(Sony for PS3 and PSP)
By Mike Delano
Can a game coast by on cuteness? LittleBigPlanet seemed to suggest so in 2008, when the game’s outrageously cute/indie/wry/clever/adorable style and mascot Sackboy slew critics. It certainly had more than just aesthetics going for it; the level creation tools were awesome and the art direction was inspired, but it was missing a crucial component, namely the tight, refined platforming gameplay needed to hold all of its other charms together. Seeing as it touts many of those same charms (overt cuteness, robust creation tools), ModNation Racers could have succumbed to the same pitfalls as LBP, but instead, it steers deftly around them. The core kart racing is breezy and satisfying, not to mention fairly strategic once you learn to balance the pros and cons of your boost meter, attacks, and weaponry. It also has a likable (if not terribly cool) personality that shines through in the creation tools and Career Mode, but the game’s real personality will be forged by the players, since ModNation goes to incredible lengths to foster a community spirit through the many elements that make up its in-game lobby, from simple online races to challenges to track sharing and more. The PSP version is impressive in how little it loses from its console counterpart, but be prepared to wrestle with the controls as none of the configurations feel very comfortable for on-the-go racing. In its true console form, however, ModNation Racers is an already great game that seems to have only just left the starting line in terms of possibility.