Preview: LittleBigPlanet Karting

It’s been exactly four years since Sony’s Sackboy brought gleeful squeals to living rooms everywhere. Quickly becoming one of the most recognizable franchises of the current generation, LittleBigPlanet brought gamers a balance of customizability and simplicity rarely seen before. Now, having already dominated the puzzle-platformer genre, Sony is looking to tackle another popular genre in LittleBigPlanet Karting.

Last month we had the chance to try out the Beta for LittleBigPlanet Karting. Series faithful will be glad to know that the same focus on customizability returns, allowing players to design their own race tracks or battle arenas from scratch, using all the familiar LBP set-pieces, stickers, and objects. From a gameplay standpoint, Karting feels very similar to games from two generations ago like Mario Kart 64 or, perhaps even more accurately, Crash Team Racing. Those comparisons are hardly a bad thing; this is definitely a fast, frantic, addicting experience.

If this all sounds familiar, though, you aren’t alone. Sony’s own Modnation Racers set out to do pretty much exactly the same thing, and it was developed by the same team no less. The most obvious differences at first glance, of course, are that LittleBigPlanet is comparatively loved almost universally as a franchise, and Sackboy is infinitely cuter than the monstrosities in Modnation. Looking deeper, though, you’ll find that LittleBigPlanet Karting has several more modes than its counterpart, and a track editor with an enormous amount of options that puts Modnation’s to shame.

Following in the steps of earlier LBP titles, Karting will feature a 25-level story mode capable of being completed with up to four players in cooperative play. It will be interesting to see how the final product captures the charm of previous LBP stories, especially since the karting aspect feels a bit limiting in terms of narrative.

There is an unmistakable aura of skeptism surrounding this entry, however. So far, although Karting offers more opportunity for creativity than Modnation, there’s still the problem that it doesn’t fill any hole in the PS3’s library. We’ll have to wait until next month to see whether or not LittleBigPlanet Karting takes over the genre like it did to platformers in 2008, or whether similarity will be its major drawback.

But at least Sackboy is still adorable.