Little Big Planet Review
Little Big Planet is a novel, imaginative, and highly customisable platform game.
Once you've finished the story and built up a stock of items, stickers, and other creation tools, you'll want to head to the My Moon that orbits Little Big Planet to start building your own levels. The creation tools are comprehensive, which is why you have to go through plenty of tutorials to learn the basics. You begin by moving items around, but things become a lot trickier when you start creating characters and moving objects. For example, enemies and allies have to be given an AI routine so they know whether to follow or run away from a player when they're approached. The physics system is easy to understand, so making things is common sense, but it can still be very time-consuming to construct even the most simple moving objects. You can create structures and glue everything together with ease, but it takes a lot more work to use motors, pistons and springs. These help to set traps, make puzzles and add vehicles, which makes for more interesting levels, but creating and testing everything is a lot of work for the creator. Given the work required to build even simple systems, it's a pretty momentous task to re-create something on the scale of the levels made by the developers.
Thankfully, the task has been made easier by the inclusion of premade objects and level templates from the main game. This makes it a lot easier to start dropping in characters, structures, and vehicles, although you'll still want to adapt them to create your own look. The other problem for budding designers is that the game has three separate planes to work on, which lets players move between fore, middle, and background when playing. This means that unless you think on all three levels when making obstacles, players can simply pop into the foreground and avoid them completely. Once you have all of your main content in place, you can add finishing touches such as respawn points, dynamic music that changes according to player proximity, and characters that offer instructions on what to do. You can also throw in point bubbles and prizes to encourage players to play your level, and of course it's a good idea to play through repeatedly to make sure that others won't get stuck.
With all of this in mind, it's no small feat to create a Little Big Planet level that people will actually want to play. The reality, at least according to what we've seen happen in the game thus far, is that home designers will use the tools to make much smaller-scale creations than the levels in story mode. We've seen some great creations based on a nightclub and even TV show The Crystal Maze, in addition to video game homages such as Space Invaders and Breakout. They're simple ideas that incorporate systems already built by the developers, and they're probably a good indication of where the community is going to go with the game.
Going online with Little Big Planet is a breeze as you can see which of your friends are online and jump straight into their pod. The multiplayer online mode works well, even if it's not as smooth as the local multiplayer. You also canít play the create mode online, though a future update will purportedly enable this feature. Sharing is also well implemented, and you can choose to move levels from your My Moon to the online Little Big Planet. When people play a level here, they can choose from preset tags to help describe the level for other players. This helps Little Big Planet to group similar levels together, so if you like what you're playing, you can search for creations that players have awarded similar tags. You can also add a heart to your favourite designers and search through all of their levels, and the system streams content live from the network so you don't have to save anything. There's even an option to play 'Cool Levels' from the main menu if you want something at random. If you really like a level or fancy adapting what you've seen, you can take levels submitted by other people and copy them to your own moon for later. All in all, it's a system that looks like it can cope with the content that's set to come out after the game's release.
This is a beautifully assembled game, with a patchwork visual style that covers the technical achievements underneath. There are smaller details such as reflections in the collectable balls to look out for, as well as some really nice fire, smoke, and electricity effects. It may be cruel to watch Sackboy die, but he can be electrocuted, burned, and disintegrated in a variety of ways, each resulting in highly detailed effects. Special mention should go to the physics system, which is pitched just a fraction beyond realistic to allow for some amazing stunts, jumps, and races. Then there's the soundtrack, a mix of genres from indie artists such as The Go Team and Jim Noir that all suit the game to a tee. Finally, a nod has to go to the pitch-perfect narration from British comedian Stephen Fry, and apart from his insistence that you don't post anything rude online, his voice is just as charming as the rest of the game.
Little Big Planet is a startlingly imaginative take on the platforming genre, and its story mode, while short, is truly outstanding. It's down to the community to elongate the life of the game, and while only the most ardent fans will be up to the task of making compelling content, the tools here certainly have some potential. If you've not got a creative bent then you might feel like you're getting half a game, but that doesn't stop Little Big Planet being a star that burns twice as bright, half as long.