure, the karting sounds are nice and all, but the real genius is in the amazing selection of licensed tracks that can play as you race around tracks.

8.5Control:

I don't LOVE the drifting/boost mechanic, but it fits the genre and it works well enough in its own way. The rest of the controls are rock solid.

8.5Gameplay:

The game doesn't revolutionize the karting genre, but it refines it and offers the trademark depth of customization the designer is known for. The community support will mean there is always going to be new content to check out every time you check in.