LittleBigPlanet

When you're told about something magical nearly two years in advance, does the force of time diminish the impact made when that something finally arrives? In the case of LittleBigPlanet, unveiled to the world years before finally arriving on Playstation 3, the game faced a near-impossible task of living up to the expectations of a growing fan base. Next to Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet is, by far, one of the most hype-targeted games coming to Playstation 3 and, remarkably, LittleBigPlanet appears to be doing a reasonable job of meeting expectations, with numerous glowing reviews already written, and many satisfied gamers already busy creating their own levels. That said, there's a great deal to discuss in the world of LittleBigPlanet, most of it positive, but the experience is, to many, not the level of perfection that had been anticipated.

LittleBigPlanet

The game begins, brilliantly, with tutorials voiced by the inimitable Stephen Fry. You are swiftly told how to access the in-game options that allow you to change outfits, apply stickers and generally cause mayhem. Basic movement is, of course, described, and methods of interaction with the level (such as key sticker placement, switches and types of material that can be grabbed, slid on or bounced over) are explained. Though it'll cause immense irritation if you lose your save and have to replay the introductory tutorials, they're very enjoyable the first time, and do an excellent job of introducing you to the world of the Sackpeople (the strange knitted creatures that inhabit LittleBigPlanet). There are some nice touches to the controls, designed for partying with other people. For instance, you can cause your Sackboy to change facial expression with a quick D-Pad push, with a range of smiles, scared faces, angry looks and other silly options to choose from. In addition, each arm can be controlled independently, by holding corresponding shoulder buttons, which can lead to moments of hilarity with friends.

That said, when you're finally unleashed upon LittleBigPlanet's proper levels, cracks start to appear in the controls. The physics system adopted for the game may satisfy some realism boxes and might be very clever, but that doesn't always equate to fun and playable. On the contrary, in LittleBigPlanet, it's not unusual to find yourself bouncing up and down repeatedly trying to get over the same obstacle, wondering which particular part of the physics has decided it's not allowed to happen this time. Similarly, there are several parts of the game where the objectives are not particularly hard or challenging, they're just made unpleasant by irritating controls. In addition, there are essentially three layers to the largely two-dimensional world of LittleBigPlanet, where sackpeople can move forwards or backwards in the screen slightly. The annoying side to this is that obstacles in the level can automatically trigger movement into or out of the screen, which can lead to some irritating accidents. Compared with the movement of 3-D platformers like Ratchet and Clank, or the 2-D precision of Bionic Commando: Rearmed, LittleBigPlanet's controls are quite infuriating, and provide one of the greatest points of criticism for the game.

LittleBigPlanet

Fortunately, on the occasions where the controls aren't causing irritation, actually playing the levels can be extremely good fun. The levels available in the game can, if you have the time, be made from scratch using the level creator, which is particularly impressive, since the levels are quite varied, interactive and often pretty. Each of the main areas in the game, spread across continents of LittleBigPlanet, has its own theme (for example, ice and snow, desert, grassland, cityscape and more), and is comprised with three or so levels and a scattering of short bonus arenas. There's actually a reasonable amount of content to play through even before you consider user content, which is pleasing. Actually finishing every level and collecting the many prize bubbles scattered throughout could take a considerable amount of time, especially since a large number of prizes can only be reached if you have more than one player taking part in the level (since many puzzles will require a helping hand). Though lastability is obviously a good thing, it could also be a source of frustration for many, since the creation of your own levels will be limited by what objects you've managed to find, severely limiting those that aren't interested in the main game.

As expected, the graphics can never really match the greatness of something like Metal Gear Solid 4, since everything needs to be a user-configurable object. There's no pre-rendered cutscenes of amazingness, or Final Fantasy-style FMV, the game is simply a huge, decorated tool kit. Even so, LittleBigPlanet does look very lovely, with extremely sharp visuals, vibrant colours, and almost no graphical glitches to speak of (a fairly major miracle given the flexibility people have with the tools available). The sackperson costumes are also very varied and often quite detailed. More costumes are expected to become available on the store, featuring Chimeran outfits, Metal Gear Solid costumes and even Killzone 2 masks, with the latter's release likely to coincide with the launch of Killzone 2 itself. The only real criticism that can be levelled at LittleBigPlanet's visuals is that the game plays things fairly safe. There are no big risks or brave effects; instead, everything is kept simple, and achieved with great success.

