Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita (Vita) Review

Our final review for our month of PlayStation Vita-centered reviews is LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. Does it have what it takes to the best reviewed Vita game yet? Let's find out with our review.

Sack It To Me-- Vita-Style!

The LittleBigPlanet series' mantra has always been "Play, Create, and Share." Each installment in the series, which debuted in 2008 on the PlayStation 3, has added an increasing amount of intuitive creation tools to allow users to hone their skills and build some insanely creative levels and even games. Who could have foreseen that one of the greatest and most complete versions of LittleBigPlanet would be on the small screen, specifically the PlayStation Vita? Who could have also foreseen that the series creator, Media Molecule, would not be the main developer for this near-ultimate iteration? That's exactly what has happened with LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Sackboy's second arrival on a portable PlayStation system.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is set in the world of Carnivalia, and spans five unique areas featuring multiple levels. It all revolves around a no-good puppeteer bringing havoc and chaos to the once peaceful world. Through relatively short and completely skippable cutscenes, the story is told with series hero Sackboy in the leading role to help save the day yet again.

Someone's having a bad hair day!
The developer-made story levels will no doubt inspire and impress aspiring level creators. It's simply amazing what one can do with the tools provided by LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, as the levels the developers have created for the story readily show. Any and every creation, be it a level, a boss, a mini-game, a cutscene, etc., is able to be made by players. The near 70 tutorials in the creation mode assist with those creators who don't have a clue where to start.

Those that do not care for the floaty jumping physics of the LittleBigPlanet series will not find themselves satisfied with how the Vita installment plays either. However, these physics do not make it so deaths come easily. Levels and gameplay are both designed to work with the limitations of the physics rather than going against them.

If you didn't like the jumping from past games,
you aren't going to like it here either.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita uses the front and rear touch screens of the Vita in many of its story mode levels. You can use the front touch screen to drag a platform over for Sackboy to reach a higher ledge. You can use the back touch screen to push certain objects out from the background for Sackboy to interact with. There's even some tilt functionality thrown in, and even then, that doesn't give the feeling of being thrown in for novelty's sake.

Don't mind Sackboy, he's just posing
as Delsin from inFamous: Second Son.
Simply completing each of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita's myriad of levels across five worlds is a relatively simple challenge. However, when one goes to attempt to ace level, meaning successfully reaching the end level scoreboard without losing a life, the challenge ramps up quite a bit. While there's no LBP 1 Bunker-type acing difficulty, many levels will require multiple runs to perfect them.

In addition to acing levels, there's the also optional goal of acquiring all prize bubbles. Prize bubbles are hidden or placed in hard-to-reach locations. These unlock costume pieces for your Sackperson, stickers, as well as other adornments to enjoy. Finding all of the prize bubbles in a given level is also a rather trying task, but it's also a very rewarding one, too.

Costumes are transferable between the
PlayStation 3 and Vita versions. 
The majority of the time it is impossible to collect 100% of all the prize bubbles your first time through a level. This is because many levels require you to place special stickers onto certain objects that trigger certain events, such as opening an otherwise locked door. These special stickers are generally found in later levels, so there's a touch of backtracking to be found, as is usual in the LittleBigPlanet series. Furthermore, there are numerous levels that have one section dependent on having two players. These optional areas possess prize bubbles, and require both players to work together for a common goal. Thankfully, those areas from past LittleBigPlanet games where up to four players are necessary are not to be found in this Vita version.

The Grabinator allows Sackboy
to pick up certain objects.
Even after you've exhausted every other task in a level-- beating it, acing it, and collecting all prize bubbles-- you still can compete against the world via individual online leaderboards for each and every level, including the platforming and non-platforming bonus levels. Getting near the top of the heap is a rather satisfying accomplishment, and it adds to the already immense replay value that LittleBigPlanet games always contain.

Sackboy may not be Nintendo's Satoru
Iwata, but he's still about to drop the bomb.
There's usually one key to acquire in each level. These unlock said bonus levels that generally don't involve the traditional running and jumping that the series is primarily known for. Instead, there's such challenges as playing a game of whack-a-mole by using the front touch screen's multi-touch surface to try to score as high as possible, as well as a game that has you trying to build as a high of a tower as you can out of differently colored shaped blocks.

In addition to bonus levels, there's a whole section of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita dedicated to retro-style arcade games. Much like the bonus levels themselves, these quintet of arcade games contain plenty of variety as well. These are so feature-rich and feel so complete that it's no wonder Sony didn't try to sell them individually as PlayStation Store games. Instead, they're all available to unlock within LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. My personal favorite game, Tapling, has you tapping the touch screen to make your character jump through various levels of increasing difficulty. Regardless, all five of these arcade games are winners, and will also add to the replay value of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita.

Some levels are races to the finish.
Can you get a high score?
All of the developer-made content alone would be worth the price of admission for LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. However, as fans of the series as well as those familiar with it know, LittleBigPlanet is a tool for creating games. With the first installment back in 2008 on the PS3, levels were primarily the only easy thing one could make. Now, it's essentially anything one can put their mind to (with some limits, of course).

While there are plenty of helpful tutorials, some more helpful than others, the level creation tools are so instinctive that it's quite easy to come up with something all on your own that you can find satisfaction with. Like any game, such tools require trial and error and multiple sessions testing your works, but the intuitiveness of these creation tools are terrific. One might think incorporating touch-centric controls in a level would be arduous, but it's just as simple to learn as pretty much everything else in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita's wide assortment of tools.

Even programming is made easy
in LBP's creation tools.
When you're ready to publish, you can do so and share your creations with the world. Levels that receive a wide variety of positive feedback can be seen in the "Cool Levels" section, but know that even if you make the most splendid level in existence, you still might not get much in the way of attention. Still, other users can come across your level or the hundreds of others with the game's exhaustive search tools, including finding levels that were most recently published, which have the most positive feedback, which have the most plays, and you can even search via keywords.

A fantastic feature for this second portable version of LittleBigPlanet is that you can actually download levels to play for later. This is fantastic because the community options available to you are only accessible when connected to the game's servers. For a system you aren't always playing at home or somewhere with a reliable connection, you can have user-created levels that are saved onto your memory card, able to be played whenever and wherever.

One false move will ensure
a shocking situation.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita shines as not just a great showpiece for the PlayStation Vita hardware, but it's also one of the best games the system has to offer. Additionally, it ranks with the best the LittleBigPlanet series has to offer, which is mightily impressive. The abundance of content made by the developers and users across the globe make LittleBigPlanet PS Vita a more than worthy game to add to your Vita library. Throw in the copious amounts of intuitive level creation tools and possibilities, and you have a game that will last you for years. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita may be on a little screen this time around, but it's certainly a big winner.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

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