LittleBigPlanet is a game I never really understood on the PS3, I thought it seemed a little too simplistic for a full on home console game. The game is very basically a platformer, there are some nice fun elements but at it’s heart it is a run of the mill platformer. The main selling point of the game though is the ability to create and share your own levels, create your own puzzles and generally be all round creative. When I saw it was coming to the PSP I was impressed by the graphics and thought that LBP would be the perfect game to be ported to the PSP. A bright, colourful and creative platformer is just what I could see myself enjoying, I had no idea…
The graphics in the PSP version are pretty good, it looks pretty much like the PS3 version, retaining the great textures, so colourful and well drawn that you can almost feel the fabric of the levels. The first few levels are also peppered with some pretty good FMV explaining the mechanics of the game, to me they were a bit excessive and I hate games that have to tutor me through them, however they at least did them well, with great expressions and a voice over by everyone’s favourite twit-erer Stephen Fry. Whilst I wasn’t really a fan of his over indulgent monologues I can see why people would like his dulcet tones.
Getting back to the graphics for a moment though, it’s not all gold stars. First off there seems to be a strange vignetting effect throughout half the game, it surrounds the screen with a dark cloud almost and in some cases gives a sense of darkness and depression. I have no idea why they decided to go with it, there is no reason I can see for it to be there. Your viewpoint also suffers with the port to the PSP, to fit the levels in the screen sackboy has to be pretty small, which takes a little away from the customization of the character because you can’t really see him as well as you can on the PS3 version.
Honourable mention has to go to the map screen, but only because it reminds me of the map screen from Blast Corps.
Also of great merit is the audio in LittleBigPlanet, aside from the constant ramblings of well spoken Stephen Fry you are treated to some great music. Nearly all happy upbeat tunes, the music matches exactly what you’re seeing on the screen: Vibrant and fun. Most of the other audio is the standard affair, jumping, firing etc, but there’s not much one can do about that.
Gameplay wise LBP PSP is almost identical to the PS3 version, all the levels in the PSP version are new however, so you won’t be treading old ground if you’ve already played the PS3 version. I must say I was never too enamored with the platforming element of LBP, but I never really played it that much, on the PSP however I have had plenty of time to get through levels and collect items and I am quite enjoying the whole experience.
One of the nice touches is the movement on the 3rd plane, LBP is a 2D platformer but you can also move back and forth to get around obstacles or just progress through the level. It seemed like a gimmick to me at first but it’s been worked into the levels in such a way that it shows through as a unique point. However it can be a little difficult sometimes to actually move between the two planes or you can get stuck on one or the other. Overall though I like the idea.
The puzzles in LBP whilst not difficult are generally imaginative and lively, it can get a bit frustrating at times, but that is part of the art of platformers I think, giving you just enough frustration to make you try again but not enough to make it annoying. In that sense LBP’s puzzles whilst not difficult can still pose a challenge when you want to collect all the items from a stage, or when you just keep falling off that ledge!
Collecting is a large part of LBP and it is the main driving point behind progression in the game, I found myself replaying levels to get more clothes for my sackboy because I so wanted to make him my own. There are also level parts, materials and stickers to collect throughout the game. Customizing your sackboy with the earned items is also more fun than I thought it would be, it’s great to try out different costumes and play every day as a different character.
The controls in LBP are quite intuitive if nothing special, however the let down in this department is the response to controls rather than the layout itself. Jumping is very hit and miss, for a platformer that is bad news, as the world is actually based around a physics engine and not pixels and preset variables it’s a little uneven, sometimes even the slightest deviation can cause you to miss or hit the ledge you’re aiming for. Worse than that, there seems to be an issue that if you’re stood anywhere near a wall you can only jump about half as high as normal, extremely frustrating.
Another bad point in LBP is the loading times, prepare to see it a lot… Even when restarting a level you’re already in it will take in excess of 30 seconds to load the level that should already be in memory. Going from menu to level and back again is the same affair, constant loading screens throughout. For me it really takes away from the portability of the game, somtimes I just want to play a quick game but end up not being able to because starting the game from the XMB and getting into a level takes over a minute and a half, time I could have better spent playing the actual game.
The level creation tool is one of the main selling points and whilst it’s comprehensive and has all the options there that I could think of there’s not really much to say about it. You unlock materials, shapes and more to use in your levels and then plonk them in there, of course you can stick objects together, make functioning cars and anything you could think of. There will probably be a full article on the level designer some time soon, probably a video.
Overall though LittleBigPlanet is a well put together game which despite its flaws will suck you into it’s world, you’ll be nodding your head to the great music and playing with your sackboy to get him looking just right. I definitely recommend it.