Sackboy Charms Us Once Again
Before owning PlayStation 3 and loving my Xbox 360, I remember seeing all my friends playing this really unique looking cooperative multiplayer experience. It was so bright and colourful, but seemed to provide extremely challenging gameplay. That game was the original LittleBigPlanet, it was one of the first games I purchased for my beloved PlayStation 3 when I finally had one of my own and from that day, I was in love. LittleBigPlanet has been with me throughout the years, from the great first edition that leaves frustrating memories of that electrified maze near the conclusion of the game, to the amazing moment of finishing LittleBigPlanet 2 and being greeted to my favourite song at the time “Sleepyhead” by Passion Pit. Sackboy and I have a loving relationship, and when I heard his enjoyable adventures were coming to Vita, I was ready to set forth into The Imagisphere once again.
LittleBigPlanet Vita is the first game to be without the development of Media Molecule, developed instead by a collaboration of 2 development studios. Double Eleven and Tarsier Studios, with LittleBigPlanet’s history of quality experiences, the studios had big shoes to step into. I am happy to inform that Sackboy’s latest adventure is as charming and enjoyable as ever, even Stephen Fry returns to bring his elegant voice to the handheld iteration and it wouldn’t be LittleBigPlanet without him. The dialog writers behind this game did a splendid job at providing some of the best humour the series has seen, from Fry’s quirky nonsense riddled banter, to the crazy characters throughout the campaign. The narrative behind LBPV follows an evil overlord known as The Puppeteer who feeds off of the happiness of others; it is up to Sackboy and his band of new friends to save the day. The narrative is out there as usual, but provides the charming nature that the franchise brings to the table.
The main narrative of LBPV is structured as previous games, there are 5 levels per world and each world ends with one of those levels being a boss fight. The boss fights have been done very well, with many incorporating touch features that the Vita is capable of producing, but they never feel forced. There are also hidden golden keys throughout most levels, if you have the skill to find them you can unlock side missions, some single player and some are competitive two player mini-games. These can actually be quite fun, playing air hockey against a friend was something I never thought I would see in the series, the latency of the touch mechanics does become apparent in these mini-games but it is still a fun side feature.
As stated previously Vita’s touch mechanics play a large part in the gameplay of LBPV, you can interact with the world like never before and it feels great. Sometimes there will be objects that need repositioning using the front touch, or objects that need to be pushed out for Sackboy to traverse the level using the back touch. The great thing is they are both extremely responsive and feel natural; touch mechanics should complement the gameplay and not feel like they are thrown in because they can be and these are the best ones I have dealt with in Vita’s short life. Though as with the mini-game latency issue, few levels require more precise touch controls and the latency does hurt these sections, but they are few and far between, never ruining the experience.
One of the greatest features of LBPV is the intelligent level design; almost every single level impressed me. The way they used touch mechanics, different devices Sackboy can use and variety in the construction of levels, really blew me away. I haven’t been this impressed since Rayman: Origins, I was enjoying the diversity of puzzle-platforming so much that the smile could barely be wiped from my face during my playthrough. The levels feel great on the Vita, being bite-sized like its console counterpart it makes a perfect experience for the handheld console. By completing each world the game has to offer you are rewarded with 5 separate Arcade Games, these showcase the levels players can create within LBPV’s Creation suite. These levels are cool side dishes to the main course, but there is nothing in-depth enough to keep you playing, but the option of extra content is appreciated.
LittleBigPlanet visual style fits extremely well on the Vita’s OLED screen, the colours are bright and vibrant and the unique visual style of certain levels really pop. It is frankly a gorgeous game, probably one of the best looking games on the handheld; the various level designs do a great job at showing off what the system can accomplish. Not only that, but the audio direction is the best in the series, the music in previous games has never stood up for me personally, it was never bad by any means but never caught my attention. LBPV corrects that by creating the best music in the franchise, these tunes were stuck in my head days after completion and they complemented the level design brilliantly. They were two peas in a pod providing a charming attitude that stays true to the series.
Now I personally am not the most creative person when it comes to game design, which is why I am here writing about games rather than making them myself. So I haven’t had the most experience with LittleBigPlanet’s Create Mode in the past, however it is easy to tell that this new iteration is far more accessible due to the touch functionality. Want to move an object to a certain place? Place finger and drag. Enlarge an object? Place two fingers and slowly extend out as you would on your smartphone these days. It is so simple, yet so functional that is comes off very well, I found myself still struggling to create levels due to less than creative mind. But the potential for the dedicated creative gamers out there, only improves with the Create Mode’s latest feature.
The creation suite now includes the Memoriser, what is this you ask? Well previously you have been able to create one level in your created experience, that is old news and the Memoriser is here to change that. It allows for created levels to be given a save feature, no longer are you held back to create one level and move on, you can create multi-tiered levels that include hours upon hours of content with player being able to save their game during their playthrough. This new ability could really open the flood gates for creative players to provide some really engaging games, yes games. You could create an RPG that goes for hundreds for hours, you could create anything you mind desires, giving players a reason to come back and continue their Sackboy’s adventure through gamers creativity.
The presentation of the online mode itself is very sleek; it feels more streamlined than previous encounters and makes finding levels easier in many ways. Searching for levels is very quick, with search results appearing in a heartbeat, yet the actual loading of the levels themselves is a different story. Some levels take upwards of 1-2 minutes to come back with an error message, while some seem to load fairly quickly, maybe it was due to the size of the levels? It is hard to tell, but it was a mixed bag and when the loading times were bad, they were very unkind. When I was playing online with other players, I noticed the game ran very smoothly, since my Vita is Wi-Fi connected I was very surprised to see the game run so well. The online features have been refined to provide gamers with the best content quickly and a (for the most part) very responsive online experience.
LittleBigPlanet Vita is that console experience we were looking for on the Vita, it provides a great entry in the series and my personal favourite. Media Molecule’s baby has been put in great hands and has been treated with the utmost respect, providing fans of the series with true charming Sackboy adventure. Touch controls never feel forced and complement the gameplay, latency may play a small issue, but it never takes away from the experience. Intelligent level designs will keep each adventure enjoyable and the gorgeous graphics will impress. Though online levels may have long load times, the creativity of gamers sings when you are introduced to some excellent created levels, and never costing you one extra cent.
My experiences with Sackboy in the past have been delightful and the Vita iteration of LittleBigPlanet does the entire series justice. Enjoying the charming world of LittleBigPlanet on-the-go, is one small step for this little Sackboy. There is no telling what other magical and creative journeys will grace our presence in the future, as the Imagisphere is full of unlimited possibilities.
+ Intelligent level design
+ Gorgeous, bright visuals
+ Best entry in the franchise
+ Touch controls complement the gameplay
- Long online level load times
- Touch control latency is apparent
Overall Review Score: 9.0/10
Jamie Briggs manages Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and their videos on YouTube.