Will LittleBigPlanet Karting Fulfill Our Mario Kart Wish List? «

 Several moons ago, we at 1UP compiled a list of suggestions to improve the reliable-but-predictable course of Mario Kart, even if the series’ continuing colossal sales would likely have our advice fall on deaf ears. That’s okay, though; as Marty Sliva pointed out in his preview of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Mario might not hold the kart racing crown for long. While Nintendo’s made a habit of sticking with their successful tried-and-true formula, former competitors have shown that kart racing can still surprise us — like Crash Team Racing and Diddy Kong Racing, to name a few. While these games didn’t create a 20-year legacy, they managed to nip at the heels of their Mario Kart corollaries by taking a refreshingly different approach to the cartoonish motorsport.

United Front Games’ upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting doesn’t divorce itself entirely from Mario Karting; the game still features drifting, boosting, and a collection of weapons remarkably similar to those wielded by members of The Mushroom Kingdom. But in applying the crowdsourced creativity of LittleBigPlanet to the karting genre, United Front Games might be able to defy expectations with a racer that promises to surprise, despite its very familiar trappings. Though Sony didn’t show enough of the game for me to for a definitive opinion, I can at least reach back five months into the past to determine if LBP: Karting will fulfill our karting-based desires.

Will LBP: Karting offer multiple pathways and shortcuts?


Yes. The courses at Sony’s preview event featured a number of alternate routes, as well as clever shortcuts accessed via grappling hook at predetermined locations (yes, these karts come equipped with grappling hooks). And since Karting borrows the score and prize bubbles of the core LBP series, obsessive players will have no choice but to explore each track thoroughly in order to nab all of the trinkets scattered throughout. Mario Kart fans who enjoyed the possibilities of the first installment’s feather power-up should feel at home here.

Will LPB Karting feature a tiered weapon system?


No. While this idea proved successful in racers like Diddy and Crash, LBP Karting offers a much simpler array of weaponry, or “weaponators” in the LBP parlance. As with just about every other element of the game, players can alter weapons to make their visual effects more creative (or downright bizarre), but don’t expect their basic functions to differ much from what we’ve seen over the last 20 years of karting.

Will LPB Karting drop you into a content-heavy overworld?


Nope. As with LittleBigPlanet, players of Karting will use the now-familiar hub system for level selection. Sony reps mentioned something called “adventure mode,” but trying to find out more about this feature yielded little information. From what I gathered, it sounds as if this mode will allow players to explore courses independently, outside of the racing context (for the purpose of finding every secret and grabbing every bubble) — which doesn’t seem like an altogether enthralling concept. It’s possible that United Front Games could develop this idea into something much stronger, but it’ll be a far cry from the Mario 64-inspired overworld from Diddy Kong Racing.

Will LPB Karting be fully customizable?


Boy howdy. Everything from the racers to the karts to the tracks themselves can be altered with a set of tools nearly identical to those of the original games (though the track editor didn’t make an appearance at the event). Unlike Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, the changes to your car (and Sackboy) are only superficial; United Front Games noted their desire to place an emphasis on fairness, and prevent players from having an advantage based solely on their collected parts. Karts can still be fine-tuned to handle differently, but how this will affect the game’s focus on balance still remains a mystery.

That said, the most exciting prospect of LPB Karting can be found in its level editor, built on the basic structure on what United Front created for ModNation Racers. Like with LittleBigPlanet, though, our desire to craft the ultimate kart racing track might be overpowered by our reluctance to devote so much free time to its creation.

Will LPB’s tracks change dynamically on the fly?


Answer unclear; ask again later. None of the playable tracks featured this type of design, and at this point it’s uncertain whether or not the track editor will offer such an ambitious set of tools.

Will LBP Karting showcase other Sony mascots?


Sorry, folks — all playable racers must be Sackboy-based (though I’m sure Sony will let you buy any number of mascot-related costumes at launch). Still, the evident versatility of LittleBigPlanet’s tools will undoubtedly allow players to create close approximations of their favorite intellectual properties — just don’t expect Sony to host any possibly infringing tracks on their servers.

Ultimately, LBP Karting doesn’t differ too much from Mario Kart — or ModNation Racers, for that matter — but the addition of a versatile toolset couched in the adorable arts and crafts world originally created by Media Molecule holds the promise of great things to come. It’s a bit disappointing to see the team stick so closely to Mario Kart’s bread and butter, but the player creation angle could produce some wild and crazy experiences not found in the included set of levels. Here’s hoping that LittleBigPlanet scholars can set aside their meticulously crafted replications of Super Mario Bros.’ 1-1 to give Nintendo’s own track designers some serious competition.


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