Friday, November 27, 2009

LittleBigPlanet (PSP) Review

In 2008, LittleBigPlanet for the Playstation 3 was announced as SPC's Game of the Year. It eventually went on to receive a Game of the Year edition. Hmm. How coincidental, wouldn't you say? Is its little little brother, LittleBigPlanet (for PSP) on its way to win a handheld game of the year for 2009?

Big things come in little packages.

Last year, Playstation 3 owners received a game that was as creatively thought up as the amount of creativity generated from the large and robust community. In short, there was a lot of creativity going on. Several Playstation 3 titles have already been effectively translated to the smaller-scale PSP such as Resistance and Motorstorm. Can Sony go three-for-three with their PS3 to PSP conversions, or is this version of LittleBigPlanet creatively bankrupt?

Although this game shares its name with its little big brother, the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is an all-new platforming adventure-- not a port of the original. There's dozens of new levels to explore, new costumes, and online servers dedicated to original PSP content. A difference or two between this version and the PS3 installment is that: 1) there are now only two planes to cross between as opposed to three, and 2) there is no multi-player mode to speak of this time around which is a bummer. It makes all the faces, expressions, and movements with your Sackboy or Sackgirl, the characters of LittleBigPlanet, feel useless since you can't share them with others. It also makes dressing up your avatar only for your personal use.

Each creator's world is themed.

The story mode follows you through seven themed worlds each with three or four levels as well as several bonus arcade-style challenge levels where the goal is to survive as long as possible or get to the end as quick as possible. The story mode is there not only to make up the meat of the game for those not creatively adept enough to make their own levels, but it's also there to give players much needed inspiration and new ideas.

The typical goal of a LittleBigPlanet level is to run, jump, climb, and grab your way from the beginning of a level to the end. This is all the while avoiding hazards and obstacles that will kill your Sackperson in one hit. Thankfully, a good level will have an abundance of helpful checkpoints, so deaths won't be half as frustrating as they otherwise would be. You'll be pulling blocks to set atop switches, dealing with various doodads and mechanical wonders, riding various vehicles such as hot air balloons, race cars, and roller coaster cars, solving clever little puzzles, and defeating enemies which are essentially made up of pieces, bits and bobs, and a weak point to jump and kill. The story mode level design is top-notch and always full of surprises. I've gotten numerous ideas for my own levels (PSP and PS3) to incorporate from these levels. The game's much more difficult to play through than the Playstation 3 effort with much more challenge presented to the player earlier on and much more devilish death traps to watch out for and avoid. With only having two planes to move across, it's interesting how the level design was improved to accommodate the loss of a plane. Still, trying to switch between the two planes is still a problem sometimes.

There's even chaotic boss battles thrown in.

Again, the cool thing about the story mode of LittleBigPlanet is that anything that is made, any level or device, can be recreated in the level designer. Sure, it takes a lot of time to produce a quality level, so casual players may just find themselves going through the levels and be done with the game. However, you can place your levels and creations onto the Sony server as can others. This means that you don't have to possess a creative bone in your body, and still enjoy the works of others more creative than you are. Oh, that's a horrible and mean of putting it. I must not be creative enough. Regardless, creating a level takes time and patience-- seeing if every mechanism made works or malfunctions, seeing if switches do their appropriate functions, and just checking to see if the level is fun most importantly. You can customize and adjust nearly everything from the background to the music to the lighting to changing textures and hazards from electrified blocks to fiery (two close touches in a row and you're dead) blocks. There's a lot to see and do with themed blocks, the ability to create giant, highly detailed and complex creatures, and make your levels as easy or as hard as you like. You don't even have to make a level to taste the fun of the LittleBigPlanet creator. As of now, the levels available are pretty ho-hum for the most part, but here's hoping the community expands in both number and talent.

The goal here is to dodge those electrified blades.

Playing through story mode is a must for prospective creators as there's various objects and designs to collect that are hidden and not-so-hidden in the various levels of the game. Completionists will have plenty to do and be excited for as there's medals awarded for completing a given level, getting all the items in a level, and surviving without losing a life in a level. Doing this will unlock even more goodies for your Sackperson and levels. The Sackcostumes are less important this time around as no one will be able to see them due to the lack of multi-player. Plus there's no ability to take pictures and save them to your SD card. Despite this, there's still plenty of solo work to do in LittleBigPlanet.

The jetpack makes its wonderful return.

Your Sackperson controls a tad less floaty as he or she did in the previous LittleBigPlanet. You're more in control. Grabbing is performed by holding the R button and moving around is controlled with the analog nub. Unfortunately, the d-pad is unavailable to control your Sackperson save for creating expressions and doing various poses. Again, worthless since you can't play with others. It would have been nice to control the game allow you to choose to use the analog nub or d-pad. Alas, we can always dream.

Another problem with having costumes is that most of the time, the camera is too far zoomed out to be able to see your actual wardrobe being worn. It's only until you reach the end of level scoreboard where the camera zooms in to see all your glorious duds. Visually, LittleBigPlanet PSP looks very good, and it runs without much in the way of framerate hiccups. The presentation is wonderful with British actor Stephen Fry narrating the many, many (but helpful) tutorials the game has to offer. The music selection is also quite good with many original and licensed tracks to listen to and enjoy. Here's hoping some of these features make it back to the PS3 version.

"Why don't you come over and see me sometime?"

LittleBigPlanet for PSP may not be as original as its little big brother, but it does feature the same addicting gameplay and building tools as long with new, interesting tools. The new levels are a blast to play and very much more challenging than the PS3 installment, and the community is still up and coming, growing, and creating. Even as a single-player only title, LittleBigPlanet shines with its tremendous amount of things to do and accomplish. For forty dollars, you can do a lot worse than this new edition of LittleBigPlanet. It's a fun game for all that you'll definitely want to sack it to you.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

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