Little Big Planet Review
Little Big Planet is a novel, imaginative, and highly customisable platform game.
- Incredibly varied and imaginative levels
- Excellent musical score and narration
- Immense customisation and creativity potential
- High replayability factor.
- Short story mode
- Camera struggles in multiplayer
- Building a compelling level can be time-consuming.
Although Little Big Planet could be described as a platforming game, its dedication to creativity in every area takes it far beyond the confines of the genre. Everything from your character to the environment is geared towards user creation and adaptation, via stickers and costumes right up to a full-blown level creator. Each level of the story mode is an unforgettable trip through the wild imagination of the designers, and it would be difficult to find a game that's as much fun to play with friends co-operatively. It's a little disheartening that the Story mode is over so quickly, and although there's some longevity to be had from finding all the hidden extras, you can still see everything the story has to offer in six hours. Then there's the level creator--an astoundingly powerful toolset that theoretically allows you to recreate anything you see in the included levels and much more. However, it still requires a great deal of time and skill to develop something that people will actually want to play, and despite the best intentions of the developer, it's a feature that not everyone will be able to take full advantage of. The overall result is a game that's incredibly fun while it lasts, and one that has the potential to be taken further by its community.
The titular Little Big Planet is the place where all human imagination collects--the planet above the cosmos where our untapped creativity escapes when we're asleep or daydreaming. That's the background, anyway, and though characters occasionally refer to each other in the game, this fantastical journey has little in the way of exposition or backstory. There are eight themed worlds in total, and they vary in style from places such as the African savannah to the Mexican desert and ninja-obsessed Japan. Each world has either three or four individual levels, most of which can be completed in less than 10 minutes, and each level also has a bonus challenge or race if you can find the key hidden within. These bonus levels offer some of the most fun and imaginative experiences in the game, with an homage to Line Rider, skipping contests, and even drag racing competitions.
Little Big Planet's emphasis on creativity is completely embodied by its mascot, Sackboy. This endearingly cute rag doll acts as a blank slate for your creativity, and as you collect new materials and clothing in the story mode, you can constantly try out new looks. You can dress him up in costumes, add accessories such as hats and glasses, and even change his covering from that familiar brown to a particularly gaudy pink. Sackboy is also highly expressive, and you can use the controller's triggers and analog stick to move his arms and even smack unruly players. The D pad controls his facial expressions: up for happy, down for sad, left for scared, and right for angry, and repeatedly tapping in that direction further emphasises these emotions. You can also use the motion sensor to move Sackboy's head and hips, nodding knowingly if you win a level, at least until someone inevitably smacks you in the face for being so smug. With so much control over your character, you often end up spending a good deal of time just changing clothes, pulling faces, and maybe even sticking a "LOLZ" sticker on your buddy's forehead.
Although the character customisation may be in-depth, the platforming itself is not. There are only two action buttons: X to jump, and R1 to grab hold of swings and move objects. Sackboy doesn't use any special powers, and he doesn't become any faster or stronger throughout the course of the game. This is platforming in its purest form: jumping from platform to platform, dodging obstacles such as fire and electricity, and collecting blue orbs to score points along the way. What makes Little Big Planet unique is that it frequently goes way beyond platforming into something else entirely, seemingly for no other reason than to satisfy the designer's rampant imagination. With scenarios such as hot-air balloon riding, animal prison breaks, and ninja henchmen battles, every level of Little Big Planet demonstrates incredible imagination.
The main story mode follows a sequential progression, so you open up new levels by completing them in order. However, even when you've finished a level, you'll want to return to collect the hidden items, keys, and point bubbles that you likely missed the first time around. Collecting items allows you more creative freedom in the form of stickers and costumes, whereas music and materials can be used in the creation mode afterward. You can also collect loot drops by putting stickers down in certain places, and there are puzzles that you can only solve by playing in the two- to four-player mode. These include gates that can only be opened remotely, objects that require multiple characters to pull, and in one brilliant scene, a car driven by one character while another dangles on a trapeze underneath.
Little Big Planet poses a bit of a dilemma; it's miles more fun in multiplayer, but also more flawed. Figuring out the puzzles and experiencing the set pieces for the first time with others is one of the most memorable experiences we've had this year, and chances are that you'll find yourself recounting the best moments with your friends afterwards. Unfortunately, there's a downside to playing in multiplayer, and it's something that often afflicts platforming games: the camera. It frequently struggles to frame the action, and considering many precision jumps are required, certain sections become nigh-on impossible. The generous spacing of respawn points lets you retry most of the tricky sections, but if you fail after using up your lives, you have to restart the entire level. There were many occasions in multiplayer in which we intentionally killed ourselves, just so that one player could try a section without the camera jerking around all of the time.
Sadly, with no scalable difficulty level and relatively few truly testing challenges, stalwarts of the genre will be able to reach the last boss in less than six hours. This isn't counting the time it takes to go back and collect everything, but the fact remains, you can see all the main levels in one prolonged sitting. Clearly, if the community jumps on the creation tools then this longevity will be extended, but it will take time and great skill from home designers to match the creativity and professionalism of Media Molecule's work.