LittleBigPlanet PlayStation 3
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Media Molecule
Release Date: Out Now
Games that have their own identity and don't appear to be influenced by other games are not uncommon, although they are in the minority. Games that have their own identity and that allow you to stamp your identity on them are extremely rare however. LittleBigPlanet is one of these extremely rare games which comes across as a work of genius and, perhaps more importantly, it also gives you the tools to create your own work of genius. With such interest being shown in LittleBigPlanet (LBP) during its development it's probably been easy to lose sight of the fact that the game is essentially a platform game. The platform game genre isn't one that usually sets the pulse racing but LBP isn't only a great platform game in its own right, it also gives you the tools to create wonderful platform game levels yourself. In fact with a lot of imagination you can even create levels that move outside of the normal boundaries of a platform game.
In the game's Story mode you'll play through eight themed worlds and each of these worlds has a few levels in addition to some bonus levels. There isn't a real storyline as such but you'll play through the eight worlds because they are so wonderfully designed and also because you'll acquire a mountain of items that you can use to create your own levels and to customise your very own Sackboy (or Sackgirl of course). It will only take you around six hours to play through each of the Story mode levels, although you may want to return to them and make sure you have obtained every last item you can find. Several sections in the levels can only be completed when playing with two players so you'll want to revisit the levels again when a friend is at hand to accompany you through them. Online leaderboards are kept for each of the levels and you can always replay the levels in an attempt to place higher on them.
LittleBigPlanet is a game that positively encourages you to be creative. Even the main character in the game, Sackboy, is essentially a blank canvas on to which you can paint a personality of your choosing. The ability to create your own levels and play those that others have created (assuming your PS3 is online of course) is really what makes the game so special. The level creation tools are excellent and you can create levels that are extremely intricate. All you need is lots of both imagination and time. Using the creation tools is pretty straightforward and knocking up a simple level won't take you too long at all. Creating a level that you or anyone else would want to play will take much longer however and will definitely take hours rather than minutes. Some user created levels that you can play do look great though and thanks to a rating system, you can choose to play the highly rated levels without having to wade through the masses of mediocre ones.
LBP isn't perfect and there are some aspects of the game that aren't quite as good as they could have been. The controls don't feel as tight as they would in a Mario game but thankfully, for the most part, this isn't a problem as the game doesn't always require total precision like some of the Mario games. Creating your own levels is a very satisfying experience but it's definitely not for those who just want to spend five minutes doing it. It's time consuming to create a decent level that looks good and there's quite a bit to get to grips with. Most user created levels aren't as elaborate as those included with the game and that's perfectly understandable because of the level of complexity on offer. You can play in a level with three other players online. The problem is that there is frequently an excessive amount of lag and slowdown when playing the game with other players that it's just not worth it because it can make timing even fairly simply jumps an absolute nightmare.
The graphics are superb and the quality of the textures, which are life-like, is outstanding. The game also has some outstanding physics modelling, even if it's occasionally exaggerated, and it's used to great effect throughout the game. You're shown the action from a side-on perspective and this makes perfect sense and avoids the need to deal with a troublesome camera. During multiplayer games the camera can be annoying as it fails to accommodate each of the players as well as it could. Some of the visual effects on display are impressive such as the fire and electricity hazards you'll encounter. In short, LBP is a visual treat.
LBP does offer subtitles but it's a little unfortunate that by default they are not enabled. When you first play the game you are taken right into the action so you'll need to press the Start button, as soon as you are able to, and enable the subtitles. The opening movie isn't subtitled but this is of no importance as it just gives you some guff explaining what LittleBigPlanet is. With the subtitles enabled you'll be able to follow all of the dialogue that introduces you to the game and its various concepts in both the Story mode and the level creation mode. The dialogue for each character you'll encounter in the game's levels is delivered exclusively via text and you'll get to read this text in your own time. There are certain times in a game where you have a time limit and this is visually displayed. Your progress in a level in temporarily saved at a checkpoint and you can come a cropper several times before reaching the next checkpoint before you'll have to do the whole level again. When the outer rim of the checkpoints turn red you'll know you're on your last chance to get to the next checkpoint without failing. The game also supports text chat so you'll be able to communicate during online play.
The real beauty of LittleBigPlanet is that out of the box it's a memorable platform game that has some wonderfully designed levels that anyone can enjoy. It also provides the tools for you to make your own levels but how much mileage you'll get out of this creative process really comes down to how much patience you have to learn how everything works and how inventive and creative you can be with the tools at hand. Even if you don't want to create your own levels you'll still be grateful for the tools that have been provided because thanks to the online features you'll get to view what levels others have been working on too which helps to increase the game's replay value. The game isn't perfect but it's certainly not far off and it has to be one of the most imaginative games on any platform to date.