My first reaction: "Why?"
There are precisely nine billion Mario Kart wannabes in the universe already, so why do we need one starring various Sackboys? What's more, even though you could safely assume that there'd be a ton of customisation in this particular kart racer, didn't Sony already do that with ModNation Racers?
A hands-on experience with an early version of LittleBigPlanet Karting didn't really answer those questions, but it did show itself to be a reliably fun kart game, ticking off all the boxes you'd expect from such a respected IP: tight controls, integration of various LittleBigPlanet-themed worlds and in-level objects, a variety of weapons, and so on.
There will be a wide assortment of worlds to race in, cherry picking from previous LittleBigPlanet games as well as introducing new ones. You can play with up to four players locally, eight players online, and - I always like this one - two players locally versus a bunch of others online.
That's all well and good, but still: Why? The answer to that comes, perhaps unsurprisingly, via the level creation tools that are a hallmark of the LittleBigPlanet games.
They're looking impressive here: it's basically the fully-featured tools found in LBP2, only now in the third dimension.
For a start, the tools are obviously geared up to make the creation of racing levels easy. Players can scroll around an empty field and populate it with a huge range of items, choosing the size of the track, customising its path, and so on. But it goes deeper: you don't have to stick to pre-made elements at all; I was shown one level where a beta tester had crafted a haunted forest entirely out of custom-made objects, all made in-game.
You can make your own weapons if you don't like the basic ones; you can mess with the physics if you want to set things in space, or underwater, or wherever else; you can dream up new AI types to make them more or less aggressive; you can even craft your own intro and outro sequences for the levels.
And then it goes even deeper still: don't feel like playing from a third-person behind-the-shoulder viewpoint? Then just make a level that's more like a top-down old-school racer. Or a side-scroller. Or anything else that tickles your fancy.
Things got mad from there as I was shown a variety of levels made by beta testers. Someone had made a side-scrolling shoot'em up; another had made a platformer in the vein of LittleBigPlanet, in a weird circular twist. And someone else was working on, of all things, a first person shooter.
It's all quite crazy, but one thing's for sure: the tools are here for creative types to indulge in whatever they like, building on everything that was in LittleBigPlanet 2 and optimising it all for racing (or anything else, really). The tools are also meant to be fast and easy to use, crucially: I was shown a frankly impressive level made by a 9 year-old, although I've always suspected children are better at this sort of thing.
As you'd hope, all DLC already bought for previous LBP games can be brought into LBP Karting free of charge. This includes the cool Journey outfit - and awesomely, one of the developers is actually using the tools in the game to re-create Journey with LBP Karting. That should be a sight to see.
So there you go: a kart racer that's solid on its own, but really quite a thing to behold once users around the world sink their teeth into the creation tools. This goes way, way beyond something like ModNation Racers, and it'll be interesting to see if it can live up to its promise.By Tristan Clark