Having seen Mario, Sonic and other well-known characters succeed in their own racing games, Little Big Planet's Sack Boy wants to get in on the act. Battling to save his planet from an evil invasion, Sack Boy must take part in races. If he wins, the nasty invaders leave; if he loses, they'll probably unravel him and turn him into a hideous Christmas jumper or something.
Anyway, what this boils down to is a bog standard kart racing game. You drive around various tracks against other racers and try to finish in as high a position as you can. Along the way, random weapons can be picked up to help you sabotage other gamers' races or give you a temporary boost.
Graphically, LBP Karting looks good. Graphics are full of character and Sack Boy himself is incredibly cute - his facial expressions in particular are a joy to behold. Track-side scenery looks good and is full of imaginative design. I've never actually played a "proper" Little Big Planet game, so can't comment on whether the graphics pay homage to previous games (I imagine that they do), but they are still well-designed and make for some interesting tracks.
Yet although the tracks are well designed, they don't show a massive amount of imagination. They look and play very similar to other racing games. You could easily take tracks from LBP Karting and (with minor graphical tweaks) insert them into (say) Mario Kart. They feature all the sorts of things you would expect: long straights where you can build up speed, nasty tight corners on chicanes to test your driving skills, secret short cuts that can give you an advantage over fellow racers and so on. There's nothing wrong with the tracks in LBP Karting... but there's nothing special about them either.
Oddly, the game is slightly lacking when it comes to the sensation of speed: the scenery never whizzes by in the same way it does in other racing games and I like my racers to come with a bit more of an adrenalin rush. That said, I guess the game is aimed at the whole family, so it needs to be simple enough for younger kids to play.
This is reflected in the controls which are nice and straightforward, requiring the use of just a few buttons. The relatively sparse use of buttons means that this is a pretty easy game to just pick up and play. Certainly anyone who has played a similar title before will immediately feel at home; newcomers will find the tutorial helpful (though not essential). It's good that there are different choices for certain functions (such as acceleration) as this allows the player to select the control method which is most comfortable for them.
Sound is very good, too. The actual in-game noises are pretty average and nothing out of the ordinary (engine roars, bangs when weapons are fired or karts crash). However, the music is very good indeed. Tunes vary from level to level but is always pleasant to listen to and perfectly suited to the level being played.
The stand-out element - not just of the sound, but of the whole game - has to be the wonderful narration from Stephen Fry. The commentary is smart, funny and brilliantly delivered, sounding like something from the Hitch-hikers' Guide to the Galaxy. Most of the time, Fry's comments are not particularly important (introductions to levels, control guides etc.) and you could easily get away with skipping them. However, they are so funny that you will listen to every word he says and frequently find yourself laughing out loud to the daft comments and wonderfully delivered lines.
You certainly can't fault the scale of LBP Karting. In addition to Story Mode, there are a whole host of other modes from bog standard two player games to online tournaments, battle modes and more. Add in the fact that you can create your own tracks or play those designed by other gamers and it's going to be a very long time before you run out of things to do on this game.
At the end of the day, though, you can't escape the fact that this is an average Mario Kart wannabe. There's nothing wrong with the game, it's just that there's no real innovation or attempt to take the racing genre forward. LBG Karting brings nothing new to the party beyond the delightful Stephen Fry narrative. If it weren't for that, it would possibly have crashed and burned. As it is, it's a perfectly competent racer, but I'd prefer a game of Mario Kart or Mod Nation Racers over this any day. Alternatively, if you have to have a PS3 title featuring iconic gaming characters, Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing is a better choice.
A new copy of LBP Karting will cost you around £12 (although it can obviously be picked up cheaper second hand). If you're a fan of Sackboy and friends, then that's probably a small price to pay for a decent racer featuring your favourite character. If the racing element is more important than the characters, then I'd invest in Mod Nation Racers instead.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Little Big Planet Karting, a spinoff of the magnificent Little Big Planet games, is a well executed, fun to play game. As with the other LBP games, this game is narrated by the fantastic voice of Stephen Fry. You start off as a plain sackboy, although you can change your design before you begin (and get a trophy for it!). Unfortunately, you can't import your old character from previous LBP games, as you could between LBP and LBP2, which is a bit of a negative, but not so much as it is important.
The races in the game come in many different modes- including Battle Mode and normal races- which helps keep the game fresh, especially when playing online. A lot of the areas in the online play are user submitted, and the majority of them are excellent. I personally enjoy playing battle mode, it really appeals to me!
The online section of the game is great, because being up against real people really helps with the way you play. I choose not to use a headset while playing this game, although when I have, a lot of the people playing have been a lot younger than me, which at the age of 27 can be quite disconcerting- not to mention embarrassing when you realise that the person with the highest score is twelve years younger than you...! However, when playing without the headset, you can really lose yourself in the game, and because of the variety of designs, you can almost guarantee that no other sackboy is wearing the same thing as you!
Overall, it's an excellent game, especially in short bursts!