LittleBigPlanet Karting (PlayStation 3) review:

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PlayStation 3)

Much of the appeal also comes from the aesthetics. Karting draws heavily on the cardboard-cutout style from the Sackboy-starring platformers, and the arts-and-crafts atmosphere is immediately welcoming. Whether you're cruising through swampy locales or racing through a futuristic city, every stage in the extensive story mode has an enticing visual theme of its own. The music feeds into these artistic pleasures. Songs ranging from tribal chants to '50s-style "world of tomorrow" pieces ensure there's plenty of diversity, and you'll be nodding your head along to the beats while guiding Sackboy across the finish line.

6399508The creation tools let you craft anything you can imagine as long as you grasp the tricky tutorial.None

There's more than just driving on offer in Karting's story mode. Battle arenas pit you against your stitched foes in an anything-goes test of your physical might. These types of face-offs are standard in karting games, and though it's still fun to pelt your enemies with missiles while avoiding their retaliatory attacks, there's little to distinguish this mode from the glut of similar experiences that preceded it. Other diversions are more interesting. A top-down competition echoes R.C. Pro Am's pint-size challenges, and a side-scrolling level has more in common with an endless runner than a traditional race-to-the-finish racing game. Although these extracurricular activities are entertaining, their role is more to show off what you can create with the extensive creation tools than to provide incredible content on their own.

And once you have a taste for what Karting is capable of, you can try your hand at creating something that rivals the best tracks from the developer. Just be prepared to pour hours into learning how to use the editor first. Unfortunately, the tutorial does a terrible job of walking you through the process of designing your own tracks. Each of the more than 50 included lessons is a noninteractive video. So instead of trying out the various features on your own, you're forced to watch while the game slowly lays out what everything does. Sitting through every video takes more than 90 minutes, and good luck retaining everything you've watched once you set in on your own tracks. Considering games are about doing, rather than watching, there's no excuse for such a poor tutorial.

Split-screen co-op lets you take your buddies along for the ride.

If you do learn how to use the editor, a wealth of possibilities open up to you. Developer-made examples show levels that are far different from the standard racing and battle fare that populates the campaign. Everything from tower defense to tile-flipping match games are possible, so those who are properly motivated can concoct tons of different game types. However, don't expect these forays into alternate genres to supply the thrills of a stand-alone game. It's certainly novel being able to play a first-person shooter in what was designed as a kart racer, but the controls and weapon design are far below even standards set by the most rudimentary entries in recent memory. And don't get too excited by the prospect of boat races, given that the water physics are closer to a wet roadway than an undulating ocean. Still, being able to design far-reaching genres shows how powerful this tool is, but it's unclear if the non-racing levels will mature to more than simple curios.

Little Big Planet Karting resides in a tricky position. Taken on its own, it's little more than a standard entry in a genre that offers far more enjoyable experiences. It's up to the level editor to separate this game from the pack, then, and the lousy tutorial limits those tools to only the most dedicated designers. At least there are extensive sharing tools to make it easy to play others' creations, opening the door for a wealth of imaginative content. Thankfully, the core racing is exciting, and the lengthy story mode offers a variety of well-designed courses to compete in, so even if the community never takes off, there's still plenty of entertainment to be had.

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