Now I have to confess, I am a newcomer to the world of Sack Boy and his chums. I saw the trailers for Little Big Planet 1 and it didn't appeal to me. So when I was given this title to review, I approached it with a little caution. Having loaded up the disc and installing it, I was then entertained by the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry as he narrated the opening movie.
This intro sets the tone very well for what was to come, and was of course laced with the humour that we have come to expect of the great man (minus the innuendo!). This had me thinking, perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye after all.
Indeed without the story it would be just another racer, at least it gives you the idea that there are objectives to be completed and there's a reason for the silliness that follows!
So the story is simple my friends. A group of marauding invaders are stealing anything that is not bolted down, and we mean ANYTHING. From trees, to crowns, to animals etc etc.
Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to go out there and beat the invaders and regain the lost items. How do you do this? Well by racing of course! It's as simple as that and that may lead you to thinking that there's not much depth to the game. Far from it!
The first racing challenges are presented too you by the Queen, and off you go. After a brief and entertaining tutorial, off you go to race the marauders on a variety of tracks and also face some challenges beside racing and regaining those missing items.
OK when it comes to the races themselves these are fast and fun and take place over a wide variety of tracks and environments. The first world alone has some 17 events to compete in from straight races, to time trials and the conclusion to the first world, a demolition derby style event.
Racing itself it straight out of the Mario Kart style race games. Whilst racing you can collect power ups and weapons and use them to discombobulate your opponents and in true Dick Dastardly style, get an advantage over them.
These range from a giant boxing glove that can sweep all aside with a mighty blow, to a lightning bolt that can target multiple opponents. Be advised though, you will literally have to watch your back. An icon will appear at the back of your vehicle warning of an incoming attack. Providing you have a weapon you can intercept and destroy any such attacks by pressing down on the left stick.
This will enable you to aim behind and providing you are quick enough, with your weapon of choice, you can destroy an incoming missile. Alas stopping an incoming electrical attack is not possible. You you'll just have to take the hit, dust yourself down and get racing again.
There are plenty of power ups to be had, but I'll leave those to your good selves to discover for yourself. True I cannot really spoil the plot of this game, but I don't want to reveal all of the weapons that are at your disposal.
Your base of operations is your pod. This looks a little dull and bland at the beginning, in fact it's just you and the car and nothing much to look at. That will soon change. The parcels that you collect whilst racing add items to your collection, and these can be used to decorate your pod. These range from stickers, trees, and flags and items that can alter the costume of Sack Boy or change the driver to a different character altogether.
You'll also unlock different kinds of car, one shaped like a skull for instance and another that looks like its carved from rock. There's a sort of Wacky Races style vibe going on here throughout the game and that's no bad thing. You unlock stuff at a rapid rate, so keep checking your pod and study the inventory menu to see what you have collected along the way.
But wait amigo, what about the creation side of things? After all that's what Little Big Planet one and two were all about! Well it's there alright and you can design your own circuits and choose to race them by yourself, with your selected friends or indeed share them with the world wide virtual community.
Items that you have collected from racing may also be used to decorate and furnish tracks. Picking up a cow for instance, doesn't mean you have just collected one, no you have multiple cows to use. These can decorate the roadside, or indeed be employed as obstacles. It's cow versus car if you want, three guesses as to which comes off worse!
The creation tools enable you to select conditions such as is the race at sunrise, sunset, or at night. Is it in the desert, ice fields or mountains, or jungle. It's up too you, there are more options here than you can shake a wrench at!
There are so many tracks out there already created, that you won't run out of tracks to race on once the main game is done with. Consider that there are at least seven worlds in the game itself and multiple events on each world, and then you can add the created circuits out there...so literally there are many many hours of racing fun to be had here.
Creation of tracks is easy as anything and a novice can use this with little or no instruction. If stuck Mister Fry is there to teach you gently and with his trademark wit, the ins and outs of track creation.
It is very very user friendly, and unlike Gran Turismo 5's track editor won't have you cursing the interface and be left wondering why the game hasn't saved your circuit leaving you to have to go through it all again. Not happy? Then delete. If happy save it and use it for you and your friends in private race parties, or share with the whole world. You can mark other people's efforts, rate them as favourites etc etc. Favourite tracks can be accessed at any time. Fancy a change and a gamble? Then just hit the random track option.
Many customized tracks out there may seem familiar as many players have recreated their favourite tracks from Super Mario Kart or other racing games. There was even a fairly accurate recreation (although scaled down) of Silverstone! The world is your oyster here, treat it as a blank canvas and let the imagination go! The tracks may go underground, into the air, loop around as much as you like so it's like racing a thrill ride at Alton Towers!
Whilst we are on the subject, online racing is smooth as anything. No visible lag, no drop out or pop up issues. In game racing is the same. No frame rate issues, loading times are minimal and the game is as smooth as you'd want. I know what you are thinking, there must be flaws, there must be issues?
Well for a change, I can honestly say no. The a.i is fair and is well balanced and gets sharper as you get better but it does so at a favourable rate, and even if the race seems a little hard, you'll soon get to grips with the race tracks and you'll be racing across the finishing line in no time. (So what if you splat a few cars along the way, heck it's half the fun!)
OK it does NOT give you anything that you have not seen before, but there is a freshness to this game that makes you realize that this is not just a Mario Kart clone or a copy of Sonic Racing. It's traditional Karting fun but all of those creative options offer almost limitless variety.
This game came as a pleasant surprise and I now would at least like to try the Little Big Planet platform games. Something tells me that I could find them as fun and as engaging as Little Big Planet Karting is. An enjoyable fun game that will provide many hours of fun whether with friends or in solo play.