LittleBigPlanet (PS Vita)
Back in 2007 Sony released LittleBigPlanet for PS3. During its development it had a code name of The Next Big Thing which clearly put a lot of emphasis on this being a key title for Sony and something different to the norm. When it arrived LBP was praised for its high quality gameplay, presentation and scope with minor criticisms of aspects such as the level design tool.
When we next saw the franchise it was in the form of a PSP version which contained a new Story mode and once again the game received a good reception from consumers and the press, though not quite to the level of the original.
Now with Christmas approaching we are beginning to see the years main launch period kick in and a key title for the PS Vita is the latest LittleBigPlanet. Following the same concept as previous versions this is an all new game and makes full use of the PS Vita functionality such as touch, motion and camera. Today we find out if it is the latest game to be a must buy for PS Vita.
At its core LittleBigPlanet is a platform game, there is a whole load more wrapped around it but we take control of a character called Sackboy and our goal, as is so often the case, is to save the world from the games big boss. In this universe that is the puppeteer.
To do this we must make our way through a series of side scrolling levels which have depth to them, allowing us to move towards and away from the screen. Along the way we must solve puzzles, defeat enemies, explore and collect items. These collectable items are key to some of the games features as they allow us to tweak the appearance of our character, decorate our "home" and create our own levels for sharing with the LittleBigPlanet online community. it is also possible to take pictures using the PS Vita camera to use and share too.
Trophies are awarded along the way and each level rated too with gameplay varying all the time such as gate levels which see us race through against the clock, or mini games including whack a mole and tetris style action.
Key to the gameplay in LittleBigPlanet on PS Vita is the control system which makes full use of the functionality on the console. Every button is used as is the front touch screen and the rear touch pad. We can for example move items by dragging on the front screen, or twist them to spin. Elsewhere we can tap on the back pad to push an item forward and then push the front screen to return it into the original location.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in LittleBigPlanet are some of the best on the PS Vita. Each different environment has its own style and the animation of the characters is well rendered. Plenty of detail can be seen throughout the game and mini-cut scenes as well as video all have plenty of character and quality.
For audio the game offers a voiceover by the actor Stephen Fry and other characters have their dialogue (or noise) subtitled to ensure we are always in the know. Themed background music accompanies each zone and the sound effects are suitably crazy fitting in with each level.
It is fair to say that LittleBigPlanet isn't a game which immediately throws the player into an action packed scenario but it does instantly offer a unique character in its presentation. It is also very slick, being voiced over from the main menu which merges into the gameplay and from there into the wider game world. From there we spend much of our time in the first zone learning skills and game mechanics while solving little puzzles which prepare us for future challenges. This is a great approach and while it can feel slightly frustrating and slow there really is no other way to easily teach the player about the power they have to control.
That control is one of the huge successes of LittleBigPlanet, every button has a use and the touch functionality is implemented better here than any other game we have played. As the levels progress the combination of traditional stick and button control mixes so well with touch that we see our character flow through the levels grabbing, moving, etc while we push, pull and move the environment around them. When speed is then involved the game moves very much to genius and is a joy to play and watch.
Adding some challenge to the play are numerous puzzles and while levels can be long and time consuming it is always possible to dip in and out of the mini-games which are unlocked along the way.
Despite all this positivity there are aspects of the game which will not appeal to everyone. Firstly some may find the game a little cutesy, elsewhere the ability to create levels won't appeal to all and the online community interaction is certainly aimed at social media users which isn't necessarily every gamers cup of tea. That said, the single player mode is suitably long so that we get value from it, regardless of how much creation, sharing and interaction we do. Then for those who are interested, Sony have essentially given us the tools to build our own game within the game, 30 levels in fact.
We also loved the games presentation which, other than the occasional framerate issue, was packed with detail, variation and character. Something which is only enhanced by the voiceover from Stephen Fry which contains some very witty lines.
Slow to start with and some may be put off by the online/social aspects of the game but the single player mode is strong throughout and on occasion a work of genius.