In addition to Stephen Fry's brilliant inclusion, sound plays an important role in all aspects of the game, with music and effects put to excellent use. As hoped, the various sounds in the game can also be collected, just like the objects, and used in the creation of new levels. Though there were initial troubles with one part of the soundtrack, possibly causing the delay of the game's release, the music available is very good and, actually quite perky almost all the time, much like the resident sackpeople. Though there the score gets more tense and dramatic in the latter stages of the game, the entire effects package and music base seems dedicated to making LittleBigPlanet a happy place, filled with little critters that are determined to have a good time, all the time. To be honest, there's nothing wrong with that.

LittleBigPlanet

All that fluffy coating aside, what really matters to most people purchasing LittleBigPlanet is the level creator. The game was popular when it first appeared on the scene, when it was a simple platformer, but the drive for exciting user-created content is what had made LittleBigPlanet such an exciting prospect. Thankfully, for the most part, the level creator in the game is a huge success, and a quick tour of the top-rated levels in the community area will confirm this, with many user-generated areas actually outdoing the main levels of the game by a significant margin, even in the beta phase. Flexibility is clearly not an issue, with users generating levels that range from a calculator (implementing mechanical binary logic to perform simple mathematics, with switches and levers that span an entire level area), through to incredible roller coasters with timing and precision that would make a modern computer blush. The range of options available is so great that users have already managed to re-create levels from other famous games including Mario and Tetris. The only minor downside is that this sort of diversity comes at a cost: development time. In order to make a serious level that can be enjoyed properly by all, it could take many tens of hours to perfect. Unfortunately, there are many who won't put in the effort, leading to many short, uninspiring efforts. To counter that though, there are rating systems in place and a search function that should allow users to filter away the uninspired rubbish. A more major criticism is that the picture importer is absent from the game's release, with no facility to import pictures from your HDD to decorate your level. This is particularly infuriating since this very feature was used to great effect in presenting E3 material in 2008. It is at least possible to import pictures from the Playstation Eye though, which does offer its own creative possibilities.

Once a level is completed, it can easily be published in the world of LittleBigPlanet. There it can be played and rated by all, if it's ever found by the search function. More importantly, you can spend time searching for levels to play yourself, and there's some incredible stuff to experience. You also needn't be alone in either the offline or community stuff, since you can have people on the same console, people from your friends list or even total strangers playing together in parties of up to four sack people, charging through levels together and finding the various prize bubbles. For major fans of cooperative play, this is an extremely welcome feature, particularly since there's little reason to be competitive with eachother. Though there are some timed races, most of the levels will simply encourage teamwork and a fun party atmosphere, making a nice change from the tense thrills of Warhawk and Resistance.

LittleBigPlanet

In summary, LittleBigPlanet is an incredible achievement with potential that will continue to be exploited in amazing new ways for months to come. It will be an exciting game to watch evolve as users get more and more effective with the level creator, and there's certainly very little to rival this particular experience on PS3 or on any other platform. There is certainly room for improvement, largely based around irritating character physics, but LittleBigPlanet is a game with much to be proud of. In addition, the game will likely continue to grow, with more and more content made available. This potential positive is, however, one final point to criticize, since LittleBigPlanet has very swiftly started a wave of over-priced, useless content. With high prices charged for simple costume additions, it's a shame to see LittleBigPlanet abuse the Playstation Store. Some character costumes are set to cost almost as much as a complete game from the Store, which seems like quite a betrayal for a game based around user content and happy, happy fun fun. It can only be hoped that LittleBigPlanet content pricing will improve, or it could severely taint what should be one of the most enjoyable experiences on the console.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Media Molecule

Players:

1-4

Online:

1-4

Release:

2008-11-05

Trophies:

70

Review summary

Gameplay:

Great fun online, amazing scope for creation

Graphics:

Stunningly beautiful and colourful

Sound:

Great music, voicework and effects

Lastability:

Endless possibilities, despite poor platforming

8.7

Supernova

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User comments

MeteorStorm Random Quote Picker

QuoterQuoter

Otacon

Hold it, Snake. Time to change the disc. I know, I know. It's a pain, but you need to swap Disc 1 for Disc 2. You see the disc labelled 2?

Solid Snake

Uhh... No.

Otacon

Huh? Oh, wait! We're on Playstation 3! It's a Blu-Ray Disc. Dual-layered too. No need to swap.