Genre: Arcade Developer: United Front Games Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Classification: G Release Date: 8th Nov 2012 Platforms:
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I have never finished a LittleBigPlanet. I own every single one of them. The reason I've never finished them is simple - it has never seemed necessary to me, due to what I see as the series' primary appeal - playing the crazy stuff other people come up with and create with the game. I have also never created my own level - though for a completely different reason.
I didn't take art class at all throughout High School, but in Grade 11 we were taken through all of the different 'creative' classes on some sort of new-age feelgoodery. In art class we were working with clay, we were making models of our hands. Uniformly people in my class were amazing at it, each hand looked amazing, some even having long fingernails and realistic creases on the palm and fingers. It was really impressive to look at.
I made a small grey blob. As I presented it, the thumb and ring finger fell off. The look of pity in my teacher's eyes still haunts me. She had, up until that point, been angry and suspicious just by virtue of my presence in a room, but from that day on she never raised her voice to me, always treating me as if I am in some way broken because I couldn't make a hand out of clay. I've never created my own level in LittleBigPlanet or any of its sequels because I am - and have always been - awful at creating anything, apart from spaghetti and (obviously) beautiful word pictures.
LittleBigPlanet Karting however, I have both finished and created a race track in. If you want to create a race track in fact, you really ought to finish it too - it isn't necessary, but the LBP games are designed to be more beneficial if you do. LBP Karting follows suit by partially ditching the traditional racing format - you still benefit by coming first (and you canít proceed to the next level if you donít at least come third) but tracks are littered with out-of-the-way prize bubbles for you to find and obtain, adding to your creative arsenal.
Hunting down prize bubbles means youíll probably need to play each level at least twice - on normal difficulty youíll have a hard time hunting down some of the more obscure prizes - particularly while remaining in front of your opponents. Their location on tracks sometimes mean making a choice between a weapon pickup and a prize bubble - and especially in the later levels, you canít afford to make a mistake like missing a weapon pickup.
This is because in LittleBigPlanet Karting weapons serve as both attack and defense. If someone aims a targeted weapon at you a warning displays it incoming - pulling down on the Left Analog Stick when the icon changes to a blue shield and pressing Square to fire protects you. Missing a weapon pickup when you are in first place is as good as driving off the side of the track, or just stopping until the other karts pass you.
The difficulty seems to significantly ramp up as you progress through the levels, but in reality it just requires you to play the game properly. Before the game begins you are taken through explanations by Stephen Fry, telling you about racing, weapons, jetpacks and - most importantly - drifting.
Unlike regular drifting, where your tires lose traction as you oversteer through a corner, drifting in LBP Karting can be done at any point by holding the X button. This does make your car more difficult to hand and causes your tires to smoke up, but you are able to maintain speed. Once youíve been drifting for a short while, you gain a boost - and the longer you drift the more powerful the boost becomes.
Boosting is wholly unnecessary to master races throughout the first three quarters of the game, but towards the end it becomes vital - there is always one racer who sits out in first, impossible to catch and pass without either boosting or catching a lucky break. Fortunately for those not thrilled at the idea of mastering boost racing, LBP Karting doesnít penalise you for lowering your difficulty down to casual - the single player is a means to an end, and that end is building tracks.
Track building falls into that classic category of easy to learn, difficult to master. Like previous games in the series, LittleBigPlanet Karting doesnít restrict you to creating just a track or a battle arena either - if you know what you are doing you can make just about anything. Already you can play a Trials HD style platformer and a slightly awkward shmup - and certainly more genres will be added to the fold as more people join in.
For most however, simply making racing tracks will be enough. After choosing where to start, your sackperson places a big paint-roller on the ground and to create your track you drive where you want it to go. You turn left or right to change the direction of the track and you can change the elevation by tilting the Right Analog Stick - tilting up drives you down into the earth and tilting up takes you into the sky.
