Review by fr0st2k
An Incredibly FUN, Unbelievably Creative and Innovative Title! Play, Create, Share! with LBP!
Little Big Planet offers an extremely unique quasi 2d platforming experience. The game itself is solid, with wonderful art direction, extremely cute characters, and a gaming experience unlike any you've played before. Well, ok, maybe you've seen something like it before, however LBP offers such an innovated perspective on the old and tired 2d gaming platform, that it will seem like a real breath of fresh air for anyone interested in revisiting their 2d past.
Speaking of innovation, Little Big Planets major selling point is almost certainly its creative and risky mantra of Play, Create, Share. The game gives players the opportunity to sit in the shoes of a game developer, offering them every single tool the actual game developers used when crafting the story mode levels. This definitely caters to ones creative prowess. The risky part? If you aren't creative, you're not going to find much to do with this game. However, I will argue, just as I'm sure the team over at Media Molecule would, that every gamer out there has some ounce of creativity that is just aching to pour out.
The first of Media Molecule's mantra is Play. That's certainly an important aspect of gameplay, wouldn't you think? What good would a video game be if it just had pretty graphics but you couldn't play it? Well, in that case it would be a Final Fantasy game(^o^), but I digress!
Sackboys enter into the world on one of three 2d planes. As you begin running through the level, you can easily switch between the three manually by pressing either up or down on the joystick. In some situations, you're position on the planes are automatically adjusted. This works fairly well, as generally, when you want to be on a different plane, you are placed there. Sackboys are extremely mobile little buggers, and you'll be navigating constantly through these planes and though obstacles as you progress though the stage.
As far as sackboys specific mobility, they have the ability to run, walk, jump and hang. It seems fairly simple, and it is. Anyone will be able to pick up a controller and start playing with a relatively low learning curve. However, is it too simple? The short answer is no. The complexity doesn't lie in the sackboys mobility, but instead, from the extremely complex, creative, and innovative stage designs, some of which simply blew me away through their sheer creativity. Crusin' downtown in a hot sports car, knocking over walls in the process; dog sled racing over icy cliffs; dodging stalagmites; navigating minecarts with explosives; breaking skeleton uncles out of prison, this game has it all.
The story mode stages offer some really interesting concepts, and they do so in very clever and always unique ways. Every level will feel new and exciting, and every level you beat brings you more and more challenging obstacles. The later levels really start to challenge the control you have over your sackboy by requiring good timing, quick reflexes, and a very good understanding of the phsyics system.
The physics in this game are also pretty remarkable. Its not like we have never seen a game with physics, however LBP integrates physics into its gameplay unlike any other game to date. The game is designed to simulate a diorama, so you will see objects hanging by string, stickers stapled and glued to the wall, free objects that can be pushed and pulled accordingly, and they all look and behave just as you would imagine. Gravity plays a big factor in stage design as well. If something isn't glued or stuck by some other means, it is being effected by gravity. This concept is actually used in the level design, and really adds to the replay value as it offers an infinite amount of possible outcomes.
As I already stated, some of the puzzles and obstacles in this game are down right devious. They require very good control, and sometimes you might feel like your sackboy just doesn't have it. I don't see this as a fault however. It was almost certainly a choice on the developers part, and it makes the game feel much more realistic. After you get used to the controls, you will be nailing all your jumps and love the game more due to how great it looks when you're doing it. Unfortunately, there are some areas where you will get frustrated while trying to navigate to a specific plane. However, these are few and far between, and can easily be avoided with good level design.
While the story mode offers players extremely interesting concepts and very fun and challenging puzzles, the story itself is pretty dull and is about as exciting as rescuing a princess. However, there are a good cast of memorable characters, and thanks to the create mode, the story is never ending.
Following Play, is the bread and butter of this game, the Create mode. This mode is arguable, the sole reason to purchase this game. If you have ever wanted to know what it felt like to be a game designer, you finally get your chance. Media Molecule offers its players every single tool they had when they made the story mode levels. Each time I played through a MM designed level, it inspired me to want to go create my own awesome designs.
When you enter your own level, you are given the choice to start with a template, or a blank canvas. You can apply a background, adjust the lighting, the time of day, and the music. They offer tutorials for each and every tool, and reward you with stickers and objects for each tutorial completed. This adds an extra incentive for watching them other than that overrated thing some call knowledge.
The creator is certainly easy to use. Hit play, plop down some wood, and it will instantly be affected by gravity and fall to the ground. Or, hit pause, plop down some more wood, and watch it float in the air for easy editing. Adding switches and buttons, explosives and elevators become child's play once you practice a little. That is the key word however, practice. Anyone can create basic levels pretty easily, but if you are expecting to create that incredibly super mega awesome idea you have floating in your head, be prepared to put in some dedication and a lot of time. However, to make it a little easier for you, MM puts all their premade objects at your disposal. Simply find the object in story mode, then find it in your goody back and add it instantly.
