by Chris Scott
reviewed on PS3
Little big what?
LittleBigPlanet is arguably the biggest release by Sony this holiday season. The hype for this game reached epic levels amongst the gaming community, yet Sony is hoping that the Media Molecule developed title will reach out to the more casual market as well. But what exactly is LittleBigPlanet? That simple little question is actually quite difficult to answer and the answer is actually quite complex.
The simple answer to what LittleBigPlanet is that the game is, at its core, a platformer. Much like Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog before it, LittleBigPlanet features a loveable protagonist, Sackboy, running and jumping through perilous locales on a quest that is paper thin in the plot department. But leaving the explanation at that is unfair to LittleBigPlanet because it is truly so much more. Sony has been sprouting the mantra of, “Play…Create…Share…” for quite some time but up until we could actually experience the game in action it was hard to get a grasp on what that saying actually meant.
Let me be quite clear here and say that you will be playing the game 100% of the time, and you can get great enjoyment out of just playing the game as a platformer, but to get the full experience that LittleBigPlanet offers, one will have to delve into the deep set of creation tools at their disposal, as well as get involved in the LittleBig community. To make it somewhat easier to understand, let us examine each piece of the LittleBig slogan individually.
Controls and physics
LittleBigPlanet, as I have stated previously, is a physics-based platformer. Platforming fans will feel right at home with the controls, although they may find them to be slightly looser than they are used to. Due to the physics-based nature of the gameplay, gravity and momentum are two key elements that will affect the way you play the game. For instance, in some cases, especially where precision jumping is required, the controls can be a bit frustrating, resulting in what may seem like unfair deaths. But once players adjust to the physics of the gameplay, they should not have much trouble, although completing every level without dying is quite a feat.
No high drama, but great gameplay
There are multiple ways to play LittleBigPlanet but most people are going to start off by playing the story mode. Players should not expect a deeply engrossing story, though, because LBP’s seems like a throwback to when “The Princess is in another castle” seemed like high drama. Players will generally be given some reason for why they are in each level but not much more than that. The story does attempt to try itself together over the last few levels but it all feels quite tacked on. Fortunately the actual gameplay is endearing enough that the deficiencies of the story are completely discounted.
The gameplay is very go-from-point-A-to-point-B, but how you get from point to point is very much up to you. A lot of times it’s very evident how the designers intend for you to proceed, but many times an alternate, unconventional route is also available. At one point during my playthrough a perilous gauntlet stood before my sackboy, but by playing around in the environment, I ended up on a ledge above the gauntlet and casually walked to the next check point. Exploration is just as much a part of the gameplay as the platforming is and Media Molecule has included a number of incentives to explore the world they have created as prize bubbles litter the landscape.
Collect prizes to customize and create
Collecting items in platforming games is almost as old as the genre itself. I remember collecting coins in Super Mario Bros., 100 of which would grant you a new life, something that could come in quite handy as you traversed the Mushroom Kingdom. The way Media Molecule has implemented this tried and true gameplay mechanic into their game is ingenious. In LittleBigPlanet you will be collecting prize bubbles, which contain exactly what you would expect, prizes. The prizes in the bubbles can be used either to customize the look of your Sackboy or to create your own levels. I have a feeling that most gamers will be searching high and low for every last prize bubble. Of course prizes aren’t relegated to just the story-based levels made by Media Molecule as players can get user-created prizes in user-created levels, but more on that in a little bit.
No Pros and Cons at this time