Who doesn't love Mario Kart? Well, OK, some people can't stand the way the power-ups mean you can be winning one second then last a few moments later. But most of us love the fact that it's a racing game that everyone can play. Whether it's you and some mates all sat on the same sofa, playing split-screen, or you against the rest of the gaming world online, something about Mario Kart has stuck, meaning the same basic formula has remained great fun for years. You'd think copying it would be easy, but there's a reason other games in the genre haven't had similar success. ModNation Racers, the exclusive PS3 kart racer from Sony and United Front Games, is the latest to try its hand at the ever popular arcade racing experience.
One of the biggest hurdles ModNation Racers faces is the fact that you don't get recognisable characters to race around as or themed courses to race at. Instead of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser and co, you get strange anthropomorphic plush-toy-like creations that can be customised to reflect your own personality. While Sony doesn't have the wealth of famous, family friendly characters Nintendo has, an all-stars racing line-up would have added some much needed likeability and personality to the package. Still, the character creation tool is easy to use and allows everyone to race as their own Mod or Mod-ette.
This creation runs through to the karts themselves, too, with a variety of body kits, wheels, engines and accessories able to be combined to form crazy contraptions. The more races you win and objectives you achieve on the track, the more parts you have to use in the creation suite. You're not free to sculpt something exactly as you wish, but the variety of karts on show already, purely in the test network alone, suggests there's plenty of scope for originality.
All this character and car customisation is good, but it's not a patch on the quite brilliant track editing suite. Whereas we've seen level creation done well in the likes of LittleBigPlanet, in ModNation Racers the tools are so easy to use that anyone could put together a drivable track in minutes. This is going to be key to your enjoyment of the game, as it's by far the title's defining feature.
I'm not arty in the slightest and got bored after a few hours of messing about with the level creator in LittleBigPlanet, but I had a good time making fantasy tracks in ModNation. How professional the final track is will depend on how much time you spend placing environmental objects and adjusting the lay of the land, but it's perfectly feasible to create something and be racing on it with other people in under 10 minutes. For that United Front should be highly commended.
The ModNation hub, a drivable menu of sorts, lets you access all the game has to offer. The best characters, karts and tracks are all put on display, while hot laps and the like are easily challengeable. If you like what you see you can leave feedback or rate creations, and there's obviously the option to download and try out what others have made.