LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 never really held any interest for me. Sure, the style was enchanting, the music captivating, and Sackboy titillating, but the strengths of its aesthetics were never more than a short distraction from what was a charming yet unchallenging and mechanically float-ey side-scroller. It’s taken three titles under the LBP banner, and the promise shown by the upcoming game Puppeteer, that have finally made me realise what LittleBigPlanet actually did for gaming – it created an entirely new genre.
Somewhere there is a term that explains the human reaction and love for the theatre, for exploring museums, and for creating art, all in a few syllables. Sackboy is both avatar and canvas, able to travel through any story – quite literally, any story. Some dedicated gamer even went ahead and made the opening to FFVII in LBP2. This isn’t simply a case of copying or rabid fan-devotion, this is an artistic reinterpretation of something gamers, like myself, consider a classic. Someone sat down and thought about what made the opening of FFVII, the music and the dialogue and the characters, and then had to adjust these values into a whole new field with different rules and limitations, in the same way we constantly reshape man’s instinctual mythos to remain continually relevant in current society.
Unfortunately, I’m incredibly lazy, and I missed out on a lot of these experiences on the big screen, but the LBP Vita opened my eyes to the true potential of this new genre, this entire creative platform.
LBP Vita lovingly transports us by way of Stephen Fry’s narration to the land of Carnivallia, a place once filled with joy and laughter, now being overrun by the soulless henchmen of the evil antagonist, the Puppeteer. The Puppeteer, whose shows were once the adoration of hundreds, started to decline in popularity. Driven insane by the abandonment, The Puppteer banished his puppets, and began to crush and melt down all objects and peoples of Carnivallia to extract their joy, in an attempt to use their essence to create more popular dolls. Sackboy, a newcomer to Carnivallia, must stop the destruction of this world before it’s too late.
Like a male model, compacting LBP from a full screen to a handheld has only made LBP sexier. The graphics, style and smoothness of the gameplay have remained the same, only with the added bonus of tighter, less float-ey jumping mechanics. LBP Vita feels like it’s having a serious go at being a platformer without ever stepping into the grounds of teeth-grinding challenge, focusing on fun and reward rather than on reflex and accomplishments. Harder sections are tricky, rather than frustrating, and the penalties for dying are fairly negligible. Sackboy is simply transported to the last checkpoint (which are never too far apart) and deducted a certain amount of points from your overall score, which even then stops happening after a few deaths.
There are around 40 levels in the game, split over five different stages, each one requiring Sackboy to use different items (like super strength gloves or a grappling hook) to see you get through the areas in safety. Initially, I suspected that using these items would quickly get old, but the level designs in LBP are genius, first introducing you to the new mechanics with the levels not only escalating in difficulty, but also variety. Further, mixing in touch-controls and the Vita’s accelerometer made kept the game fresh from start to end. Between Gravity Rush and LBP Vita, I am now convinced more than ever that the capabilities of the Vita are more than just fun add-ons, they are essential to a fully realised handheld experience.
The simplicity of the gameplay perfectly intertwines with the child-like elegance of the narrative; you never feel like you’re too far away from what’s actually going on. Along his journey, Sackboy meets the residents of Carnivallia, each of them explaining their stories and roles within the Carnivallian world, enlightening Sackboy as to what actually happened to the Puppeteer. It almost makes me sad that these small characters in this small game have so much more strength in their dialogue and personality than many AAA games have. As of this time of writing, I’ve had hours with both XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Dishonored, and neither of these can hold a sputtering, impotent candle to how well-fleshed the characters are in LBP Vita.
Crafting your own levels within LBP Vita is just like it is on the PS3, only about 1000 times more easy because you can now use touch-controls to move and place objects. I made several attempts to make levels, and all of them were just terrible, seriously atrocious, and my hat is off to the guys over at Double Eleven for their masterful work.
- Reviewed On
- PS Vita