I really respect the developers for their ingenuity while integrating the tools required to make levels. With just a few different tools, you have almost infinite possibilities. You might ask yourself, what can I do with a string? Well, you can hang something, you can swing something from it, you can hang multiple pieces of it. Now add a string that shrinks and stretches. Now you can make an elevator, a flying bird, a catapult, and then add switches, timers, emitters, objects, sounds, creatures, etc, and you can see how the possibilities are endless.
Ok, so you've aced story mode, you completed all levels at 100%. You tried the create mode, but you just can't get the hang of it. What else is there to do? Well, connect to the PSN and let other people do the creative work for you!
There are loads of people out there, right now, as you read this, creating new and interesting levels for your enjoyment, and MM has made finding them and playing them an extremely easy task. In fact, its seamlessly integrated into the level navigation menu, and is as easy as clicking one button.
If you so choose, as soon as you start the game you will be connected to the LBP servers. This makes finding people to play with a breeze. When you go into story mode, a number will appear above each level telling you how many people are playing it. Simple choose to play the level online, and you will instantly be taken to the level and be placed with 3 other sackboys. After beating the level, you return to the menu screen still connected to your new 3 friends, allowing you to form brand new friendships, and not forcing you to continually reconnect to new people.
If you happen to be lucky enough to have 3 or more RL friends, you can connect to them just as easy. Choose the friends tab, find them in game, and connect.
If you happen to have created a stage, one that you think is worthy of sharing, you simply click publish and people around the world have instant access to it. As a reward for playing others stages, creators are allowed to reward players with specific objects from their board, that they can then use in their own created levels. This emphasizes sharing and playing, and adds quite a lot of depth to the online world.
MM has integrated a pretty well rounded rating system as well. If you play someones level, upon finishing it, you are given the opportunity to rate it from one to five stars and then tag it with specific premade tags. Obviously, its not the most ideal situation, but considering this game is rated E, allowing a more user-controlled system would be a nightmare to mod.
I have already ran into griefers who simply want to ruin my experience. One person I ran into felt the need to open a sticker and grow it to a huge size, and block our view of the stage. Lucky for me, MM has a nifty, kick player option for just such an occasion. It would be nice if they had an ignore, or block command as well, maybe we can hope for that down the line.
All in all, the online portion of the game works just how you'd want it to. It's simple, and it gets it down without a hassle. Obviously there are some glitches present at the moment, which can be expected of any new server structure. MM is working hard to iron these out, and hopefully they'll have it fixed asap. The worst glitch I have come across is how single player lags when you are connected to the LBP servers. It is already much better than it was at launch, but it can still use a few tweaks.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in this game are amazing. Everything looks, feels, and moves realistically and just how you'd imagine. The sackboys have a huge level of detail, and a huge amount of customization options. As you play through the story, you receive costumes and skins that you can apply to your sackboy whenever you feel the itch for change. You can change their sack pattern, add hair, hats, glasses, change their eyes, clothes, even give them items to hold onto.
The environments, as you've hopefully already inferred, are incredibly realistic. The backgrounds look picture perfect and serve as a great backdrop to the action in front of it. As mentioned earlier, the art design seems to replicate that of a diorama, and it does it successfully. The story mode levels all have a specific theme, and are some of the most creative forms of game design I have ever seen. Everything works and looks great.
The sound fits very well with the themes of the game. Unfortunately, you can't add your own music to the game, but you CAN create your own music using specific tools in the Create mode. While that is certainly not an easy task, it definitely shows you the complex nature of the Create mode. You have close to a dozen themed music tracks to choose from, and you can adjust a mixer to make them sound different. You are also given a large selection of sound effects to use while making your own little monsters.
This game is a must buy for all PS3 owners, creative or not. The single player mode is loads of fun, and offers a lot of re-playability through collectables and unlockables. The levels are imaginative and fun, and playing with your friends is a blast. You'll be yelling at them, telling them to jump here and jump there, but always in a good natured way. If you find yourself lacking and friends, just hope online and suddenly you have thousands of people to play with.
The create and share aspects of the game ensure the game will never become stale, as the create mode is complex enough to offer an almost limitless amount possibilities where as the share mode ensures you will always be able to find them.
This game gets my official 10/10 approval, and I recommend it to any gamer of any age.
See you all in Little Big Planet!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: LittleBigPlanet (US, 10/27/08)
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