The LittleBIgPlanet series have been somewhat of a cult hit this generation, and some of my favorite games I've ever played. I fell in love with the world Media Molecule created, full of imagination, creativity, and all the potential in the world. MM implemented extensive tools to ensure that you would never want to leave LBP, and never have to. Modnation Racers took that core template of LBP--Play, Create, Share-- and ran with it in a very different context, the kart racer. And while Modnation never quite gained the notoriety or esteem it deserved, it was a very fun kart racer with a fully fleshed-out character, kart, and track editor. It did exactly what it wanted to do, but due to the general limitation of the community on PS3, and the fact that it was a new IP, Modnation never soared to the heights it could have.
LittleBigPlanet Karting is essentially the best thing that could have happened to United Front Games, original developers of Modnation. LBPK takes the world of LBP that is already loved by millions, takes that Play Create Share core, and brings it into a kart racer.
At first glance, it's quite amazing just how indistinguishable the initial presentation of LBPK is to LBP2. Your presented with a slightly larger Pod, just large enough to house you and your kart. Stephen Fry is still there in full force to walk you through just about everything as you discover them, if you were wondering.The public beta includes about 6 story stages, 4 of them being races and the other 2 being arena battles. You can head over to the community section to check out the early stages of what people can do with the new creation tools, which is already impressing me.
Any fan of Modnation, or really Mario Kart for that matter, will probably be right at home with LBPK. Serving as power-ups in LBPK, the new Weaponator will randomly select a weapon when picked up. Weapons consist of things such as rockets, boosts, and more defensive weapons like the close-range stun. In place of the shield mechanic in Modnation, LBPK lets you use any weapon as a defense. When someone locks onto you with a rocket or other projectile, a warning icon will appear. If you have a weapon at the moment, a shield icon will appear very briefly before the rocket strikes you, allowing you to block the strike if your fast enough. This adds some strategy to the race, contemplating whether you should use your weapon immediately or wait in case of emergency.
Since this is indeed LittleBigPlanet we're talking about, UFG has been able to include classic LBP features, like the jump pads and grapple hooks from LBP2. When used in creative ways, these can add some really cool moments to the race. Drifting is back from Modnation, and works very similarly. Drifting for an extended period of time scores you an extra boost, which I hope is never NOT in a kart racing game. The inclusion of score bubbles in LBPK actually makes quite the difference if your looking to rule the leaderboards. Aside from just winning a race, you are also judges upon how many score bubbles you were able to collect.
To be honest, I've never been good at creating LBP or Modnation stages, so understand why I've only spent so much time with the track creator. Actively forming your track works similarly to Modnation, though much more polished this time around. The same can be said for the rest of the creator in general. Everything feels much easier to find, and everything also feels much less threatening in a pop-it menu. One feature that I noticed was missing was auto-populate. In Modnation, this allowed you to bypass the monotony of filling your track with arbitrary objects by doing it for you. Perhaps it is indeed there, buried in a menu somewhere, but I have not been able to find it in my experience.
To be blunt, trying to play online in the LBPK beta is currently a horrible, terrible mess. It's a miracle if you are able to enter a race with your friend, and even a bigger miracle if you aren't immediately booted from the race or the console doesn't freeze up altogether. Of course it's a beta, but perhaps they should have considered delaying the beta, because it its current state it is unplayable and broken.
Although the choice of music is fairly limited as of the public beta, the theme song LBPK sports is really great, and evokes the same good feeling I get while playing other LBP games. If there's one thing that the LBP games are unrivaled in, it's the fantastic choice in licensed feeling that just makes you feel good.