For Sony at least, Sackboy is the new Mario. An instantly recognisable character that has bundles of possibility and a real sense of uniqueness and fun about him. It's no surprise then that we find him popping up in games that are away from the typical LittleBigPlanet format. But can Sackboy make that transition or is it just all about the brand.
Although LittleBigPlanet is front and centre in terms of branding and character focus, LBP Karting is really a hybrid between it and Mod Nation Racers - a previous game from the LBP Karting developers United Front Games. They have simply taken the Mod Nation Racers engine and wrapped in up with LBP styling.
Now for anyone who has played both games this would seem an awesome idea but sadly the combination of two great games hasn't produced a worthy offspring. However, living up to both of those titles was going to be difficult from the outset and LBP Karting does have some redeeming qualities.
The game looks stunning and it has a great sense of quirkiness to it. The game just shouts FUN! The controls are easy to get the hang of and like most karting games the format is fairly predictable.
There are power-ups to collect as you tour around the circuits, point bubbles that rise you up the leaderboards and a watered down attack/defence system that we saw with Mod Nation Racers. The real jewel are the tracks and circuits.
The circuits are so well designed and laid out that no one lap is going to feel quite the same as another. There are short-cuts to explore, prizes and presents to discover to help you mod your kart or help you better design your own track in the editor.
Sliding around corners provides much needed boost as does pulling off some slick moves like mid-air 360s. Boost is important as without it you are going to struggle to make the top finishing positions. However, boost alone will get you nowhere.
Land mines, missiles and other items can be collected as you race. These can be used to attack your opponents or kept to defend yourself against attacks from others. We saw this in Mod Nation racers but here there is one slight but important difference.
LBP Karting doesn't have the defence shield gauge - this means that successfully thwarting an attack can leave you open to an immediate attack from another opponent - and this happens a lot and can be very frustrating.
Mid-race collisions are also very frustrating. Bumping and competing for position is a key factor to enjoying any racing game. LBP Karting's collision system is a bit too disjointed for it to really work. Any type of collision seems to stop you in your tracks and you get a game that lack fluidity. It can get so bad that avoiding other karts is a key strategy and this really takes away the fun of racing.
The game also has a compulsory story mode. It's compulsory in the sense that you can't race co-operatively until you have unlocked the race in story-mode. It's as if LBP Karting is trying to reduce the amount of fun you can have from the offset. Surely racing against friends is part and parcel for any racing game. Having to unlock the races by playing on your own first seems counterproductive.
One of the coolest features of both the original LBP and Mod Nation Racers is the amount of customisation and creation that was allowed. LBP Karting does inherit a lot of the best parts of this and creating and sharing tracks and karts is a big part of the game, but again it's all very frustrating.
Firstly the editor is very difficult to use and the tutorial that accompanies it is almost worthless. It's a free standing video that you have to watch, without any interaction. Trying to remember anything when you eventually go and use the editor is almost impossible.
LBP Karting is a brilliantly fun game restricted by its own inability to set itself free. The premise is fantastic and most of the time the game really shines but there are far too many obstacles to provide a fun and fluid experience.