Review by Menji

"The definitive platformer if not for a few annoying problems"

Buckle up. LittleBigPlanet delivers a wildly simple concept with more customization than you will ever use: the ability to create and play in your own world. But be prepared to spend some time though. Creating a great level will take some time, more than a night. After sitting through thirty minutes of tutorials I spent another thirty minutes trying to make a level. I was bombarded with millions of options and almost no clue where to start. Be prepared to really sit down and plan out your design or else it will be really disappointing. But do not fret! I have experienced first hand that people can make some pretty fun and original levels.

Enough of that create stuff which everyone probably already knew about because it is all that was ever shown in the trailers. There is a real game here. Nothing too fancy, just a short platforming adventure. Enter Sackboy, a cute little guy with thousands of outfit combinations. At first, there is a limited supply of materials but as the game progresses, more outfits can be acquired. There are around eight different areas with three levels each to complete. Finishing a level unlocks the next which is necessary because the story builds on the previous level. But it also sucks because if a level proves too difficult you will not be able to advance to a new level. There are also an assortment of challenge levels that are unlocked if the corresponding prize bubble is found in a level. Nothing is unlocked from completing these but they are some examples of quick levels that can be made and are usually pretty fun. The first world starts you out in a medieval setting where a king and queen rule. They are the creators of this world. But as you progress you will go to worlds with different settings like a western, city, and factory. Obviously the game names them something more creative but you get the picture.

A typical level starts off with a quick explanation from a character and then you set off to accomplish that task. This basically just means reaching the end as there is almost no room for backtracking which sucks when you miss something. I absolutely adore the checkpoint system LittleBigPlanet uses. Instead of starting over from the beginning or having random checkpoints like most platformers use, LittleBigPlanet has numerous checkpoints placed almost every other screen. This may seem overkill but it really is not. By reaching the checkpoint, Sackboy has four lives to make the next one. If Sackboy dies: falling into a pit, touching spikes or getting squashed will prompt another Sackboy to pop out of the last checkpoint. And you get a nice little warning sound on your last life. There are usually four things to do in a level; collect items, collect points, finish the level, and just mess around. Each level has a set of items to collect, usually things like stickers, outfits, and level objects. Stickers have no real purpose except to decorate the level and your main room or “pod” as the game calls it. A few key stickers are used to unlock secret areas if you can match the correct sticker to the object outline. Outfits are usually given without any challenge when you enter a new area so you can have a snow outfit when you go to a snow level. Level objects are used if you decide to make your own creation and include things like poles, jumps, ships and other materials to shape a level. Special items are awarded for completing a level: collecting every item in a level and “acing” a level which means to complete it without dying. Naturally these are pretty awesome items like that area's background or something. One of the few problems with this is that just about every level requires a second player to get a few of the items necessary to 100% the level. This can be done by playing online with another player or using two controllers. I do not like how this multiplayer requirement is forced down the player's throat including a third of the trophies require another player to play with you.

There are a few other problems with the gameplay. Surfaces are a bit too slippery. This becomes a problem when Sackboy needs to jump to small platforms and jumping the distance to get there causes him to keep sliding and may lead to his death. Then you need to constantly press back when you land which may lead to a death on the other side. I know the developers are trying to make the physics realistic but the game could use some more friction. The next problem deals with the game's 3-D aspect. At first glance LittleBigPlanet looks like a 2-D platformer. However, there are three layers of depth to traverse. Movement between the three requires up and down inputs from the controller while left and right move along that layer. This is useful when you need to go around and object but may be the death of you when a projectile or enemy is actually on your layer when you did not realize it. I also had a bit of a problem with the responsiveness when moving between layers. This ultimately led to many of my deaths and sources of frustration. Fortunately everything else is spot-on. There are no “phantom” platforms where you will fall through a ledge or not grab onto something. The difficulty can be a pain at sometimes. Some of the timing on objects is weird – at least to me. There a few springy trampolines and spinning wheels that need to be jumped on and released from at the apex to reach the next location. The game does not get too annoying until the last couple of levels. One level in particular comes to mind as being truly cruel. Picture a large spinning wheel. Sackboy enters from the middle and must continue down and counter-clockwise while the wheel spins clockwise. Also note this is at the end of an already difficult level so four deaths will force you to start over. The inner workings of the wheel have a couple levels filled with electric fields that kill on contact. Sackboy must jump these and ledges all while running faster than usual to keep up with the wheel. To make things worse, the end of the wheel has a small opening to fall through. So even if you make it to the end alive, if you were not moving fast enough you will miss it. Add on the slippery surfaces and this is a true nightmare. This almost caused me to stop playing the game but I persevered and beat the game in a matter of days.

Once you complete the story mode you will have acquired enough materials to make some cool levels but remember that you will need to spend some time making something great. A great level is not something you can sit down and make in one night. If you play online, apparently there are hundreds of thousands of levels to play. Some appear to be professionally developed levels complete with an author's introduction video. If you are looking for a fun and creative platformer with excellent music and endless levels, this is the game for you. There is no reason to start with the sequel so check this one out first!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/10/11

Game Release: LittleBigPlanet (US, 10/27/08)

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