Thursday, January 3, 2013

LittleBigThings: Of Karting and Sackthings

I don't think I've ever really understood Kart racers from any vantage point.  While I've certainly played some and I did enjoy a few whilst playing them, it was all brief, lasting only as long as the controller was in my hand if that.  So when the intent expressed with LittleBigPlanet Karting was "Let's give the guys who made ModNation Racers (that was considered 'alright' at best) a chance to make another Kart Racer, just with LittleBigPlanet this time!" I experienced something of a tepid excitement - certainly not the extent I would have had for something else, anything else, involving the LittleBigPlanet franchise.  Still, it had to be something I could embrace, I could come to love and enjoy, right?  It says LittleBigPlanet after all, right there on the tin.  I love LittleBigPlanet, so I should love this!

I'm....not quite sure.

LittleBigPlanet Karting certainly is a LittleBigPlanet game in more than just name, supposing that being a platformer is not intrinsically what LittleBigPlanet is.  With all the varied types of levels and, indeed games that have been made with LittleBigPlanet in its various releases that stretch beyond platforming, LittleBigPlanet has grown itself into something that just is itself, I suppose.  While Super Mario is certainly a loftier series, one can draw a comparison - games which Mario are in are, by extension, Mario games because of the inclusion, because the inclusion is in itself more than just Mario.  By that measure, LittleBigPlanet games are games in which you are given a Sackboy to control, a popit to interact with, a mode with which you can build to your hearts content and all the charm and Stephen Fry tutorials you could ever want.  LittleBigPlanet Karting has all that, in spades even, and in fact more than that, sticking to the world-based, level-based formula that has worked with every game that's released thus far, further cementing it as a LittleBigPlanet game and thus easing you into the change.  Or perhaps trying to have you accept that it's not so much a change as it is another possibility.

Still, under the charm, under the Sackboys and Sackgirls, under the Create Mode and under the familiarity, the game is still a Kart Racer and not much else.  It does a good job of presenting various types of -things- to do within the setting of a Kart, however, which gives me hope for the levels or tracks or games or whatever they're supposed to be called that players have made between the release and now.  Battle Mode seems like a ripe field to use for Create, given that you get to simply establish an area and have your Sackfolk faff around in it however you like, as I imagine we're not -all- interested in actually making Racetracks.  Depending on the 'restrictions' in place for making a level of a Battle Mode type, as it were, it could be incredibly rich and diverse and I look forward to seeing if anyone has managed to tap into that sort of thing when I eventually get to the created levels/tracks/games/whatever.  Story first, however, as is the case with any LittleBigPlanet game.

Though there is another mode that certainly tugs a little more at the creative urges than Battle Mode, if only in a "Hrm, this isn't set up for it properly, but wouldn't that be neat" type of way.  I encountered a Gran Prix race towards the end of the first world which is another beast entirely.  Eschewing the competitiveness of other players and even the allure of third-person view, Grand Prix mode is a first person race unlike anything else in LittleBigPlanet Karting.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) you do not see your kart at all, yet you are definitely in First-Person mode and in the race I was in, it was a simple enough affair, if that it had a restriction to it that forced pit stops to refuel (which is unseen in the rest of the game).  Regardless, a mode, any mode that allows First-Person perspective is absolutely blessed for opportunity and, provided the boundaries to making a Grand Prix level are a little lax, one could find that it might be possible to do some absolutely wondrous things that couldn't, in fact, be in place in any other LittleBigPlanet game.

The problem is that, if you've noticed, I've simply talked about what the game -can- be, possibly, instead of what it is beyond saying "well, it's a Kart racer".  It is a fun game, really, and I don't have much issue with it, but racing games as a whole are a hard sell to me and even with a LittleBigPlanet coat of paint, I'm finding the game a little hard to be truly excited for.  That can change, of course, as I'm only in the second world of the game and already I've found plenty of neat things to hold my interest.  Already I'm looking to the next Story-based Battle Mode track because I had a lot of fun with the first, and I still wonder if there's anything that the game has yet to really show off, because I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it did.  If nothing else, I am holding my arms out, waiting for the tender embrace of exuberance, and even if I'm left by the wayside by it, at least I considered it an option.

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