reviews\ Nov 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

LittleBigPlanet - PS3 - Review

In the short span of time that the PlayStation 3 console system has been in operation, there have been many great games that have come along. These games have spanned many genres, from shooter to role playing with various stops at genres in-between. How odd is it that perhaps the best game yet to be released on the platform is a side-scrolling game that is part platformer and high on charm and social elements?

LittleBigPlanet (LBP) is, far and away, the most dynamically creative game to grace the PS3 and yet, it is so simple that the lure it has can be mystifying. Sack Boy, the main character, oozes personality and charm, but those are extensions of the player’s own personality and charm.

And that’s what makes this title so special. On the surface it is a platformer, but when you get into the game, what you put into it comes back to you tenfold. You can jump into the community and work with others to solve the puzzles; in and of itself, this is a great element and worth the price of admission. But there are also the abilities to create your own levels and share them online. The community is every bit as creative as the developers, Media Molecule, in this regard.

When the game begins you have one option – the story mode. This requires you to complete the first three levels to unlock the grand experience that is to follow. While the first two levels are very easy, the third begins to delve into the depths of the game itself, with more platforming elements and timing sequences sandwiched in between. For example, you have to avoid ghosts (their touch is deadly) while getting up on platforms, leaping from platform to platform and avoiding giant stomping boots or using those boots to elevate you to the next level.

You do have a finite amount of lives, and you also have to collect items as you go. You see, each level has a certain percentage of collectible items, from costume accessories to stickers and balls that you merely pop for the sake of popping. You might go through a level, hit everything you can find only to be told you only collected 36% of the items there. That means some nice little searches that you can go back to when you revisit any level.

Then you can pull up your menu and have fun with the stickers, the character customization items at any time. Your Sack Boy (or Sack Girl) can truly take on a variety of looks and personality attributes. 

Part of the latter is due to the intuitive and rewarding control scheme. Hold down the L2 and R2 buttons and the thumbsticks will give you independent use of the arms. Want to disco like John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever? That is very doable.

The other controls are much like you would find in a real platforming game with some notable exceptions: X will allow you to jump, R1 grabs objects and the D-pad will change facial characteristics. You can shake the controller to doff that jetpack you have used to hover above barrels, pick them up and move them up to a bucket that when heavy enough will drop and open a door.

There are more than 20 levels in the game (and many more will be available online thanks to the community), and each of the levels is different from the others. And not only can you attempt to solo the levels, but multiplayer is available throughout the game.

When it comes to the sound and graphics of the game, this is simply superb. The narration is fun, and has the qualities that one would hear if a children’s book was narrated with adults in mind. Never derisive, but with wit underscoring the tone, this is wonderfully done. The graphics are a combination of what one might expect in the real world, with textures cut out and fastened to cardboard cutouts. Nothing threatening in the least, but rather entertaining eye candy that blossoms with life and joy.

Because the game is basically a side-scrolling game in terms of level designs, there are a few elements that can make the experience a bit tricky. Depth of field can sometimes be a little tough to realize. The camera is fixed to one angle and so you might have to try a few times before you actually line up with something you need to use, or jump or move across. The Sack Boy character moves well enough, but in some of the levels, you have to time jumps but know when to stop pushing forward on the movement button or you will land and then move off the platform you were intending to stop on.

When it comes to level creation, everything you have seen in the real game can be created by players. You have a full toolset and the creation tool lets you draw your shapes, attach them together, apply textures … well, in short, this suite of tools is so good, you will be able to create whatever kind of levels you can imagine. And the beauty of this whole creation process is that you can test as you go. This is important to test flaws in the design that may frustrate others more than create an entertaining experience.

The motto for LBP is “Play. Create. Share.” and the game scores very well on all those levels. This is more than a single-player experience – this is about community and playing together.

And LBP has managed to do what few other games have – it breaks demographic barriers easily. LittleBigPlanet is a robust game that is huge in concept, with endless replayability and a real sense of joy. It is a defining application for the PS3? Perhaps, and only time will tell on that account, but for now it might have to settle into just being one of the best games of the year.

Review Scoring Details for Little Big Planet

Gameplay: 9.7
Inspired gameplay that seems deceptively simple on the surface but belies the depth and joy of the game. Sure, there are load times into the scenes but each level is truly enchanting and entertaining. The player-created levels will only add to the gameplay.

Graphics: 9.5
The camera is set so you can’t look around at the environment to scan for hidden objects and because of the perspective, you can actually lose sight of Sack Boy at times. But the animations and physics of the world are first rate. The textures and lighting makes this game feel real and alive.

Sound: 9.0
The narration is wonderful and the sound effects are solid.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 9.6
The lead character is what you make of him or her, the levels are physics based and the texturing is so lifelike as to seem alive. Media Molecule has taken a platform game, made it remarkably three-dimensional and … well, inspired.

Multiplayer: 9.4
You have to get to complete the first three levels of the game to unlock the online multiplayer element and this will allow players a whole new gaming perspective that is both inviting and entertaining.

Overall: 9.7
LittleBigPlanet makes the most of the PS3 capabilities, whether in terms of the SIXAXIS controller or with the graphic prowess of the console. Is this a must-have game for the PS3? Absolutely.


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