|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Media Molecule||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 27, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
September 29, 2008 - If you haven't been closely following LittleBigPlanet, you might be confused as to what all the hype is about. At first glance, it might not seem to be anything special; you may have seen images or videos of a little doll-like character running around and interacting with various different environments. However, after sitting down and playing through the first world of the game along with experimenting with the much-touted level creator, I'm confident that LittleBigPlanet completely deserves all the attention that it's been getting.
I started out with a quick introduction to how the game works and after a few brief tutorials, I started running, jumping, and exploring through a handful of different levels. The controls are fairly typical and easy to use, and they allow you to run, jump, swing, and grab items to manipulate them and solve some environmental puzzles.
What's neat about the platforming component of LittleBigPlanet is that there's a definite emphasis on puzzle-solving and exploration in addition to your standard Mario-esque platforming. The game's impressive physics engine comes into play here. For example, in one part, you'll use your weight and inertia from a jump to tilt over a block and use it to access a new area. The puzzle solving was never particularly difficult, but it was satisfying and creative.
What's most exciting about the platforming segments is the exploration aspect; the later levels had a lot of hidden areas and secrets. Scattered throughout each level are a variety of items, from stickers to new environmental items to music, all of which can be used when you create your own levels. The more you explore in the pre-made levels, the more options you'll have when it comes time to working on your own user-created content.
There were a few minor issues with the platforming aspect of LittleBigPlanet, most of which revolved around the 3D structure of the game. It's mostly a 2D game but along the 2D path, there is a depth to the level. There can be structures in the foreground and in the background, and the game has this mechanic where it will automatically switch you between planes when you jump. This is helpful when you're climbing up a structure that exists on multiple planes, but sometimes there'll be a hazard (a string of fire, for example) in one plane and when you jump up to grab an item in your current, safe plane, the game will slide you back to the plane with the hazard in it. It's a confusing situation, and it ends up with you losing a life and there's no obvious way to overcome this problem.
As a platformer, while charming and fun, LittleBigPlanet doesn't do anything particularly revolutionary. What is groundbreaking is the level creator and community features that this title sports. As you play through the game, you'll find items that can be used in creating your own levels. You can choose from different templates for your own creations or you can start with a blank canvas and make everything from scratch.
Incredibly, despite the seemingly-limitless depth of the creator, it's surprisingly easy to use. You'll open up your character's personal menu and easily create items and structures and position them in your level. Rotating and resizing items is quite easy, and the click and drag tool for wood and stone allows you to create large structures quite easily. The workspace that you're given is large and it's no exaggeration to say that the sky's the limit when making your level; if you think something up, you'll be able to make it.
Once you've finished your creation, uploading it to the server is as easy as hitting publish; it'll be available to play for anybody who owns LittleBigPlanet. It's this aspect of the game that is most exciting, because in addition to uploading your own levels, you can obviously play levels that other people have created. I played through several; many of the levels were quite creative and some were even better than the pre-made levels. You're only going for high scores in the user-created levels; there are no items to find. But, the sheer amount and variety of the user-made content ensures that you'll find some levels that you really love.
LittleBigPlanet is a platformer, but at its core it's all about the online community. It's an accessible, easy-to-pick-up title that offers lots of fun in terms of exploration. More importantly, the level creation tools are robust and intuitive, and making levels is fun, easy, and addictive. Chatting with your friends, customizing your character, uploading your own levels, and leaving feedback on other people's levels is where this game really stands out. LittleBigPlanet completely deserves all the hype it's been getting and I, for one, am more excited than ever about this title's upcoming release.
CCC Freelance Writer