LittleBigPlanet Karting wants to provide addictive gameplay, but instead of platforming, it’s set on capturing the thrill of high-speed racing. I test drove three of the game’s courses, and so far, it's taking cues from successful racers like Mario Kart, but it’s also tapping into ModNation Racers’ creative set by allowing plenty of level building and kart customization.
I only experienced a small taste of the vast story levels in LittleBigPlanet Karting, which has 25 stages across seven planets. I saw Turtle Island first, and just by the name, I'm sure you can see Mario Kart’s influence written all over it. This level features the basic race setup, where first to the finish line takes the gold, but being the fastest or best at steering doesn’t guarantee your victory. Power-ups and special ability blocks (presented as space guns) drastically alter the outcome of the race. Just like Mario Kart has a Bullet Bill, a fast-charged speed boost that often pulls players from last place to first, LittleBigPlanet Karting features a boxing glove that performs the same function. LittleBigPlanet Karting gets some credit though, as it’s harder to steer, so you won’t necessarily hit every enemy in your path as you spring to a higher position.
Speed boosts, items that automatically target enemies, and explosive trick boxes all help you get an edge to first place. This makes racing intensely chaotic – as I approached the finish line once, I was targeted by three special powers in a row. Talk about never feeling safe.
Power-ups aren’t the only way to get ahead. Catching mid-air spins and landing a 360 also unleash a special boost. Sometimes, while in the air, you have to grapple onto objects in the environment to launch to faraway spots on the track – just one more aspect that forces you to pay attention. Adding to the competitive spirit you can slap racers as they buzz by you by pressing L2 or R2, depending what side they're on.
In the game's battle arena, you’re out for blood, trying to grab power-ups as quickly as possible to eliminate opponents. Each time you successfully take one down, you get a point. Deaths don’t count against you, except in the sense that you’re giving the enemy a precious point in the competition. Environmental hazards, such as electricity stunning you through the water, add extra intensity to the match.
The last level I play is all about the big show – I control a massive vehicle that flattens monster trucks, but it’s more than just wanton destruction. The monster trucks litter the street with obstacles like street signs and giant pencils all in the name of slowing me down. There is also a timer, so the more trucks I smash, the more time I get to score. In the level, my kart is shaped like a dragon and has laser eyes to shoot at the trucks for ranged hits, instead of relying purely on my power to run trucks over. While navigating through the streets, this mode has a top-down view which make the signature art style stand out the most, with 3D visuals that accentuate the landscape wonderfully.
Although the levels I saw are hardly unique, they’re entertaining and varied. If you’re going to borrow ideas, you should borrow from the best, which so far is exactly what LittleBigPlanet Karting appears to be doing. The unique art style keeps it a fun and inviting place for racing, and I'm guessing the customization and track building options are going to open this game up for more thrills and intrigue.