Little Big Planet Updated Hands-On

We get some serious sit-down time with the create portion of Little Big Planet and get to play through the first few levels of the single-player game.

For a game that has only been kicking around in the public consciousness since the Game Developers Conference last year, Little Big Planet takes a novel approach to hyping an entertainment product--simply let the concept speak for itself. Freedom is an amazing motivator, and at every one of its public showings--GDC, E3, Tokyo Game Show, Leipzig's Game Convention, and Sony's own London Gamers' Day--crowds of gamers and media have been enraptured by this unique product.

At a recent Sony Computer Entertainment Australia event we got several hours of hands-on time with the game. The team at developer Media Molecule is in the final stretch, putting the polishing touches on the 50 or so levels that will ship on the game disc. We explored a little of the single-player campaign but spent most of our time mucking around with the level creator, attempting to build something from scratch.

If you can think it up, chances are you can create it in Little Big Planet.

First, we created our own Sackboy, which acts as your in-game avatar. You have the creative freedom to go as minimalist or over the top as you like. Another journalist sitting nearby during our hands-on time re-created Final Fantasy villain Sephiroth, complete with miniature wooden sword. We went for a more subdued Solid Snake for our onscreen character, with a camo suit and cardboard-box headgear.

LBP is an incredibly social game, so it makes sense that the team at Media Molecule is including trophy support to let gamers show off to their friends online. No doubt the extra month the team picked up by delaying the launch from September to October is allowing more time for tweaks. While it's unlikely you'll need the incentive to customise your Sackperson, switching out a few items of clothing was enough to unlock a trophy in our play. Rewards play a pivotal role in LBP, and throughout the game you'll come across bubbles containing unlockable items. Collecting these will grant you new costumes, premade items that you can place in your own levels, and objects that can be used in the creation of custom levels, such as backgrounds, music, and templates. You'll even have the option to create custom items and share them with your friends and with strangers by offering them as prizes for completing your homemade levels, for achieving a certain score, or for finishing within a certain amount of time.

The early part of the single-player game is ostensibly a glorified tutorial, giving you an indication of what you'll be doing in the remainder of the game. Here you get a chance to familiarise yourself with the three planes of depth--the foreground, middle ground, and background of any given level--that you'll need to traverse between using the analog stick. Your Sackboy is also clever, so jumping between two planes will see you land safely where you intended. The standout feature of this first level is a sticker puzzle that requires you to open your pop-it item menu and locate the three matching stickers that you must paste onto a wooden canvas. Even with sloppy pasting, as long as you hit part of the target you'll pass this obstacle, unlocking a bridge to let you continue. The sticker beast--who looks like Henry the Eighth wearing sneakers--follows you until he reaches a trigger point, which causes a collectible item bubble to be released. Once you pick it up, it unlocks a new costume element for you to try on. Level two was much the same, but it mixed things up a tad by including ramps, destructible bridges that you can fall to your death from, a spinning wheel, and a rideable skateboard. There is also a miniature wooden horse vehicle that you can use as a makeshift ladder to reach a wayward bonus bubble.

Use the pop-it system to sticker wallpaper on the LBP world.

Little Big's pop-it menu system--brought up by pressing the square button on the controller--is how you'll get to all the action, be it "hearting" items to indicate what you and other players like, customising the way your Sackboy looks, or getting to the many menus for creating and editing items. You'll navigate the menus using the left thumbstick and skip between the pages of item categories using the L1 and R1 buttons.

Little Big Planet imposes very few restrictions on you as the creator, though it's worth mentioning that even with a relatively small palette of objects and materials at your disposal, it can be a daunting experience. Having so much creative control and being able to complete goals using many different approaches is a bit like being given the keys to the city and then told you can do anything. Where do you even start? Our first hour was spent considering what we wanted to make and then attempting to make a prototype of a couple of ideas.

