Title: LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
Developed By: Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios, XDev Europe
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Based On: LittleBigPlanet Series Originally Developed by Media Molecule
Console: Playstation Vita
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Classification (AU): This title has been classified as G for General Audiences. As always however, the gaming experience can change online.
Review Conditions: Playstation Vita, Australian Edition, Physical Copy
Special Thanks: Sony Computer Entertainment Australia
The Imagisphere… An intangible aura that hugs Planet Earth; embracing every idea that emanates from your brilliant mind. This ethereal world is our ‘happy place’. It’s perfect. So let’s change it. Let’s add… YOU!
Bring your own personality along for the ride – your thoughts, your dreams, your unbounded rolling consciousness and inventive creativity – all the things we adore about you. If ever there was a masterpiece that could be enhanced by a single swish of a paintbrush, then you are that paintbrush. And the painting… is LittleBigPlanet.
I was not an early adopter of the Playstation 3, with a high initial release price and a lack of many titles I chose to stick with the Playstation 2 until late-2007/early-2008 and even upon purchase I only had two or three games for a number of months. The first title that really appealed to me for the console was LittleBigPlanet, which I first saw during an E3 2007 stream and the whole ‘Play, Create, Share’ motto of the title really appealed to me. From October 2008 to now and with three previous releases under their belt, the series has seen over 7 million stages released online, a karting game on its way and this… the Playstation Vita version of the game I am reviewing for you.
But with so many releases and so many creative ventures already explored by the community and developers, does the Playstation Vita version of the game still bring that same level of excitement and inspiration as previous games have? Does the game fare well in its first portable venture since 2009? The answers are Yes and Yes… but let me dive more into the reasons why I say that below.
As with all previous installments of LittleBigPlanet, the game comes with a short ‘Story’ mode containing a number of platforming and arcade stages designed by the developers in order to give those who prefer a single player campaign something to work with while also providing inspiration from what you can develop using the games in-game tools, with content used to make up the stages contained in prize bubbles throughout the levels. The storyline once again follows your own customizable Sackboy on the fairground planet of Carnivalia, where once full of joy and happiness is now disarray. As you travel around the five colourful Carnivalia worlds of different themes, you are put up against ‘The Hollow’ and aided by the denizens of these worlds.
The story mode is short and sweet, and will take you no more than a couple of hours to run through. It contains some creative levels that provide just the right amount of challenge for casual and experienced gamers alike, takes advantage of both previously existing and Vita exclusive tools and control mechanisms and offers plenty of replay value with the scoring system and prize bubble collection – which in turn unlocks extra goodies for use in creative modes and some spiffy attire for you to dress up your sackboy in. The storyline is also enjoyable, with some great narration once again from Stephen Fry.
The core gameplay itself is pretty much the same as the previous LittleBigPlanet releases and control mechanics have been well adapted to suit the button schema of the Vita system. The game does make use of the Vita’s unique control mechanics which make up the majority of game system additions from previous installments. You can move and push in select objects as well as aim shots you make via the paintinator through the touch screen, the back touch pad can be used to push out items from walls and control movements through moving the Vita system. The systems are implemented well, but I found the front touch screen a bit too fiddly to work with when requiring precise timing. Outside of these, the game provides several non-platforming games through bonus unlockable levels and an arcade area which provide interesting (often) touch screen based games.
While the game has the ‘Play’ component down pat, what about the Create and Share elements? While after playing Modnation Racers: Road Trip (Originally released to be the LittleBigPlanet of racing games) on the Playstation Vita I was initially skeptical about the online and creation functionality, I am happy to report that both are there and working well. Creation uses the same system as all LittleBigPlanet games have in the past, although now allows you to some extent use the touchscreen instead of controls to develop your levels. In addition, while experienced developers might skip over them, the game provides a comprehensive 67-part tutorial of the creation tools narrated by Stephen Fry.
As I am more of a player than a creator, I can’t vouch for how well these tools will serve at helping you create the dream platforming stage… but all the options from previous games and more are at your fingertips. One of the more interesting inclusions is the Memorizer which allows you to store and share data across levels – so taking an example from the tutorial, you can have a level-unlock hub which requires players to complete separate levels in order before progressing to the next. This was however one of the less well explained tools in the tutorial, with the Advanced Memorizer tools have only video tutorials.
Unfortunately, content you have unlocked in previous LittleBigPlanet games as well as any levels created in those games are unavailable to utilize or play in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. While you are still given ample materials, objects, music, environments and tools to use, it is likely you would still have a better variety of pre-made items to use in LittleBigPlanet 2′s create a mode. In addition, given the online community starts fresh in this title, you are not given access to the 7 million stages previously created but as of this review more like 4,540 published levels. BUT while there is a much smaller number of online published levels to take part in, experience with previous games states we should be seeing many more interesting levels in the upcoming feature – and some of them have already met a high standard.
While I didn’t have much time to play with actual online multiplayer (After bad experiences with the first game, it isn’t something I generally pay attention to anymore), I am happy to report that the netcode has improved considerably, and from my experience remained mostly lag free. For those of you with only one Vita system as well, the game takes advantage of the consoles multi-touch screen for two-player games and a Pass’n'Play system enabling turn based gameplay. As of this review, there is reportedly no ad-hoc multiplayer option available or confirmed to be available at a later date.
The visual quality of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is solid and features the same bright, colourful and quirky designs of previous games and is what I was hoping for from a Vita port of this title – although more Sackboy costumes and accessories would have been appreciated. The games menu systems are easy to navigate and embrace touchscreen controls. While most of the time characters will mumble their words, the use of Stephen Fry as a narrator and the occasional dub of characters voices were well implemented, but as with the costumes a greater selection of music for the stages and use in create mode would have been appreciated.
While I still believe for the definitive LittleBigPlanet experience would come from owning both Playstation 3 titles, Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios and XDev Europe have exceeded my expectations with this release, taking full advantage of the Vita’s capabilities and retaining almost everything you know and love about the LBP series. Add into the fact the game is loaded with apps not necessarily linked to the Sackboy and you have even less of a reason to drain your smartphones battery to play games while out and about.
The only question is… will the community embrace the Create aspect of the game that the other games have been well known for? It is far too early to say but I am hoping so!
Storyline/Character Development: B
The storyline is short and sweet, serving more as an introduction to the game as a whole rather than a key element of the game.
While there is the occasional visual issue, the design of this game captures the same LittleBigPlanet charm as the original with smooth animations and visuals.
Music/Voice Acting: B+
Stephen Fry’s return as narrator was welcome, and the game has a moderately sized soundtrack full of enjoyable tracks. But it could have used more variety of tracks to be better utilized in Create Mode.
Provides the same enjoyable LBP experience and introduces some new functionality to deliver new levels. Create mode is also fun, but unless you are creative and into developing the stages you are more likely to head straight to the Online Mode as the tools are not always beginner friendly.
Replayability is only limited by your imagination and the imagination of everyone else with the game.
Personal Opinion: A-
Overall Score: A-