Review: LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
By Paul Hunter
While LittleBigPlanet PS VIta's heartwarming narrator Stephen Fry uses words like "wonderful" and "magnificent" with obvious and intentional exaggeration to describe just about everything in Sackboy's latest adventure, he might as well be saying it with a straight face. Simply put, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is such a joy to play that it's basically LittleBigPlanet 3 in the palm of your hand.
Having a big franchise like LittleBigPlanet given to relative newcomers Double Eleven Studios and Tarsier Studios seemed a bit uneasy on paper, even with Media Molecule giving their guidance. Those fears were soon alleviated when I popped in the game cartridge and started my new Sack-adventure. Beginning with the most charming introduction seen in a LittleBigPlanet game yet, a rather odd-looking ringmaster of a planet known as Carnivalia tells a tale of an evil Puppeteer whose malevolence towards disrespectful audiences drove him to rid the land of all its happiness. Now a miserable place, it's up to our burlap-textured hero to travel through themed levels as he attempts to foil the Puppeteer's plans and return joy back to Carnivalia.
Graphically, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is pixel for pixel exactly as charming as LittleBigPlanet 2 was on PlayStation 3. Like in previous LittleBigPlanet games, the 45 included Story mode levels serve as an excellent portfolio for the wide range of level-types that can made in the game's robust level creator. In LittleBigPlanet PS Vita you'll encounter touch-control flying areas, underwater sections, rolling levels using tilt motions, timed races, and take a ride on numerous contraptions and creatures.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita introduces motion controls into the franchise for the very first time and I'm happy to say they work. There's no tacked-on feel whatsoever, the motion controls are introduced naturally and effortlessly become second-nature. You'll tap the front touch screen to "push" blocks into the background, just as you press on the rear touch screen to "pop" these same blocks into the foreground. The game also incorporates the PS Vita's gyroscope with levels that requires you to move objects via tilting your screen or roll your Sackboy using the same method. Aside from the odd smudge you'll get on your PS Vita screen, there are no real negatives here when it comes to motion control.
Beating levels nets you rewards such as stickers, costumes for your Sackboy, and can unlock special bonus levels if you find hidden keys on certain levels. These bonus levels almost always require you to hold the PS Vita vertically and most feel inspired by other video games, such as Tower Building (like Tetris) and Flower Pop (like Bust a Move). Acing a level (beating it without dying), unlocks even more goodies, and if you have a buddy join a multiplayer session with you there are sometimes designated two-player areas containing additional costumes and stickers.
On top of the five main worlds, a sixth area called The Arcade unlocks after completion of the first world. Inside the Arcade there are five games sans Sackboy that show off even more capabilities of the level creator. These games are so impressive, each of them could easily be mistaken for a PlayStation Mini title. They all incorporate the new and powerful tool called the Memorizer, which allows creators to build multi-level games that include save points, level select menus, three-star performance ratings, and even RPG elements such as persistent inventories between levels.
It wouldn't be a LittleBigPlanet with a Community mode and this one feels every bit as complete as its console sibling. Here, all the user-created games can be found and played (at time of writing, 20,000+ games have already been created). If you enjoy a community game you can give a heart vote, tag it with identifiers, or leave a comment. To search for levels there are three methods, using the Cool Levels option where popular levels naturally float to the top, by entering the Team Picks area to find games selected by the LittleBigPlanet development team, or by simply searching for the level if you happen to know the name. While a WiFi connection is required to play games in the Community area, there's a neat feature to download games to play later when you'll be in a spot without WiFi, say on a road trip. You will need WiFi however for multiplayer, which supports up to four players simultaneously.
The level creator is back, and is as feature complete as what was seen in LittleBigPlanet 2. In fact, there are even more tools and gadgets to use this time around, all explained through 67 tutorials narrated by the always giddy Stephen Fry. These tutorials start out with simple editing techniques and later show advanced techniques to incorporate motion control and even create multi-level games using the Memorizer. Bringing photos into your LittleBigPlanet level has never been easier, given that the PS Vita includes built-in front and rear cameras. Keep in mind that if you found level creation to be too time-consuming or tedious in previous games, you'll likely feel the same way this time around. While the tutorials are nice, they're the weakest part of the whole package as they can sometimes be insufficient to fully understand a concept, and in some bizarre cases you can't even replay the tutorial.
Overall, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita shines as the best example of how to fully take advantage of the PS Vita's unique capabilities. The motion controls are a natural fit for LittleBigPlanet and add a new layer of challenge and fun. If you've been deterred by the "floaty" platforming feel that permeates the series, you'll find nothing unchanged with the PS Vita version. However, if you can accept the controls as part of the LittleBigPlanet experience, you'll find this new entry to be the very best in the franchise's history -- and that's saying a lot.
LittleBigPlanet is out now, exclusively for PS Vita. The game was developed by Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven Studios, in conjunction with Media Molecule, and is published by Sony Computer Entertainment.
LittleBigPlanet is rated E for Everyone.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]