Two distinctly different kart racing games have recently hit the store shelves, Little Big Planet Karting for the PlayStation 3 and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed across just about every modern gaming platform.
The soothing oration of Stephen Fry introduces us to the Imagisphere, an area in space created by the random thoughts of grid-locked motorists. Within the Imagisphere SackBoys and SackGirls live out a creative life, but the Horde has arrived to ruin their fun. The chosen form of harassment seems to manifest simply as racing against, or trying to blow SackBoy away in weapon arenas.
The guts of LBP Karting is more than the racing experience, thankfully, because karting in the LBP world feels very loose. In a similar way to the parent platforming games, the karting controls in this release are somewhat spongy.
Other LBP quirks are present; the grappling hook helps navigate karts around the imaginative tracks, and bubbles containing all manner of collectibles can be gathered. These are then used to customise karts, Sackboy racers and the Pod that Sackboy inhabits. Beyond that, the creative building side of LBP kicks in; the ability to create your own tracks and arenas, and share them with the world is a big part of the game.
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Exploring and racing on the creations of others, extending the play to the PlayStation Vita and being creative and collective yourself will extend the life of the game. However, if pure kart racing is your fancy then Sonic’s latest outing might be more to your taste.
In the typical SEGA way, the games presentation is colourful, bright and breezy with the ever helpful and excitable voice over guy constantly reading out-loud every menu choice you make.
The rather lengthy name, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed does encapsulate the games functions. Through a series of brightly themed tracks that dynamically alter throughout the race up to 10 players and AI can hurtle around blasting each other with weapons, hitting boost pads and transforming from kart to boat and flying vehicle as the terrain dictates.
Shortcuts are important, as are timing the drifting boosts and managing power-ups. Unlike LBPK powerups are randomly distributed with the all-powerful race-winning “All-Star” transformation power being a rare treat.
SEGA has focussed on the kart racing, and though there are the occasional other challenges to be negotiated, it is the pure karting action at the heart of this game. Select one of the starting ten characters (with ten more to unlock) including new inclusions such as Wreck-it Ralph, and hit the tracks.
Both games are fun, full of character and a riot of colour. Surprisingly Little Big Planet Karting suffers from low frame rate issues occasionally and certainly increases the load times between events. Generally Sonic’s game is a much more pure kart racing experience over the more creative and sharing focus of LBP. The boat racing is annoying and slow compared to the fun of flying and traditional karting. If you own a PS3 you have a choice, and likewise for Nintendo hardware owners you now have a non-Mario path to karting fun.
Little Big Planet Karting
Developer: United Front Games
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Developer: Sumo Digital
Platform: PS3, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U