While a number of high-profile games are slated to hit the PlayStation 3, a fair number of them come from known franchises, such as Gran Turismo, Tekken, Killzone, and Devil May Cry. However, a dark horse emerged at the Game Developers Conference earlier this year when an original game came from nowhere and plopped its happy burlap self high on the list of anticipated PS3 games. LittleBigPlanet from UK developer Media Molecule is a unique game for the PlayStation 3 that's equal parts developer tool and sandbox, wrapped in a fuzzy package that can't help but make you smile when you see it. At Sony's recent press event, we had the chance to get our hands on a demo version of the game and bounce around in the same level that was shown at GDC. While nothing new was shown, the playable demo was effective at showing off the game's infectious charm.
The demo opened up just as it did during Sony's GDC keynote address. A lone burlap doll stood against a plain backdrop of fabric. The demo presenter ran us through the simple controls that you'll use to guide your virtual burlap dude through the level before we started the adventure. The left analog stick will obviously let you move your little guy anywhere you like. The X or L1 button will let you jump. The circle button lets you interact with certain items in the world, which on this occasion meant using the rocket packs. The R1 button will let you grab an object, allowing you to hold on to small items or hang on to larger ones. Depending on the size of the item, you can carry or pull it if needed. Larger items will require teamwork, such as several of your friends grabbing and pulling as well. Holding down R2 or L2 will let you use the left and right analog stick to control your mini-me's arms.
Once you start getting the hang of it, you can even choose to smack your friends around via Media Molecule's Rag Doll Kung Fu. If you have dramatic urges, you can use the D pad to cycle among four different facial expressions: happy, sad, angry, or mopey. Speaking of your face, you can use the Sixaxis controller's motions to move your character's head. Finally, the square button calls up the "pop it" menu which, as has been shown in the first trailer for the game, lets you hop into a menu where you can pull different items that you can sticker the world with or physically drop into your surroundings. Unfortunately, our demo presenter said that there would be no popping of anything in our demo because the feature wasn't quite ready for primetime.
Once the basics were sorted, we went further into the level with our demo presenter and picked up two other buddies. As before, our two companions spawned as soon as the PS3 controllers were picked up. The run through the level was through the same path shown in the GDC video, although collecting sponge--the material you use to power the pop-it feature--didn't really factor in as much despite the fact that it was strewn throughout the level. The action was fun and goofy, forcing teamwork or creative solutions to overcome the obstacles.
The visuals in the game were exactly like what's been seen before. They were a cool mix of funky design and photorealistic items. The levels were, as has been shown, laid out in a 2D plane that you can go in and out of to go up platforms or interact with other items, such as the aforementioned jet packs.
We have to say that we're quite taken with the look and promise of LittleBigPlanet. The game promises to be an enjoyable experience that will be shaped by your imagination. As we continue into this generation of consoles with next-generation experiences all too often amounting to conventional game experiences that look better than what we played on the last set of boxes, there's something to be said for a unique experience that can't be labeled. If LittleBigPlanet can really deliver that and provide a conduit for gamers to create and share content, it could be something truly special. Look for more on LittleBigPlanet in the months to come. A demo is slated to hit the PlayStation Network this fall with a disc release early next year.