Tech News on G4
LittleBigPlanet is just heavenly
Nov 17, 2008
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Run. Jump. Collect items.
That is the basic premise of just about every platformer ever made, whether it's 1987's 'Super Mario Bros.' or 2008's 'Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia', and everything in between.
But decades after the very first platformers began appearing in arcades and home consoles, developer Media Molecule has in 2008 made something that's so new, exciting and downright fun, it has managed to turn the genre upside down.
LittleBigPlanet begins simply enough. You're introduced to the game's protagonist - the endlessly adorable Sackboy - and then whisked off to the first of several levels. The first few act as training, teaching you how to do things like jump, grab, and fly, but you're quickly thrust into the real levels, where you begin amassing stickers, costumes, vehicles and other items. The reason for all of these things? Well, that's what makes LittleBigPlanet oh-so-amazing.
You see, LittleBigPlanet isn't just about running through a few pre-made stages. The game also has its own robust level editor, where - and we know this sounds cliche - the only limits are one's imagination.
You can do just about anything in the create-a-level mode. Make yourself a classic platformer full of pits, swings, item boxes and hidden goodies. Create a race course with a couple of vehicles consisting of rocket-propelled Rosie O'Donnell heads with wheels. Or pay homage to some of your favourite old-school classics (it took about three seconds for Super Mario Bros. levels to pop up when the LBP beta was released a few months ago).
Best of all, once you've perfected your level, you can put it online for all other LittleBigPlanet owners to play and (hopefully) enjoy.
Be wary though - there is a lot to learn before it's time to actually make a level. Besides slowly but surely collecting as many items as possible in LBP's campaign, you're also forced to go through dozens of tutorials. Granted, they're for the most part quick and painless, but to truly understand how everything works in LBP, the tutorials are a must.
Making a level in LBP is like painstakingly crafting a model car. It's slow and tedious work, you'll almost surely mess some things up as you go along, you won't be done in ten minutes, and you may wonder if it's worth all the effort.
Believe us folks - it is.
Because as you trudge along, giving this rocket a little less power, or making that enemy a little slower, you have to remember that the possibility exists for millions of people to play your level. Make something unambitious and half-hearted, and the LBP community will let you and everyone else know. Make something truly creative, and you'll be praised the world over - literally.
This is another way that LBP truly shines. The online portion is absolutely spectacular. It's one thing taking your Sackboy (or, we should point out, Sackgirl) from level to level on your own, it's quite another taking three more Sackpeople along.
Though many PS3 games are still playing catch-up to the online juggernaut that is Xbox Live, LBP does just about everything right. Invites are only a couple of button presses away, joining friends' rooms is just as easy and once you've joined up with some people (friends or otherwise), parties stay together.
Voting for and commenting on published levels is also a big part of playing LBP. It's up to each and every player to separate the good from the lame in LBP, so as you scroll through levels (which appear as icons on top of a planet), you'll be able to see what they're rated, how they're described (using one-word descriptions like 'fun', 'addictive' or 'creative', for instance) and how many times they've been 'hearted'. Hearting a level or player is just another way to say you prefer them.
The only knock we have on the online portion is that navigating the levels (both single player and especially the published ones) can be somewhat confusing, as there are so many of them in a small space. Luckily, most levels don't take very long to complete and even if you find a dud, you can leave anytime you want. If you're the party leader, your Sackpeople go where you go!
We all know customization these days is huge. People love being unique and having unique things. Well, wait'll you get a load of Sackboy. This little character starts off as a simple, brown thing, zippered up at the front with some beady little eyes and a mouth, but it's not long before you're able to add everything from wigs, underwear and tails, to new types of skin and outfits. It's amazing just how animated he or she can be, too. Pressing different directions on the D-pad causes your sackperson to change expressions, while holding down the L2 and R2 buttons and moving the two analog sticks allows you to move his or her arms. You'll be doing a disco dance, air-guitaring and waving hello to other players in no time, and having way too much fun doing it.
Our only other gripe with LBP is in the controls themselves. There are a number of points where it feels like dying is simply the result of controls that don't feel 'tight' enough. Sackboy tends to slip and slide just a little too much, and the three depths-of-field that Media Molecule used for the game can make for some awkward situations.
We've only touched the tip of the iceberg here though, folks, when it comes to what makes LittleBigPlanet so endlessly amazing. If you have a Playstation Eye, you can take pictures and upload them into the game itself. If your group of four Sackpeople is too hilarious to forget, you can also take a picture in-game to save. Each level has its own mini-forum where you can talk about what you thought of the level, or how to get a certain item or get past a certain part. Scores are also constantly uploaded online so besides simply beating levels for the sake of beating levels, you can always go back and try to beat high scores.
These minor problems aside, here is a game that truly is for both casual and hardcore gamers alike. You can honestly never even so much as glance at the level editor and never get bored of LBP because new levels are being added every hour of every day. So for the casual folks, LBP is charming enough to simply run through a few levels, have some laughs with friends, and be done. For the hardcore guys and gals, there's a level editor unlike anything we've seen before, where making things work can be a challenge, but can be just as rewarding as finishing the final boss in just about any game (usually moreso).
LittleBigPlanet is sure to have its imitators in the future, but we doubt any will have an all-around package as fantastic as LBP's. Expect to see this on many 'best of' lists come December. This isn't just one of the best games of 2008; it's one of the best games of the last ten years.
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