"From the developer of ModNation Racers comes LittleBigPlanet Karting, a game that is exactly what it sounds like" might not be the best marketing pitch for Sony's upcoming kart racer, but it really sums up what you're getting with the game. It's ModNation Racers taped to LittleBigPlanet with a dash of Mario Kart scribbled on for good measure. It's exactly what it sounds like.
You customize the Sackboy and its car and everything is cute and it’s made of cardboard. There are dozens of kart bodies to choose from, including flower pots, tin cans, and cupcakes. It’s exactly as adorable as you imagine it is. In fact, that was the main thing we took away from our hands-on time with LittleBigPlanet Karting: everything is really exactly what you expect it to be. Except cuter. Much cuter. Like, so cute we can't get over it. We smile whenever we think of it.
You’re still riding a cute kart around cute tracks while picking up cute items to throw at your cute opponents, except now it’s so much cuter. Luckily, that cuteness goes a long way to building atmosphere. The vinyl characters of ModNation Racers were appealing, but the actual world itself lacked any character or charm. LittleBigPlanet’s hand-crafted feel, on the other hand, is exploding with it. Clouds held up by strings are simply lovelier than regular, boring clouds. Characters riding in cardboard cars are more appealing that those riding around in metal ones. That's just the way it is.
When we got our hands on the controller we knew just what to do - how to drift into turns and how to fire weapons at our foes. Years of Mario Kart and ModNation Racers have trained us to feel completely at home in a kart racer, and LBPK doesn't attempt to reinvent the button-glued-to-a-cork wheel. The only real change to the formula comes at with the grappling hook. Certain objects can be grappled in mid-air, letting the karts reach different levels for alternate routes. In a way, it reminds us of the glider from Mario Kart 7 in terms of its use, though it definitely spices up the traditional races by adding some variation to the routes. The developers were also pleased to reveal that battle mode, a kart racer favorite, would be making the release, too, giving you even more to do behind the cardboard wheel. The only thing that felt off was the framerate, which was obviously running at less than 30FPS when we saw it, though the developers promised to get that in check for launch.
Beyond simply "playing," the ability to "create" and "share" will be included, too. United Front Games talked up the level creator, explaining that all of the tools at its disposal would be at players' disposal as well, meaning nearly limitless possibilities. We weren't shown the level creator, but we were told that it would be a hybrid of LittleBigPlanet's and ModNation Racers', which sounds alright in our book.
When LittleBigPlanet Karting was rumored everyone joked that it would essentially be ModNation Racers with LittleBigPlanet rubbed all over it, and, well, that's what it is. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. After checking out PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale we found that our only issues with the brawler was in the areas it departed from the norm, so we're going to count our blessings that United Front is sticking to the formula for this one. It really looks like it has managed to merge best elements of both LBP and MNR together, and as long as it can get the framerate under control it'll be a great way to spend a few dozen hours with friends.