Because LBP is so heavily physics driven you'll need to think a few steps ahead and at times work in reverse to build platforms for other items to sit on. Luckily there are two functions you'll want to immediately familiarise yourself with. Moving up on the D pad disables your stage's physics to allow item placement, and when necessary, you can secure objects to the ground by holding the X button. Pressing down on the D pad engages the hover mode, which you'll use to zoom around your level untethered. One or both can be disabled when you're ready, and you can try out your physics playground in real time to make sure everything is working as intended. On the left-hand side of the screen is a large red thermometer to indicate the maximum number of objects that can be placed per level. It's not nearly as restrictive as it sounds, and inserting items included on the disc has only a small associated memory footprint since they simply get saved as vector coordinates for the game to reassemble on another user's console. Custom items, such as images captured using the PlayStation Eye camera and then placed in your level, will attract a higher space charge, although the sheer size of the levels we saw being made in both height, width, and complexity shouldn't leave too many of you wanting for more space. We began our demo with only a modest material list spanning cardboard, wood, rubber, metal, sponge, stone, glass, and dark matter. But between these and the freedom to pick and alter shapes, you'll be able to start building your jumping puzzle, trebuchet, or skateboard ramp in no time.

The modular nature of LBP extends beyond the items you can drop into levels and includes the levels themselves. Variables such as the lighting or fog in a level can be tweaked independently, turning an outdoor day environment into a spookier nighttime setting ripe for ghosts and ghouls. Likewise, many items have their own tweak submenus, accessed by holding the square button when using the pop-it system. The menus let you adjust relationships, radius trigger distances, sounds, and more using sliders.

Little Big Planet's late-October birth on the PlayStation 3 is beginning to loom, but even with the home stretch to go, from what we've seen and played so far, we have faith in the development team at Media Molecule to ship a cracker of a title. If you're not all that impressed with the levels on the disc come launch day, you can always make your own version of LBP.

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Discussion

333 comments
sunjack_6
sunjack_6

always wanted a healthy game that is proper for my children to play in stead of worrying the side effects. This game definitely deserve 10+

mogwaltz
mogwaltz

I got my copy through a local store that accidentally placed theirs for sale and I'll tell you, it's awesome. Really great physics, detailed animation and the game play and controls are really smooth. There is very few restrictions to what you can make, (I already made Cloud) but the servers aren't up yet. It's a blast. Highly recommended.

unbentonslaught
unbentonslaught

really strange sounding, but the customization of levels sounds really fun. Oh, and by the by it is a side scroller that you can create stuff in, obviously.

Stealthos
Stealthos

For all the people not sure what this is about. It's probably because noone wants to say its just a puzzle platformer that you have the option to create your own levels (like so many pc mods have done). I'm not saying this in a bad way - simple concepts are often the best, and it IS a simple concept which I'm not convinced is revolutionary enough to be game of the decade as some people have suggested.

mhsdrake
mhsdrake

lol i still dont get it- i feel dumb- what are the 'levels'. i dont think this game is for me.

dazo5
dazo5

I'm still lost as to what this game is about... I'll definitely wait for the reviews to come out first before I even THINK about buying it. I may be too into Midnight Club by then tho.

Rhen_Var
Rhen_Var

@Lord_Kantor Indeed, Spore was an interesting concept and everyone expected a 10 but then EA was the one making it. Don't get me wrong, they are a great company, they make all these fantastic ideals but they have some problems executing them.

Alphamale001
Alphamale001

I can't wait. This is going to be so much fun! I didn't get in on the beta, but I have seen stuff my friends have created. It looks like a blast!

P0tZ001
P0tZ001

dolfan928 Posted Oct 5, 2008 5:05 am GMT This is the latest game from Sony that will attract people just because it's so unusual, but once we all get a chance to get our hands on it it will prove to be a great game. LocoRoco and Patapon did this for me. I cannot wait for this game. Finally TRUE platforming the way it was meant to be(2D style) has made it back to a console, and not only that, but the co-op and creation sides of the game look like more fun that any of us have ever had. Speak for yourself. I know in my lifetime I have had more fun then what's equivalent to spending 30-50 hours playing a 2D arcadey game. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it will be a good game...But the most fun you have ever had....Damn, you must lead one hell of a DULL life!! My heart goes out to you dude!!

