Reviewed: January 11, 2010
Released: November 17, 2009
A lot of games have made an impact in my home this past year from the peripheral based games like Rock Band 2 and Tony Hawk’s Ride, to the motion-based gaming of the Wii Sports Resort and the PSN’s classic Flower, and handheld titles like Scribblenauts and LocoRoco 2. All of these games have been favorites in our house – but none of the aforementioned titles has had a fraction of the impact of 2008’s PS3 holiday treat, LittleBigPlanet. In fact, we like LittleBigPlanet so much, that the disc keeps a constant vigil beside our entertainment center just waiting for the next visitor to arrive – simply we can showcase the power of the PS3 using Media Molecule’s ace title.
For the few gamers unfamiliar with LittleBigPlanet – let’s start by saying that it would be unfair to call the title a “game” because it is so much more than that. LittleBigPlanet is just a much a 2D platformer as it is a highly detailed level editor allowing budding game developers the chance to construct their own LittleBigPlanet levels using nearly every building block available to the title’s designers. And when I say every building block – I mean it.
Whereas other games may brag about their level editors, they typically feature limited gameplay areas and only a handful of basic construction tools. LittleBigPlanet offers a full-sized empty slate area and an amazing array of objects, materials, and textures that can be stacked, painted, and rotated to any configuration imaginable. Add in the (generally) realistic physics modeling, two-player co-op gameplay, and a handful of simple machines and vehicles – and you have one amazing construct-and-play experience.
Even more amazing is the online aspect of the title, where gamers can enter the LittleBigPlanet community and browse through hundreds of these amazing (and sometimes not-so-amazing) user-generated levels, and download them for local play. It is quite obvious that there are some amazingly talented and prolific folks in the LittleBigPlanet community, and many of the most memorable experiences in the entire game can be found here.
That is why I was so pleased to find that the folks at Sony’s SCE Studio Cambridge have done a killer job translating the LittleBigPlanet experience to the Playstation Portable – such an amazing job in fact, that I often forgot I was enjoying the title on a handheld rather than the console. The handheld version is an almost picture-perfect representation of the console title – other than a control issue or two (due to the lack of a second analog stick and a couple of bumpers. Oh, and then there’s that whole lack of co-op multiplayer thing…it is a bummer, but an issue I am willing to look beyond for the out of this world experience that is contained within the LittleBigPlanet.
The title starts with an absolutely fantastic FMV video introducing gamers to the concepts of LittleBigPlanet. As with the PS3 version, the narration duties are handled by the fabulous voice of British actor Stephan Fry, who does a fantastic job of developing an air of authenticity to the overall presentation. Gamers are quickly introduced to their own SackBoy character – a burlap voodoo doll-like edifice that can be dressed and colored in any number of clothes, stickers, and patterns that are earned through diligent gameplay. The SackBoy is the most publically recognizable aspect of LittleBigPlanet, and he comes complete with emotions, expressions, and other body language that help endear him (or her) to their respective creator.
While the story mode levels are new and unique to the PSP version, they share a lot of similarities to those of the original PS3 release. The same concepts of the dual-path 2D gameplay has gamers once again jumping, grabbing, pulling, and pushing objects come to play in the portable LittleBigPlanet experience. The visual detail may suffer from the small screen stature, but gamers will quickly recognize textures and fabrics that lend to grabbing and swinging, and the various physics-based puzzles.
The story mode is slightly more compact than the console version, with most levels requiring only 10 to 15 minutes to clear as opposed to the 20 to 30 minute levels of the original title. This does lend itself to the portable nature of the console, and the 30 or so story mode levels will still take about 5 or so hours to complete. And then there are the downloadable user-generated levels from LittleBigPlanet online. I would like to note that in order to take LittleBigPlanet online, a game-specific software update is required.
LittleBigPlanet is the first PSP title to require an update patch, and the game does not do a very good job at explaining the process – citing something to the effect of using an “update console”. I searched high and low, and finally found a blog post that explained the process – which is actually quite simple if your PSP has the newest firmware update. On the XMB, under the Games menu, highlight the LittleBigPlanet UMD (or download icon), and press the Triangle button. The new Update Game feature will then be available from there. The update is approximately 4mb, and installs rather quickly.
Navigating the LittleBigPlanet world for user-generated levels is as simple as it was on the PS3 – allowing the gamer to find content based on a number of criteria – most downloaded, highest rated, etc – and with each at around 200kb, you can store a lot of levels on even he smallest Memory Stick. Granted, at the time of this review, the selection of downloadable levels was a bit sparse, but if the PS3 community is any indication I would expect the content to continue at a fairly constant clip.
As I said the game suffers a tad on the visuals – the highly detailed textures of the original are lost to the miniscule size of the PSP screen. Still, fans of the first game will feel right at home with LittleBigPlanet on the PSP and will hardly mind the sacrifice. The sound quality is absolutely fantastic – for what there is at least. As mentioned, the highlight of the presentation would have to be the incredible voiceover narrations from Mr. Fry. The game is lacking in the area of sound effects, but given the surreal nature of the level design one hardly expects realistic sound effect amongst all of the absurdity.
As for value, any LittleBigPlanet vet can tell you that you get out of LittleBigPlanet exactly what you put into it. The 5 or 6 hours of story mode gameplay is only a fraction of the enjoyment to be had in the world of LittleBigPlanet – add to that the level editor and downloadable community-based games, and the value is limitless. I am quite pleased with what Sony Cambridge has done with the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and I hope we see more of SackBoy in the future.