Review by panargirou
"A fun 2D platforming game that could have been much, much more."
LittleBigPlanet is a fun Playstation 3 platformer created by Media Molecule with a lot of character and a great vision. It was fun and stars a memorable character, Sackboy. The physics engine is something far above other 2D platforming games. However, the game suffers from bugs and physics that, while advanced, gives players less precise controls than they had over Mario back on the NES.
If you want to know how I feel about this game without taking the time to read my whole review, I can give a quick summary. LittleBigPlanet is a lot of fun and has a lot of nice ideas, but implements many of them very badly. The game was good but not amazing and revolutionary as it may have seemed. Sackboy is a cute, fun character. I could see him becoming a mascot for Sony, but I do not see him seriously competing with Mario or even Sonic. I really enjoyed LittleBigPlanet and will definitely purchase the sequel when it's released; however, the game was far from astounding.
The first thing I noticed about the game is the developers took it seriously and respected it. The game starts with a sort of level you play through with the level itself consisting of photographs of the developers. As you play through this first level the major credits are shown. I like to see games do this at the beginning like films do because it shows that the development team is respected.
The graphics are very cute in this game. Sackboy, as is evident by his name, looks he was hand sewn like a sock monkey. The rest of the characters in the game look like card board cut-outs. The levels resemble a pop-up book, and are designed quite well. Levels are organized into different groups with each one sharing a common theme in all of its levels. Music in LittleBigPlanet is very nice and sets the tones of the levels well. Levels have a maximum of three levels of depth. This allows the game to play as a 2D game while still allowing Sackboy to move more "in" to the television or "out" of the television. If there are multiple depths where you're trying to do something, the game will do its best to guess which depth you're aiming for and move you into it, but this doesn't always work so well.
The game starts as a relatively simple platformer, but later levels involve staying out of fire, carefully timed jumps, riding various vehicles, swinging, and jumping off of moving and spinning ground. Controlling Sackboy is relatively straightforward. The left stick moves him around. The X button causes him to jump and is pressure sensitive with harder pushes yielding higher jumps. The R1 button causes Sackboy to hold on to whatever's in front of him or the ground.
You can dress up your Sackboy with costumes found throughout the game. You can also download additional costumes from the Playstation Network. Using stickers you also find in levels, you can customize your "pod," which is basically he menu for picking modes and levels. Some of these items are found easily in levels while others are hidden in more difficult to reach places. Some of these places require two, three, or even four players. The game is a lot of fun to play multiplayer. You can play either local, online, or any combination to include four people in the fun! The only annoying thing about playing multiplayer is that its single screen instead of split screen. When two players are playing together and separate, the camera chooses on to follow. A number appears on screen near the location the other Sackboy was and begins to count down. If it reaches zero while that player is off screen, he or she dies. The camera also zooms so far back to allow all players to see their characters for as long as possible that everything seems far too small. This reminds of me four player battles in large levels in Super Smash Bros. I'd rather have the game show me a closer up view and simply be split screen. Despite this problem, playing with friends adds a lot of fun to LittleBigPlanet.
The physics engine allows for momentum to stay with your character as he or she jumps off of moving platforms. This is a lot of fun and of course is what makes the game different than most other games of its type. The main problem I had with the physics engine was that everything felt like it stayed in the air too long. My first description I could come up with was "floaty" for this problem. By this, I mean that things seem like they're floating. Sackboy seems to stay in the air too long during his jumps, and objects don't fall or move as fast as I'd like. Most likely this is how the designers wanted it so I couldn't really call it a design flaw. However, Sackboy doesn't jump immediately when you press the jump button either. Combining the lag of jumps with the floaty feeling leaves players with inadequate control of Sackboy. Carefully planned jumps over multiple pits with only narrow walkways in the middle that would be possible for skilled players in other platformer games such as Super Mario Bros. prove very difficult and annoying in LittleBigPlanet. The game can also cause you die unexpectedly. When something falls on you, you get squished and die. I expect this. However, I also expect that if there's a small gap under something and I attempt to walk under it, the game should either allow me to walk under it or not allow Sackboy to fit. Sometimes, LittleBigPlanet will allow me to squeeze Sackboy under something simply by holding right on the control stick (in other words, I'm not trying to force him into a small place) causing Sackboy to walk into the gap and then suddenly die. There have been a couple times when I've died and have had no idea why the game decided that something should kill me. As I mentioned earlier, the game sometimes has problems understanding in which depth I want to be. Overall, I understand that the game can't read my mind. Usually it does a good job of predicting, but sometimes I found myself wishing I could turn off this predictive behavior so I could have complete control over where I wanted Sackboy to move.
LittleBigPlanet has a good variety of levels. That said, the game can probably be finished in about six hours. What's really cool about LittleBigPlanet (and what made me so excited for it) is that you can design your own levels and share them over the Playstation Network. Players have a lot of control over their levels and can design many interesting things. There are some flaws with this too though. While the level designing is intricate and great, finding levels is a lot harder. You can search by preset tags, but I'd really like to see some sort of search box. I had imagined LittleBigPlanet to be to its levels as Youtube is to videos. I would like to be able to type what I'm looking for into a search box and see a list of resulting levels that match my search. What I could actually do was search for "cool" and see levels that other people applied the "cool" tag too. This severely hurts and limits the game. I was very disappointed by this.
I did play some interesting levels though. First I played a level titled "Little Big Colossus." As many of you can probably guess, this was styled after Shadow of the Colossus. It was a little buggy because I played it with a second player although it clearly stated that it was designed for a single player. This isn't anything wrong with the game or the designed of that level for I could tell that the bugs would have been present if I played alone, and a warning was clearly visible. It was a lot of fun scaling a Colossus in LittleBigPlanet and bringing him down. Next I played a recreation of level 1-4 from the original Super Mario Bros. While not perfect, it was a lot of fun too! I played a level based on Ghostbusters complete with the Ecto-1, Slimer, and the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. Again, this was quite fun. Finally, I played a game based on Pacman. My friend and I started at the bottom of a Pacman style maze and had to make it to the top to win. Unlike Pacman which allows to move in any direction just as easily as any other, this level proved to be a challenge because the maze is positioned vertically. I had to jump up shafts to move up the maze. The level even had ghosts run around that were electrified, killing Sackboy when touched. Sadly, Media Molecule has begun moderating the user created levels by deleting any level using a known intellectual property. This means that basically any level I had wanted to play would be deleted. I can understand why'd do this, but it still makes me sad.
All in all, I really liked the game. I'm looking forward to the sequel. Despite my fondness for the game, I was severely disappointed by it. While the game was fun, it could have been more. The level creation and sharing could have been amazing. It could have been something never before seen in a video game. LittleBigPlanet had the potential to allow players to make whatever they wanted in the game engine, similar to rom hacking or creating mods for PC games. This would have far made up for the errors of the game engine. However, lacking the awesome sharing it could have had brings LittleBigPlanet down from a revolutionary, truly amazing game to a great game, and the bugs brings it down farther to simply a good, fun game. If you have a Playstation 3 and enjoy platforming games, then I recommend you purchase this game. However, if you aren't terribly fascinated by platformers or if you were considering purchasing a Playstation 3 to play LittleBigPlanet, think again.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/17/08
Game Release: LittleBigPlanet (US, 10/27/08)
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