Hands On With The LittleBigPlanet Karting Beta
I must admit that, as a recent adopter of a Playstation 3 console, Sony’s LittleBigPlanet franchise has so far passed me by. I’ve heard great tales of its critical success, joyful nature, and endless customisation options, but the chance for me to sit down with a controller and a copy of the game just hasn’t arisen as of yet. So when I heard that Sony was accepting applications for access to a public beta of LittleBigPlanet Karting, the upcoming game in the franchise, I jumped at the chance to participate.
Now, as with any karting game and with this title in particular coming from a console manufacturer directly, it’s unsurprising that comparisons will be made with both Nintendo’s famed Mario Kart and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Joyride series. Although there are definite similarities amongst these series, when it comes down to the racing, LBP Karting holds a trump card in that it allows players to build their own tracks and submit them for public use.
First though, my impressions of the kart racing, as this is arguably the core of the game. The beta starts with a brief introduction, in which Stephen Fry gently introduces you to the game’s controls and mechanics with the tender caring hand of a beloved teacher. Fry’s soothing tones ease you through any frustration encountered during the tutorial, such as my problem with getting the hang of the drift mechanic. Even when he’s chastising you, it feels like being assaulted by a soft, fluffy pillow.
When you get into the beta’s story (offering seven races in all), you finally get to experience the first taste of what LBP Karting is all about. Before you even start a race, the game asks you if you want to play online, almost as if it is a priority over single-player. There’s no separate online mode in this game, as LBP Karting is all about a sense of community, even if that community is attempting to ram each other off the road and blow each other up with missiles.
On the subject of weapons, LBP Karting offers up a mixture of the familiar and the unique. Karting mainstays such as rockets, mines, and speed-boosts all show their face here and are joined by giant boxing-gloves, mortars, and a fast-forward power-up that advances you up the track (all with the sound of a VHS tape, which some of the younger audience may never even have heard of before…oh the wonders of being old).
The customisation and creation section of the game was an unknown to me, having experienced neither the original LittleBigPlanet nor its sequel. Despite this, I found it to be quite intuitive and easy to use, but with a lot of depth for those who really want to get sucked in and create a masterpiece. The beta offers four different environments for you to choose from; albeit, these are basically background decorations and creating a track is a simple matter of ‘driving’ a paintbrush around to dictate where you want the track to go. There is a huge selection of decorations and items to place around the track, and, as mentioned previously, anyone with a fair deal of spare time on their hands and a little bit of skill can easily make something to rival the developers’ efforts.
The LBP Karting beta is a good advert for what we can expect from the full game, which is currently slated for release later this year. Although I did notice a single incident where a player’s kart got stuck behind a fence and couldn’t get out, the game seems largely finished, bug free, and a lot of fun to play. It looks like Mario and company better get a move on if they don’t want to lose pole position.
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