It will be about two years this November that I will have owned my PlayStation 3. So what does any “poor” worker do with a new contraption? The answer was simple: Download all the demos that sound cool. One of them was the original LittleBigPlanet. And I hated it as it rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t like the controls, the enforced multiplayer to collect everything (or so it appeared at the time), art style and, most importantly, it bragged about how good it is. It was that final part that did me in. So why in the world do I enjoy the PSP version so much?
LittleBigPlanet has no real plot. There are supposedly a creator’s fair and everyone who is supposed to be attending can’t come for whatever reason. Your job is to fix that. Period. It’s as straightforward as running on top of mushrooms searching for an elusive princess or breaking up robots. So if you play for narrative, expect to be disappointed.
But the platforming is solid enough to entertain for hours. It’s a mixture of traditional platforming and playing a little bit with perspective. You see, Sackboy/person/girl runs through each level and can hop onto things that are in the foreground and one step back (right before the background). And mastering that design element is instrumental for making progress. Furthermore, portions of the landscape move around and can project Sackboy high into the air or smash him cold. Thankfully, checkpoints are frequent, and lives are unlimited. However, you are rewarded for collecting all of the collection items (stickers, design elements and clothes) and surviving a level without dying.
Thankfully, the game’s controls work. How long you hold down the X button influences height, and grabbing things with R is pure simplicity. Stickers are sometimes needed to trigger switches. Gamers who get confused with more than three buttons should feel right at home with LittleBigPlanet. However, it is a little bit persnickety as it doesn’t always give you the breadth or flexibility that most platformers give. For example, if Sackboy runs against a wall and you try to jump, he’ll bump into the wall. This will cause him not to jump his full height. And I would trade in all of those stickers and emoting if I could somehow control the camera to see what’s around him. It also doesn’t help that there are moments in which I briefly, and I admit maybe a bit arrogantly, thought “I could do better.”
And that’s what leads into the game’s potent and downright overwhelming level editor. Limited only by the size of your memory card and imagination, you can create any type of level you want. It takes some time to get used to the control scheme, and this isn’t something to dive into and figure it out as you go along. You’ll need a plan of some sorts to keep your thoughts organized (or at least that’s what I need to do). But if you can figure it out, you can share levels with other players and friends. Plus, you can download THEIR levels as well. So hypothetically, the fun never really stops until you want it to.
Graphically, LittleBigPlanet looks nice. It obviously doesn’t have the smooth, realistic materials and depth that its older sibling contains. But it works. It has the charm of one’s inner imagination. I wouldn’t say that I ”love it,” but it is enjoyable to see how everything comes together. Rubber bands, screws and bolts, gears and bendable trees all represent this home-grown or self-constructed set of environments.
Sound design wise, the game is a bit bland. Music isn’t really missed if it is turned off, which is a shame considering that it is decently made soundtrack. Nothing stood out in my mind as I listened to the various jumps, pops, burns and electricity. Yes, the music fit each area rather well. And no, this is not a soundtrack I would want to download into my iPod.
Overall, I don’t know what it is about LittleBigPlanet that had me enjoying the main ride. I suspect it has to do with the fact that the levels are much smaller and tighter than their PS3 counterparts. There seems to be a greater eye for how things should be flowing. Finally, it seems to have calmed down a bit and doesn’t have its “greatness” oozing out of every pore. If you are just looking for a strong platformer to play for a long weekend and potentially get your creative juices flowing, it is hard to look further than Little Big Planet — warts and all.