Quick review: Little Big Planet Karting

Little Big Planet Karting
From: Sony
For: PlayStation 3
Classification: G
Score: ***

Sack boy, that hessian-covered floppy toy, has become something of a bone fide superstar for Sony. He’s a real celebrity in the world of virtual game characters.

He’s bounced through worlds of jelly and magical puppets and ridden through spooky tunnels in a mine cart: now he can add kart racer to his resume as an activity he’s tried when he eventually retires from adventuring and settles down for the quiet life.

LBP Karting feels like a Little Big Planet game, with the soothing voice of Stephen Fry gently offering advice as the narrator and tracks that have a painterly feel to them, adorned with whimsical monuments to silliness like wrapped presents and spinning wheels. This is unmistakeably a Little Big Planet game.

The premis is simple, though: race your kart around the track to victory, using a variety of jumps and short cuts to cross the finish line first.  The story involves Sack boy having to rid Craftworld of the Hoard threat.

As with all kart racing games, you’ll start in last place on the grid and have to race your way to the finish but the racing can become frustrating at times as the computer-controlled opponents are incredibly aggressive, especially when they pick up offensive weapons (driving over a weapon will enable it).  I lost count how many times an unavoidable missile slammed into my Sack boy from an unseen foe behind me, with no way to avoid it,  forcing a re-spawn a few seconds later – only to be shortly followed a few minutes later by another missile.

Also like all racing games, learning to drift around corners is a must so you learn early on the need to master being able to slide around corners: do it for long enough and it’ll give you a speed boost.

The co-operative play is fun, but then any game that lets you beat a family member who is sitting right next to you is always fun and as in the other games featuring Sack boy there are prizes to pick up. There’s also a track level editor which, like the other level editors in other LBP games, is intuitive and masses of fun.

After a while, though, the racing starts to feel a little familiar and then it clicked: the developer behind the Little Big Planet Karting is United Front Games, the studio that made that other PS3 racer that features weapons and jump pads to speed you to the finish Mod Nation Racers. The two games share a genetic link.

LBP Karting is a solid kart racing game but with Mod Nation Racers having come before it, it almost seems like a repetition of that game but set in the Little Big Planet universe. It’s solid without being remarkable.

I tested out LBP Karting using both the standard controller and Sony’s Move steering wheel, a T-shaped peripheral with a slot that you plug Sony’s Move motion controller into.

Unlike a normal racing steering wheel, the Move wheel isn’t circular but has a handgrip either side but the right one twists – perhaps it can be used in motorcycle racing games as a switch beside each grips lets it be swung up, almost taking on a handlebar-like appearance.

Above the left-hand grip is the familiar Sony controller D-pad, above the right grip is the face buttons (circle, cross, square, triangle. It also has two triggers and two bumper buttons as well as a start and select button. There are also paddles for any racing games that call for manual gear changes. I used the Move steering wheel in several co-operative races in LBP Karting and it works but it was almost too sensitive: the slightest touch in either direction would send Sack boy and his kart careering off in the desired direction.

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