Though it might seem a little odd to think that LittleBigPlanet Karting’s main rival, ModNation Racers, was developed under the exact same roof as Sackboy’s spin-off, it’s promising to see Media Molecule’s enduring spirit shine through. LittleBigPlanet’s mantra of ‘Play, Create, Share’ was always going to sit well with the karting genre – so much so that ModNation Racers got there first – but as with Media Molecule’s other games, it’s the sheer volume of choice and tools at the player’s disposal that keeps things interesting.
Of course, that wouldn’t mean anything if the actual racing wasn’t up to much. Though Sackboy and friends’ on-track antics do fall short of the perfect weapon/kart balancing of Mario’s series – ignoring the blue shells, of course – United Front has made significant improvements over ModNation’s racing. Played offline, LittleBigPlanet’s AI can feel like it’s out to get you, but take your races online and Sackboy’s mix of weapons and vibrant courses makes for some gloriously messy races. There’s a roughness to the environments that we’ve come to expect with LittleBigPlanet – edges that snag or sections of track that leave you lost – but the simplicity of the genre actually makes building and racing easier to understand and implement than the platforming the series is famous for.
There are plenty of tracks to offer inspiration throughout LittleBigPlanet Karting’s story mode, but it’s less of a distraction than it could have been. As with every LittleBigPlanet, it comes down to the creation toolset and what can be achieved with it. Here United Front and Media Molecule evolve the ModNation Racers tools and provide a track creator that is easier to understand than its platforming equivalent. Painting roads and planting a few trees is incredibly easy, and LittleBigPlanet’s creation tools scale much better to different abilities.
It’s down to the players to keep things interesting once the game is in their hands, though. It could be argued that although LittleBigPlanet Karting manages to cram in enough trackside clutter to keep players distracted when building, the track layout itself remains rigid out of creative necessity. Even United Front’s own designs feel dense with trackside detail, even if the road layout itself carves a basic route. As always with LittleBigPlanet, it’s down to individual players to prove what the true limitations of the tools are.
These are minor issues in the context of LittleBigPlanet Karting’s overall design, though. Media Molecule’s sense of pure creation sits perfectly with the karting genre and we’d even go as far to say that players will find it easier to be both player and creator here than they would in the previous games. Just don’t expect to find Mario looking over his shoulder anytime soon.