LAS VEGAS--It should go without saying that LittleBigPlanet is one of the most anticipated titles for the PS3 in 2008. This title has charmed just about anyone who's seen its unique brand of platforming, customization, and user-generated content. Sony and UK-based developed Media Molecule held a special presentation in a theater in Sony's CES booth to give those in attendance a deeper look at the promising title.
The demo kicked off with teaser trailer that showcased Sony's varied product lineup across its various consumer electronics product lines, with a lengthy nod to the PlayStation 3 and LittleBigPlanet, as well as a brief look at the PSP. Once the trailer was over, producer Kyle Shubel took the stage and invited Pete Smith and Leo Cubbin from SCEE to show off the game. The presentation was broken up into chunks centering on three game features: play, create, and share.
The play section of demo showcased a brand new, Indian-themed level in the game that included some new gameplay elements, most notably hazards, death, and continue points for multiplayer. During the demo, the crew noted that the developer-created levels will be playable by one to four players locally or online. The new level kicked off at a start point that was essentially a gate that wouldn't open until all four players were in front of it. The action was pretty straightforward and required players to do a healthy amount of jumping around moving platforms while collecting "fluff" (the material used in the level creation mode in the game).
The new twist is the introduction of a hazard--flaming coals--which will cause a horrible (albeit comical) death if you touch them. If you should die you'll respawn at one of the many checkpoints along your way. The nice touch we noticed was that the respawn points are triggered by the player furthest along, so if you're having no luck making it across a devilish section in a level, you can ride on a friend's coattails and spawn past it (provided he or she can get through). The rest of the level featured an increasingly crazy array of hot-coal placement that culminated in a gauntlet of moving platforms you'll need to carefully speed through. At the end of the level, a tally screen ranks the fluff collected by all players and crowns the winner. The level featured the expected mix of cool and cute that the game is known for, such as a cutesy version of an Indian elephant god and the hilarious death animations for the rag posse.
The create segment mixed a live demo and video highlighting the ease and flexibility of LittleBigPlanet's level and item creator. The live demo started in the satellite interface that will serve as the game's front end. Your view will overlook the LittleBigPlanet itself, which will house the developer-created levels in the game stitched across its surface like a bizarre quilt. Orbiting this neatly stitched world are the various moons that will comprise a player's personal space and house their unique levels. In the demo, we were treated to a look at a fresh moon that hadn't had any levels put on it. Before diving into the actual creating, we got a quick run through the various emotes you can perform by pushing directions on the D pad--happy, sad, nervous, and angry--which have different levels of intensity that affect Sackboy's hand motions.
Once the emoting showcase was done, we got a look at the "pop it" tools you'll use to create everything in LittleBigPlanet. This system revolves around a simple menu you can call up. As with the platforming game, you'll be able to work on your creations by yourself or with friends. The pop it system lets you customize Sackboy with all manner of gear and accessories. In the demo we got to see a dinosaur outfit and, because it's Vegas, an Elvis impersonator. Once the sack folk were properly tricked out, the real work began and we got a look at the different backgrounds that you can choose, which included a desert, New York alley, and Japanese Zen garden. It was noted that while the game will offer a sizable chunk of backgrounds, more will be available via downloads later.
For the live demo, the desert background was chosen and in fairly short order a tree with bobbing birds was created simply by selecting a shape and a material, and then doing some editing, cutting, and replicating to create the proper forms, like leaf accessories or pivot points for the birds attached to the tree. Last but not least, the look of the stage was set by picking a custom music track. But while making a tree was a fairly simple and speedy process, crafting a whole level wasn't something that would have made for the most gripping of demos. Thankfully, courtesy of a time-lapse video and narration from an audio engineer at Media Molecule named Kenny, we got to see a whole Mexican-themed level crafted in just a few seconds.
The crew on the stage then dove into that level, which included traditional homes, chilis to swing on, banditos, cacti, and piñatas. The level offered an interesting twist on the platforming we'd seen earlier, as in this level all players work together to move obstacles, open the piñata, and arrange roaming banditos into a new position so that a new area can be reached.
Once that level was done, we got a peek at a video that showed off how you'll check out user-uploaded levels from the satellite. From the sound of it, the world will hold up to a million user-created levels that will be ranked and sortable by those looking to try some new stuff. The big, addictive hook to them is that prospective game-design visionaries will be able to reward players who make it through their levels with unique items. So anyone who sees you rocking a swank outfit or sporting some neat item in your levels can find out where you got it and try to go earn themselves one, which will drive up that particular level's popularity.
All told, it should go without saying that LittleBigPlanet is well worth keeping an eye on this year. The imaginative game seems poised to be one of the titles that offers a compelling showcase for the truly unique content possible with the latest batch of consoles. We wish Sony and Media Molecule had actually gotten the once-promised demo of the game out--and from the sound of it, the closest we'll see of it is some kind of beta hitting in the next few months--but we're pleased by how the game is shaping up. There appears to be a good selection of content slated for the game, and the promise of all the user-generated goodies that are coming really has us excited to see how this all plays out. Look for more on LittleBigPlanet in the months to come. The game is set to ship this fall, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.