Youtube videos will be the death of me. I can't count the amount of times I have looked up something online, only to find the answers lie in 10 minute long Youtube videos - videos claiming to be about the very topic I looked up, but which spend the first 7 minutes talking in a barely intelligible mumble about completely unrelated topics. Thank you random stranger, for your incredibly unique interpretation of the English language, but all I wanted to know was where to put the mods folder in Minecraft, or where to find the Famine horse in Red Dead Redemption, or how to turn off unnecessary programs at Windows startup. In other words, what Youtube took approximately 30 minutes and 3 unrelated tangents to explain, could have been explained in roughly 13 words. (/roaming/.minecraft/, roam south-west of Chuparosa until a blue circle appears, Win+R 'msconfig'.)
And so it goes with LittleBigPlanet Karting. I am a human being with a soul, so of course I am generally happy to listen to Stephen Fry all day, no matter what he's talking about. But every single tutorial video for LBP Karting - and there are 57 of them - begins with Stephen Fry telling some cute 'joke' about the topic at hand, before launching into the actual tutorial. These tutorials are designed for 'everyone' - though someone should tell United Front Games and Media Molecule that their apparent target demographic are too busy putting the controllers in their mouths and wetting their pants to actually build any tracks.
The biggest problem with all of this though, is that it has been solved before. Countless games have managed to have someone speak without insisting the player sit through every line of dialogue. Better yet, the written word has allowed people to skip sentences for 5000 years. What kind of warped mind decides that their game needs 57 freaking tutorials and instead of developing some sort of interactive explanation they should just use video? Unpausable video with no playback controls, where if you cancel out you have to start the entire thing again? I keep expecting to hear Rod Serling announce ďPeople decided theyíd rather watch video than read, but in the end it was that very video which drove them to beat developers to death with a shoe. Be careful what you wish for, in the Twilight Zone.Ē
Once that is taken care of you can begin prettying up your level - edit the terrain to make mountains and lakes and add the various decorations youíve accumulated throughout the single player game to give everything some life. Using the PS3 controller for decorating is probably the gameís biggest let-down - though obviously completely unavoidable - you move your item with the Left Analog Stick, change the height with R2 and L2, rotate with left and right on the d-pad and increase or decrease the size of the item with up and down on the d-pad.
If you want to move the item to a different angle - say, you have a horizontal shell and you want it to stand vertically or you want to make a horizontal fish appear as if itís jumping out of the water, you have to place the item, press Circle until you have cancelled out of everything, press Square to open the Popit menu, click on the item and then press Square again to open the options. Itís an incredible hassle.
Through that same menu, you can also snap objects to the ground - though as you will generally not want objects floating in mid-air, itís annoying there isnít some toggle to automatically snap anything you bring into your level to the ground. Time consuming processes like these will only make things more frustrating, particularly if the game bugs out. Which it did for me, twice.
Yes, twice LittleBigPlanet Karting froze my PlayStation 3 on two separate occasions, while doing very different things. Once while I was attempting to play a user generated level and once during the creation of a track. Confusingly, the symbol for auto-saving in LBP Karting apparently also means something else, as it goes off constantly while you create tracks - and yet nothing I had done in my track before Iíd last saved and exited was still there. Incidentally if you want to see my incredibly bare and lifeless track, search for limimiland in the game - it really would have been awesome if the game hadnít seized up after the day I spent making it look fancy.
Nevertheless, if you keep that in mind - and save your creations regularly - you can have a lot of fun in LittleBigPlanet Karting. The amount of customisation available is truly amazing - along with tracks you can create your own weaponators, your own carts and even your own assets to show off to the world. The pre-made tracks are excellent fun for belting around with some friends and while Iíve had the connection drop out at times, it never did so during any races against opponents on the internet.
Many people will no doubt go into LittleBigPlanet Karting expecting some sort of Mario Kart type racer, but in reality itís a very different beast. Multiplayer races do capture a bit of that spirit, but the Single Player gameplay is more exploratory in nature - and the true heart of LBP Karting lies in its creation mode. Making tracks and playing them with friends and checking out the awe-inspiring work of others is what LittleBigPlanet has always been about - and LittleBigPlanet Karting is no different.