Sony has been slowly cultivating the PlayStation 3 audience by focusing on specific types of gamers. Hardcore at first, branching into motion gamers with the Sony Move later. Most recently they seem to be aiming to expand into the more family-friendly competitor’s audience. The latest two games, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and LittleBIGPlanet Karting, to squarely compete against the established party brawling and karting games, so how do they stand up? Let's get the party started and see.
In LittleBIGPlanet Karting the imagisphere is being invaded by "The Hoard" who wants to make off with all of the imagisphere's prizes and hoard them. They do so by driving around in karts so fast that Sackboy can't stop them. That is until one of them crashes their kart into a tree. Quickly Sackboy commandeers the kart as his own and starts entering in kart races around the imagisphere to not only gather back the items taken by the Hoard, but to defeat them at their own game.
Gameplay and Controls
United Front Games are the developers for LittleBIGPlanet Karting. For players familiar with their game, ModNation Racers, they will be right at home with the controls of LittleBIGPlanet Karting. United Front Games took the core from their game and working with LittleBIGPlanet creators Media Molecule, built LittleBIGPlanet Karting. There are differences besides the obvious overall looks. Weapons in LittleBIGPlanet Karting do not level up like in ModNation Racers, but weapons can be used to block incoming ordnance from other players.
While the racing is similar to ModNation Racers, the interface is completely influenced by LittleBIGPlanet. Your pod home, the "popit" for selecting outfits and karts, and even the planets for storyline, community and your own creations, are all here in their familiar settings.
Graphics and Sound
LittleBIGPlanet Karting’s visual keep the whimsical realistic clutter that has been a hallmark of the series. Kudos to United Front for matching the whimsy. In the audio department they also keep the same quirky style. Many sound effects and similar music themes carry over. Even Stephen Fry is along again as the narrator.
LittleBIGPlanet Karting is a blast to play and has the general vibe of the LittleBIGPlanet series. It just feels a little weird playing Sackboy as he karted around over and over. It’s not a big thing, just a little off. One thing I do wish they had done was put all the multiplayer tracks in a separate menu from the storyline; it would make for easier navigation for playing while having friends over. For those looking for tracks from other games, the user created tracks has you covered. It didn’t take us long to find recreations of some of the most popular tracks from other karting franchises. One track we found even managed to recreate the weapons and power-ups using the in-game weapons and power-ups; that is how powerful and varied the creation engine in LittleBIGPlanet Karting is.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
The story for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is actually different for each All-Star. For example, both Nathan Drake and Sly Cooper are in a search of treasure, while "good" Cole MacGrath is looking for people to team with him against "the Beast." Each character's story references their origin game and settings.
Gameplay and Controls
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale controls are pretty simple to pick up. Along with movement on your choice of the D-pad or left thumbstick; you get three attack buttons, one super attack button, one jump button and one block button,. For those people that only use arcade style fight sticks for their fight games, rejoice, arcade fight sticks are included as an option. Whether you use the game pad or the fight stick you have the option of setting a custom key layout if you do not like the default layout.
Like any fighting game the fighters are a mixed bag of fighting styles. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. For example Colonel Radec is best as a distant fighter, while Big Daddy excels in close quarters. Each player will find a fighter that is best tailored to their style of playing.
Graphics and Sound
Stephen Fry, gets a little double duty since Sackboy is in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale also. In fact almost all the original voice actors reprise their roles, including of course, Nolan North as Nathan Drake. A majority of the music and sound effects come from the games represented by the cast of characters. Some hidden bits pop up too. In the Hades arena, based on God of War, characters and music from Patapon show up. Graphics run the same gambit as the audio. Each character and themed arena looks like it comes from the game it referencing; the realism of Uncharted to the 2D cartoon look of PaRappa the Rapper.
I am still just a button masher in fighting games. I don’t seem to ever have the time to practice moves and combos. Even so PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is welcoming enough that anyone of any skill level will have a chance to win. I had a couple friends of mine, who are big into fighting games, come over and play. Both were pretty impressed with the game. They were able to quickly judge what they felt were upper and lower tier characters. Funnily enough they both felt Nariko from Heavenly Sword was a “cheap win” character since they could easily win with her; in my hands though she was a bit of a struggle. I actually found Toro Inoue, from Together Everywhere!, to fit my style best. I even managed to beat both of my friends with Toro.
At the time of this writing I had not gotten to play the PSVita version of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It will be part of Sony’s line up of “Cross-Buy” titles. When you by the PlayStation 3 version, you automatically get the PSVita Version and you will be able to play against players on not only the PSVita, but also players on the PlayStation 3. It’s a great idea from Sony. The PSVita has certainly shown it is a capable system, so I look forward to it.
These two very different games share one thing, parties and friends. Yes both games are good to play by yourself and if you are a fan of kart racing or 2D brawl fighting games they will be right up your alley. They are so much more fun when you sit on the couch and play them with friends. The friendly rivalries, the “did you see that!” moments, etc. are what these games were made for and they fit the bill perfectly.
So how do they rate? For fun and capturing the feel of the LittleBIGPlanet series, but at the same time feeling just a bit off the mark and the need to separate the multiplayer from the single I give LittleBIGPlanet Karting a 4.5 out of 5. Also for fun, with a solid fighting base, while managing to effectively pull together multiple styles, but with some balance issues that will be tweaked over time PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale gets a 4.75 out of 5.
LittleBIGPlanet Karting is rated E for Everyone for Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is tated T for Teen for Crude Humor, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB)
Both LittleBIGPlanet Karting and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale are available now exclusively for the Sony PlayStation 3. For more information see the web sites for either LittleBIGPlanet Karting or PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.