Little Big Planet's happy-go-lucky burlap star is making his way to the PlayStation Portable so you can create, explore, and share from almost anywhere. Developed by Cambridge Studio with the help of Media Molecule, LBP for the PSP is very much like the PlayStation 3 version, except modified and squished onto a handheld. The scope of the game may not be as big, but it was hard for us to tell the difference from the newly designed levels because it's just like taking a romp through the 3D hand-crafted world from the original LBP. We spent some time playing through several stages on the PSP and were impressed with all the features that have made it into the game and how it all looks.
As Sackboy--the fully customizable and lovingly sewn together doll--you'll travel across the different continents, starting with Australia and then venturing to the Orient, eventually leaving your mark all over the world. There are 30 new developer-created levels across seven themed locations, and we really enjoyed the new level designs from what we've played. It doesn't look like anything was lost during the transition, other than the fact that you have to play alone instead of with three other players. There's plenty of detail in the environments as you pass through, making it feel like it was a port from a PS3 game, even if it isn't.
After navigating through the harsh lands of the outback, hanging off koalas and jumping on kangaroos, we made our way to the Orient and had to fend off fire-breathing dragons. It's interesting to note that the levels in the Orient progress from right to left. One of the more memorable stages we saw was a level that required us to use a cannon-like device that fires synthetic logs. We hopped onto the back of a rickshaw and went blazing down a steep hill, trying desperately to hold on while using the cannon to keep the dragon at bay. We had to aim for the target inside the dragon's mouth to get it to back off--otherwise we'd be toast. It was a bumpy ride but a lot of fun. All this game needs is some rockets, which we hope will be included in the later levels.
Some puzzle-solving skills are needed to get past some areas, but the game makes good use of its tools, like switches, which are quite prominent in the levels that we played. LBP is generally fairly linear, but we came across a level that has you exploring multiple zones in order to figure out a combination code, which you then input using the switches. Even though the game is now single-player only, it's still tough to run through the levels and track down every single object. There are still an abundance of stickers, objects, and costumes to collect, all so that you can mess with the items later in the creation mode, but you'll have to carefully explore every nook and cranny to locate them all.
Like in its PS3 counterpart, you'll eventually unlock the moon so that you can create your own levels from scratch, using the items that you've found during the main game. And also like in the other version, you need to go into individual tutorials for each component of the Popit menu system before going to town with it. You can easily escape out of these tutorials, but the load times are noticeable, and it's unfortunate that you can't just have access to everything and choose to check out the demonstration later. It's amazing the amount of freedom you have at your disposal, and once you create a level you want to share, you can do so by heading to the PlayStation Network to show the world what you've come up with. LBP is about the community, so you'll have access to an endless supply of content to play through from anywhere.
It's going to feel very much like the PS3 version, all the way down to the controls. Instead of three planes to manage, there are two, so not only do you need to worry about going from left to right (or right to left), but you have to use some of that depth perception to navigate through the background or foreground as well. It's not bad when you're casually trying to find your way through a maze, but it can be tricky if you don't notice it happening and suddenly find yourself walking or jumping into a fire pit instead of on the block that was on the back plane. Luckily, you have an unlimited number of lives, and the checkpoints are much more frequent, so you can keep going until you feel like manually exiting the stage. The Popit menu is still there, so you can swap your outfit on the fly and access trigger stickers to help you get more items.
Because there's so much happening onscreen sometimes, it does take a while to adjust to playing LBP on a smaller screen. Sackboy isn't going to be nearly as detailed as its high-def counterpart, but you can still have him make funny faces with the D pad, and he'll easily win your heart all over again. A nice variety of music is included, and while the tracks may not necessarily fit with the theme of the level, everything so far is catchy and fun to listen to. The game is what you would expect LBP to be on a handheld, but what's impressive is that it doesn't feel like anything was lost or sacrificed to get it to fit on the system. At least, it's difficult for us to tell at this point, so be sure to stay tuned for our review later this month.
For anyone who wants a playground to play, create, and share, the possibilities are endless when Little Big Planet for the PSP is released on November 17.