Adventures in Discount Gaming: Part 2

ModNation_Racers_Fan_Wallpaper_by_Permafry42Last time we looked at an under the radar Playstation Move game. This time, we dig into a game that was originally billed as the Littlebigplanet of cart racers (before there was a Littlebigplanet cart racer). Does the game quality get any better? Let’s see.

Let’s start this by saying, I’m not a creator, I’m a consumer. I am fully aware of the vast pool of talented creators out there and I respect the ish out of them. Does this vast pool add to my enjoyment of a game? No. I like Littlebigplanet because of the gameplay and charm, not the user created garbage.

Now that that has been established, let’s talk about ModNation Racers, or as I’ve grown to call it, Load Screen: Gaiden. On the surface MNR looks and feels like a solid Mario Kart clone, with a deep creation system. Once you dig deeper into the experience and play more and more of the career mode the “solid” parts of this Mario Kart clone begins to melt and the “deep” nature of the creation system seems nearly impenetrable.

All Mods, both character and cart, are cosmetic, which is probably the best way to go, but even Mario Kart has character and cart traits that allow you to choose your driving style. Ironically, MNR has the most basic, surface level driving style adjustments I’ve ever seen in a racing game. There are two sliders: a drift slider and a speed/acceleration slider. These sliders operate independent of the cart or character mods and consequently are incredibly hard to find. I literally had to look it up on the internet. That’s weird.

I mention all that because the Career Mode is incredibly hard, even on Casual. In good cart racers, the powerups are designed to keep the front runners in check, to bunch the player up and keep everything competitive. I’m sure that’s what the designers were shooting for, but that is not how the game plays out. If you are in last at the end of the first lap, your time would be better spent restarting the race. The power-ups don’t really affect any players more than a position or two ahead of you.
With the power-ups being frustration and ineffective and there being a distinct lack of control options, its hard to recommend MNR as a cart racer for Mario Kart fans. Without that stamp of approval, it doesn’t really matter how many bolts of lighting my character’s helmet has. I’m not going to elaborate any on this next point, but the load times in this game are absolutely atrocious.

I hate that I didn’t like the game more because it does have a interesting aesthetic and charm, but if the racing isn’t fun, its really hard to recommend. Oddly enough, with so much going on in the menus and creation stations and shops and tutorials, when the game has to just sit back and be a game, it can’t quite pull it off. Is it worth the $3 I spent on it, sure, why not?

On the other side of the coin, creators will absolutely love the creation tools. Nearly anything is possible with them. Opening the user created section of the character page reveals a who’s who gallery of unlicensed 3rd party characters. I drove around as Shadow the Hedgehog for about half the game. People who are into that kind of stuff will have a blast.

I don’t want to get all markety and stuff but part of the appeal of Littlebigplanet is Sack-boy. He’s the face of the franchise. There is no MNR equivalent to Sack-boy which leads to this game, where you can literally have one of a trillion different face designs, not having a face at all.

Next up we shoot some dudes in one of the least anticipated yet still most disappointing games of 2012…check it out!

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