When small UK developer Media Molecule launched their innovative title LittleBigPlanet on PlayStation 3 in 2008 it fast became one of Sony’s flagship titles, earning widespread adoration from both the press and the public. Sony loved it so much that they made the series mascot, Sackboy, their official mascot too, using him to illustrate key financial information at press events.
The series success is rooted in the fact that it offers unparallelled levels of creation, letting players not only create their own levels, but, in LittleBigPlanet 2, also allowing players to create their own games to share online with other LittleBigPlanet 2 players.
And now Sony have decreed that their latest handheld shall share in Media Molecule’s magical glow with the development of LittleBigPlanet on Sony’s latest handheld the PlayStation Via. Of course this is not the first time there has been a portable LittleBigPlanet game – one was released on PSP in 2009 – however, while it too was a fun and appealing game, it had no multiplayer, which is one of the most fun aspects of the series. The Vita version of LittleBigPlanet looks to rectify this issue and bring as near a complete version of the main console game as possible to the palm your hands, complete with online multiplayer.
At the start of our short hands on demo I was dropped right back into the familiar and customisable LittleBigPlanet Pod, with the main difference being that all of the menus can be navigated with touch controls. Simply tap the planet you want to play and off you go! There were only four different story levels for us to sample, but there was enough space in the menu for dozens more.
Two of the missions were quite elaborate and highly creative, seamlessly blending the traditional button controls with the new touch controls . One level has you running around a high security complex solving puzzles to unlock doors towards a mainframe which you must hack. The main new gadget in your arsenal is a grappling hook, which is a real joy to use. The second story level is a race from start to finish though and obstacle course of trampolines, spring boards, spike pits and rotating platforms with accompanying music that could cheer up anybody.
The other two levels we were able to sample could be considered games in their own right, the Toy Tanks level is a top down tank shooting game much like BattleTanx or Tabletop Tanks. This game within a game has 4 different levels of its own, which are all fun, interesting and very competitive. The level controls like a twin stick shooter and tank missiles will bounce off walls so check your fire!. It’s odd how online players will work together so well during story levels but instantly turn on each other with murderous intent as soon as your Sackboy gets behind the wheel of a tank.
Another level, called Tapling, is a dark 2D puzzle platformer where you control some sort of sentient blob that has busted out of prison and is on a mission to save all the other sentient blobs as he escapes. You move him around the monochrome levels by tapping in the direction you want him to go, which actually makes for a decent alternative to a more traditional control scheme. Visually it wouldn’t be too unfair to suggest that it is a nod to the smash hit Limbo, as it’s dark and expressive character designs and environments certainly seem to take some inspiration from it. As you progress, flicking your tapling around, coloured goo will start to appear, some will stick you to walls and some of it you’ll bounce right off, just like that coloured paint in Portal.
Both of these mini games are brilliant examples of what LittleBigPlanet has to offer, and the thing you have to remember while playing is that everything you see, no matter how grand or complicated it may be, can all be created by you! As with the console versions, it’s a community driven game and once it’s released you can expect millions of crazy user created levels to be uploaded, a never ending stream of new content for you to explore. That’s where the search function comes in handy, it makes filtering though user generated content much easier.
The Vita’s touchscreen and rear touchpad both play key roles in the design of levels too, but you won’t be required to mindlessly tap and swipe ypour way through the game. All you need to know is this: anything on screen that’s glowing blue with finger prints on is touchable. Sometimes this will mean you have to move or rotate platforms to create new pathways, then you’ll be using touch to activate switches or pull down on catapults sending sack folk far and wide. You’ll have to push blocks into the background to avoid being turned into ash by a lazer and then apply your digits to a fingerprint scanner to open doors. It all makes for some fun, interesting and intuitive gameplay that works well and is entirely in keeping with the LittleBigPlanet universe.
As fantastic as the story mode is undoubtably going to be, the most attractive feature LittleBigPlanet has is it’s create mode. For the most part it hasn’t changed from the console version, tools are a little easier to use and the second analogue stick makes it easier to resize objects, but the main addition is touch materials. The touchable items you create are only limited by your imagination, whether it be switches, platforms,doorways, hell, why not the entire level? Perhaps the best feature is the ability to actually draw whatever shape you want., and you can even use your finger, allowing for some more precise illustrations.
If you fancy the idea of creating your own mini-games you’ll be glad to know you can add your own title screens, level select, unlockable levels, and even bonus rounds. Having said that, the extensive tutorials were unavailable during our play time, so trying to create something of my own was a little tricky, especially with all the sub menus, after sub menus, after sub menus. I found it difficult enough in the original LittleBigPlanet creating a level I considered worthy of an upload but now I can create entire games as well… with title screens? Part of me fears that this may be too much for a portable console…
Its really going to be exciting to see what people can make though, especially series veterans. One person has already manged to recreate a fully functional version of another Vita game, Lumines. There’s going to be something to suit everyone’s tastes in this all you can eat buffet of content, and when you do find some favourites, you can view other people’s screenshots from the level, leave comments, view scores, and even leave a rating to pay respects to the player’s creativity.
Even though we only spent a short while playing the game, one thing is clear, LittleBigPlanet Vita has taken the best elements of the two console LittleBigPlanets and smushed them into a tight portable package. Soon you’ll be able to play LittleBigPlanet online wherever you go, with the added bonus of sublime touch controls only improving the game, making it much easier to create and edit your own levels.
LittleBigPlanet is due to be released on PlayStation Vita later this year, and we cannot wait to see what the full game has in store for us.
- Adam Radcliffe