Spelly-93
Spelly-93

WOW..10/10 ? Cut me a break..I know everyone is excited about LBP..and it looks promising...but COMMON !!

EddieMcD2005
EddieMcD2005

how can you say a game deserves a 10 when you've never played it?

Zaruna_44
Zaruna_44

this game has a 99.9% chance to be gsme of the decade!!

zerden
zerden

i hope this game will be good and i hope it will be o good online active

HAAS599
HAAS599

This game deserves Gamespot's first ever 11/10 !!!

_0000giba0000_
_0000giba0000_

NEED THIS GAME ON XBOX360 or either PC or Mac version PLEASE!!!!!!!

_0000giba0000_
_0000giba0000_

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

dolfan928
dolfan928

This is the latest game from Sony that will attract people just because it's so unusual, but once we all get a chance to get our hands on it it will prove to be a great game. LocoRoco and Patapon did this for me. I cannot wait for this game. Finally TRUE platforming the way it was meant to be(2D style) has made it back to a console, and not only that, but the co-op and creation sides of the game look like more fun that any of us have ever had.

tidyspidey
tidyspidey

I think this game could be worthy of a genuine 10, unlike GTA IV... I'm holding my breath though. This will be the game that makes me take the £300 plunge and finally buy a PS3

jacky531
jacky531

This is a must buy for me as a PS3 owner its turning out to be more awesome everytime I hear something new about this game I wish october 21 could come faster...

gazby
gazby

this is mad game i so want it for me PS3

joopyme
joopyme

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

joopyme
joopyme

screw review scores. i know i'm gonna enjoy the game.

Gam3rN13
Gam3rN13

i want this game.... mostly for online....that would be fun.....

kohwil
kohwil

i have quite a great impression on this LBP

rca009p
rca009p

@Anti-Repellent lol this game looks good there not many if ay games that i know about like this

stooge55
stooge55

if this becomes very successful then I think there will be a similar game for 360 soon

CamiKitten
CamiKitten

This comes out on my birthday YAY xD!

Lord_Kantor
Lord_Kantor

It won't get a 10 and won't get PS3 or Game of The Year. But it'll be nominated for both, and I'm guessing 9-9.5. Depends how well they do this. Excellent concept =/= excellent game. Spore is proof of that- we were all thinking 9.5, 10, but what does it get? an 8. We'll have to wait and see...

Kratossssssssss
Kratossssssssss

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Kratossssssssss
Kratossssssssss

this game will score about 9-10 on both gamespot and ign...lbp FTW!!!!

Kratossssssssss
Kratossssssssss

this game will score about 9-10 on both gamespot and ign...lbp FTW!!!!

Anti-Repellent
Anti-Repellent

I think the game will get a 9, but deserve a 9.5. Been so excited for this for months, and now it's only a month and about 2 weeks to go! I'll waste hours on this, I love creative games with humor (like The Sims 2 to me). I'll spam your PS3 with crappy creations from being an idiot playing this. (:

sub-raid
sub-raid

no don't think it's gonna take 10 !!! maybe 8.5 . i think i will get it !!!!

jadeweapon
jadeweapon

I don't know why Gears 2(gonna be the best damned shooter ever FTW!) is being mentionned on a board for LBP (gonna be the best damned platformer ever FTW!). ...i'll gettem both anyway. Sweet.

theironduke111
theironduke111

I must admit when I heard about this title I nievly dismissed it, but just after seeing the visauls alone I was very immpressed; to have a chance to express yourself creatively, and to potentially challenge people with your own levels designs will be alot of fun.

theironduke111
theironduke111

I must admit when I heard about this title I nievly dismissed it, but just after seeing the visauls alone I was very immpressed; to have a chance to express yourself creatively, and to potentially challenge people with your own levels designs will be alot of fun.

Imagine09
Imagine09

this will be the first game on this-gen to get a perfect 10 and not be a soot 'em up!

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

This game is going to be great! Complete creativity and a lot of fun.

cubits2x
cubits2x

well it does sound like its gonna be a candidate for th highest rated game....might surpass mario galaxy ....but who knows...might flop at the end of the day