LittleBigPlanet (LBP) is one of the more hyped games of the year, with numerous claims that this would be a title worth buying a PS3 for. Promising some solid platform gameplay, along with some very impressive creation tools, all entwined in a rather remarkable community aspect, LBP really does sound like one hell of a game. Well, it’s time to find out whether this is a planet worth exploring.
For those of you who haven’t seen or heard anything about LBP (shame on you!), the core gameplay revolves around a sort of 2D platformer. I say ‘sort of’, because whilst it is 2D, there are 3 different planes of movement; foreground, middle ground and background. You can switch between these planes by simply moving up or down, a simplistic idea that really does enhance the gameplay, with hidden items and routes that can only be accessed by switching the different planes at the right time. Aside from the different planes, the game is rather simple. You can move, jump, and grab onto objects, collect items, and that is just about your lot. Occasionally you can fly about on jetpacks and ride on vehicles, but the game really is all about standard platforming, which is a good thing, because the platforming is done well.
What really makes this platformer stand out is the fact that it is heavily based on physics, something that isn’t really done much in 2D platformers. Everything in the game behaves exactly how you would expect it too, only just slightly more over the top. It really is interesting to see, although it does mean that jumping can feel a bit floaty and imprecise at times. Another positive is that both the audio and art style of the game are incredibly original, with the whole game taking on a sort of patchwork, cloth look, coupled with some pretty catchy tunes. The environments look like nothing I have ever seen in a video game, and the playable character is genius. You play as Sackboy, who is, like his name suggests, a sack person, kind of like a ragdoll. You can customise your look by plastering different clothing on him, and even change the type of material that he is made out of. I dare you not to go “Wow!” the first time you see this game. It really is something special.
Because of this visual style the developers have been able to let their minds go wild with the level design. Whilst you will still come across water and fire based levels like most platformers, they will be like nothing you will have ever seen before. This great design is kept up throughout the entire story mode, which is something most games fail to do. Unfortunately the story mode only takes about 5-6 hours in the first playthrough. You can go back into the levels in order to collect more items which helps the replayability, as does the fact that you can play through the game in co-op.
Still, the main chunk of the gameplay doesn’t actually come from the story mode, it comes from the creation tools that the game offers. Quite literally, any level that you play through in single player, could have been built by you, using the creation tools. The items that you collect during the story mode are the items which you can then use to make your own levels. You can start with pre-built templates, or start from scratch. Once you get into the editor, the possibilities for your creation is nearly endless.You can plant objects down, decorate the objects with stickers, create vehicles, and all manner of different things. You can place in enemies, and even program them with the AI you want them to have, such as having them trigger chat or objects as you approach them, or having them patrol a certain route. It really is an impressive creation tool, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one side, because the creation tools are so in-depth, you really can do pretty much what you want. On the flip-side, due to the tools being so in-depth it can take a lot of time to make something worthwhile, which will likely put off a lot of the more casual players.
However, these casual players need not fear because if they don’t feel like making levels, they can always experience other people’s levels, thanks to some great community tools. Any user created levels can be uploaded to the internet for the rest of the world to enjoy. Simply browse the levels using the many different search criteria, select a level, and away you go! If you like that level you can save it to your hard drive, and even open up the level in the editor to have a fiddle around with it. You can even take the creations of other players, such as a vehicle, and then use that in your own levels. If you happen to like a user created level, you can ‘heart’ it, which will let people know that you think it is good. You can then view more levels made by that person, and even see what levels that person likes, or you can look up any levels that your friends liked. The variety of different ways to find content is really quite remarkable.
The bottom line is that LBP delivers in just about every way promised. It brings some solid platforming gameplay combined with some seriously impressive creation and community tools. If you own a PS3, you should get this game.