As a mental exercise, I considered trying to write this review without using the words “MarioKart” at any point. But let’s be honest, the reason you are here is because you have a Sony console and you want to know if this is basically MarioKart for the PS3?
In a word: yes. In three words: yes, sort of.
To save time, here are the things that the two games have in common. A cartoonish style. Karts. Drifting. Boosting after drifting. Boost pads. Weapons. A green weapon that doesn’t home in. A red weapon that does home in. A cheap weapon that homes in on first place. A weapon that allows you to rocket forwards, battering opponents out of the way when you are losing. A “mine” weapon you can drop on the floor behind you, or throw forwards. Being able to fire weapons backwards. Race levels. Battle levels.
Let’s be honest, the game feels very much like MarioKart, and that’s not a bad thing. Driving and drifting feels almost identical. Most of the weapons are more or less direct knock offs, but they have added some unique LittleBigPlanet touches here too. One is the use of the grappling hook, which allows kart drivers to latch on and swing across larger gaps than they could normally jump. You can also use the classic LBP “slap” if your kart is close enough to a rivals, which gives you a very satisfying thwack and knocks them a little off course. And of course, an LBP game wouldn’t be the same without loads of customisation. You can pimp your kart in a near infinite number of ways, from monster truck wheels to making it a hover-kart. It’s purely cosmetic, just like altering your sackboy character was in the platforming LBP games, but it makes your kart stand out. You can still customise your sackboy, but not to the extent of the previous games, although a message in game promises the use of characters and costumes from the previous titles in a patch soon.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a LBP title without a level editor, and it’s present and correct here. It’s incredibly easy to make a track, you start a new level, select the roller tool, and quite literally roll out a track by driving the roller around. It’s incredibly simple, and with a few tweaks you can racing your own track in well under five minutes. Of course, to make a level festooned with things to dodge, jumps, grapple points etc as seen in the single player levels, it’ll take you considerably longer. In fact, I found the controls for the more advanced elements extremely tricky and frustrating to use, and this is coming from someone with a fair amount of time in the Create mode of the platforming LBP titles under my belt. Of course, cleverer and more patient players have persevered with it, and there are already a decent selection of user created tracks to have fun playing. I was not surprised that a remake of a MarioKart level was the number one user created level when I checked out the Community section!
The single player mode has plenty of races and challenges to play, but I found it a little flat. The story is as irrelevant and pointless as all the LittleBigPlanet titles, but it also lacks a sense of competition with the AI players. And for a game this cute and cuddly, I shouldn’t really have been frustrated into shouting the C word at the top of my voice more than once. The problem, like MarioKart, is that you can get hit by a weapon on the final straight of a three lap race and then come 6th, from 1st. If you’re playing the up to four player co-op mode, or online with friends, or a mixture of both, you’ll probably laugh it off. But when the AI characters screw you over for the fifth time in a row, swearing issues forth unstoppably.