Nintendo’s moustached Mario has been king of the karting games for some time now (seven editions in fact), but now a couple of upstarts are attempting to steal the short plumbers karting krown.  Little Big Planet’s SackBoy is taking to the kart tracks as a PlayStation exclusive, whilst Sonic the Hedgehog is bringing his transformed racing pals along for the ride.


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.

All the powerups are here with guided missiles and other offensive weaponry on hand with the twist being that all can be used defensively if activated at the split second before impact.  The fast-forward power up is handled really nicely in the game, boosting the player forward as if via the TV remote control.
LBPKarting1
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.

Characters earn experience and level up after races to open up simple modifications for their carts.  These improve one performance aspect of the kart, usually lowering another in the process.
Sonicallstars1
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
Publisher: Sony
Platform: PS3

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: SEGA
Platform: PS3, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

 

 

 

 

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