E3 2011: Little Big Planet Preview

We go hands-on with the latest iteration of Little Big Planet specifically designed for the PlayStation Vita.


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It's impossible to resist the charming ball of yarn that is affectionately known as Sackboy, as he bounces from one Sony platform to another. At the Sony press conference during the week of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Sony not only announced the official name for the NGP, but it also shared several games that will be coming out on the new handheld. It's only natural that Little Big Planet would be on the PlayStation Vita, given that Sackboy is one of the more beloved mascots to represent Sony. The demo here at the Electronic Entertainment Expo consisted of four levels that showcased the numerous features of the new Vita.

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Who's Making It: Media Molecule is once again building Little Big Planet from scratch for the Vita, and Sony is the publisher.

What It Looks Like: Little Big Planet looks fantastic on the Vita, making it comparable to the PlayStation 3 version. The game is still very much about hand-made arts and crafts, and there will be plenty of options to customize and build your own unique levels to share with the world. Details are crisp, and depending on the level design, there's always so much to see in the environments.

What You Do: Instead of one platforming level after another, the LBP levels were described to us as individual games. The levels displayed all played very differently, but like the previous games, the goal is to guide Sackboy safely to the finish line. There were two levels that were shown that didn't involve Sackboy; there was an air hockey game to showcase the multi-touch functionality, as well as a level where we used the Sixaxis to guide a circular object to the finish line while using our finger to bridge any gaps.

How It Plays: The first level we tried was a traditional platforming stage, with some puzzle-solving required to open doors and advance. The difference here was that we used the touch screen in conjunction with our platforming to interact with the environment. Whether you're pressing piano keys onscreen or pushing blocks via the touch screen and the back touch pad, when you find yourself stuck, you might want to literally poke around your screen to see what you can do.

Another level had Sackboy in a floating bubble, and to guide him through the narrow spaces, we had to use our finger. Our finger acted like a magnet, so the bubble would slowly glide where our finger rested on the screen. There were hazards like gears and spikes to avoid, but the controls were actually quite responsive.

The air hockey level was particularly fun because it was a two-player game that used one machine. The screen is basically an air hockey table, and you both use the touch screen to slide your goalie back and forth. It'll be a level included in the final game, but it was designed specifically for E3 to show off the multi-touch function.

The final level that we saw required us to use the Sixaxis to tilt the Vita to guide a disc on rails to the end of the level. It was designed with plenty of loops and ramps; with our finger, we had to draw a dotted green bridge whenever there was a gap in the track. However, we were limited by the amount of ink we had, so we couldn't be sloppy. It's a bit tricky to keep drawing because you have to use both hands to tilt the machine, but you can easily do it with one hand as long as you don't drop it.

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What We Say: Little Big Planet has worked so well on previous platforms that there's no doubt the community will thrive on this one as well. With the touch-screen controls, customization and level design will be easier and faster than ever. Even though the user-generated content that is already out there won't be compatible with the Vita, costumes that you have purchased in the PS3 versions will carry over. We look forward to tinkering more with LBP when it is launched sometime in 2012.

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