Second’s the Charm
LittleBigPlanet is one of the most original games ever made. I know that’s a big statement, but it’s a well-deserved one. When I found out the game was going portable, I couldn’t have been happier. Not only would I be able to play more of it, but it would also be a great opportunity for non-PS3 owners to experience the game that had conquered our hearts. It’s taken 12 months to see our Game of the Year turned into a handheld experience, so hopefully everyone has had enough time to get through the original and prepare for this portable session of LittleBigPlanet; those who haven’t… well, here’s your chance to get back into it, just the way you know it.
Media Molecule, LBP’s original development team, hasn’t done a whole lot for the PSP version. For the most part, they’ve just supported Sony’s UK-based development team so they’d achieve their ultimate goal: creating a whole new LittleBigPlanet game for the handheld without the risk of getting it lost in translation. SCE Cambridge has indeed done an amazing job with the game, making it feel just like its big brother, but shrinking it to palm-sized entertainment.
The team had a few handicaps to overcome, starting with the smaller display. LBP was made to shine on a big HD screen, and its charming, hand-crafted vibe, as well as the incredible details and textures set this game apart from everything else out there. When you see LittleBigPlanet on the PSP, you almost want to see more. The game is still loaded with great details and textures, packed with original new levels, lots of color, and the same characters we’ve come to love. You can also unlock new items and bring up the Pop-It menu with the push of a button in order to customize your sackperson, and you can purchase new costumes from the PSN, just like on the PS3.
The 35+ new levels have been carefully designed and decked out with that characteristic ethnic feel that takes your imagination to exciting new worlds, and the unique menu interface couldn’t be more familiar. You can also customize the levels with stickers you collect along the way, and even employ some of them to trigger chain reactions or open up new paths. Everything has been done right as far as visuals, yet you want to see everything blown up in size. It feels as if the game is facing its worst enemy: its big console counterpart. If we had nothing to compare it to, we wouldn’t have these strange feelings. However, one has to get over that and realize this is one of the best-looking PSP games out there.
Something similar happens with the sound. The game sports an admirable soundtrack with songs and tunes that fit the varied themes like a glove. They are different from the PS3 version and exclusive to this game, as are the new levels. The sound effects have been borrowed from the big brother, and the original narrator, Stephen Fry, does a great job here as well. Unfortunately, despite the high-quality soundtrack we’re being offered, the PSP speakers are not quite up to snuff, and even when wearing headphones, the aural experience can’t quite compare.
But enough comparisons! All I’m trying to say is that previous LittleBigPlanet fans may feel a bit out of place with this portable version at first, though the wonderful and equally engaging new levels will soon do their job of getting you hooked. The game takes you to seven new locations, from the virgin lands of Australia to China, Egypt, Switzerland, and beyond. The charming new levels have all been designed from scratch, made to fit the typical LBP platforming style, and they’re filled with accessible physics-based puzzles that let you advance through the game with just the right amount of effort. Everything is very original and intuitive, and whether you’re trying to reach a switch, escape from a dragon, or climb a mountain of disappearing blocks, no one should worry about too much challenge; everything’s doable with a little bit of practice.
Some of the frustrations found in the original game have been dealt with. Although it’s a side-scroller, the game had three layers of depth that oftentimes caused confusion. In the PSP version, there are only two: the front and the background. This still allows you to move in between those dimensions in order to advance and reach secret areas, minus the confusion. Also, the buttons are still pressure-sensitive and some actions depend on it, as you’ll be able to jump a little higher or further depending on the way you push or hold the button, but at the same time, it’s been tweaked to combat the over-exaggerated physics of the first game. Again, this leads to less frustrating moments and a more free-flowing platforming experience.
Obviously, the PSP doesn’t have the same amount of buttons found on the PS3’s DualShock / Sixaxis controllers, nor does it feel the same way when you hold it. Once more, the developers had to work with what they had and translate the controls the best they could. Luckily, playing LittleBigPlanet on the PSP is still very enjoyable. The thumbstick controls the character with ease, and the main buttons are used for jumping, displaying the Pop-It menu, etc. The character expressions have been mapped to the D-pad. You can make your sackboy look surprised, sad, angry, or happy by pushing the different directions. If you hold the left shoulder button while pushing the ones on the D-pad, you’ll even be able to emphasize these expressions and obtain different results. The only problem is you’ll just be doing this for your own enjoyment, as there’s no multiplayer in LittleBigPlanet for the PSP.
Playing LBP with your friends was great fun in the first title, but unfortunately, Sony’s Cambridge development team had lots of trouble trying to accomplish the same for the PSP version, so they decided it to bag it. Loading times are already somewhat steep as it is, so they didn’t want to make matters worse. This is one of the biggest gripes for the game, and certainly the biggest difference between the two titles. However, the PSP version was designed to take the LBP experience on the go, with brand new levels, level designer, and more, so we should just take it for what it is. Of course, some local multiplayer wouldn’t hurt, but at least you can still check other people’s ranks in the different levels, and you can create wonderful levels from scratch and share them with other players.
The level creator included in LittleBigPlanet for the PSP is not as in-depth as on the PS3 version, but it comes close. It has less buttons, which makes the task more daunting and elaborate, but if you stick with it, you will be able to concoct amazing new stages. This tool lets you design your own platforms, puzzles, and dangers from beginning to end, and then you can upload the levels to the network so it becomes available for other users to download free of charge. Even if you’re not feeling creative and want to stick to just playing the game, you can extend the play value by downloading and playing other people’s masterpieces, or you can even purchase new levels from the PlayStation Network.
All in all, LittleBigPlanet for the PSP came out just right. It carries the essence of the original, retaining most of its features, from original gameplay and character customization to fantastic graphics, soundtrack, and level creation. It’s not a very long game, but whether you’ve played the original or not, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this brilliant platformer and enjoy the wonders of LittleBigPlanet.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The environments and characters are almost as detailed as on the PS3, though they don’t pop as much on the smaller screen. 4.2 Control
Despite the limitations of the PSP, the dev team did a good job transferring the intuitive controls to the handheld. The physics of the game are close to what we saw in the original, and perhaps make the game a bit more accessible. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As always, one of the best aspects of LittleBigPlanet. Varied tunes give just the right touch to the differently themed levels. 4.3 Play Value
If it’s LittleBigPlanet, you have to play it. It’s not as expansive as the PS3 version, and there’s no multiplayer, but with 35+ levels and a fully-fledged level creator, there are more than enough reasons to give this game a go. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.