For many PS3 owners, the release of LittleBigPlanet was anxiously awaited for a long time. The game’s announcement seemed to come out of nowhere and was insanely ambitious, with its pretty graphics, lovable sack people, and the ability to create and share levels with other gamers all over the world. It wasn’t an easy journey from announcement to release for LittleBigPlanet, as the game was plagued with delays and technical issues. However, it finally made it to store shelves, and despite all of the hiccups it has had along the way, LittleBigPlanet has managed to live up to expectations and deliver a unique, imaginative experience unlike any other on the PS3—or any system, for that matter.
LittleBigPlanet is all about customization and creativity, which is apparent right from the start. The game begins with some brief tutorial levels to teach the player how to run, jump, and swing, which is pretty much all you need to know as far as actual gameplay goes. You can also start out by modifying your sackboy or girl, as well as your pod, the main menu area from which every aspect of the game can be accessed. There aren’t many decoration items in your inventory at first, but more can be earned and collected by playing through the game.
It’s hard to put a label on a game like this, but at heart LittleBigPlanet is a platformer. That means you’ll find a lot of familiar elements, like increasingly difficult levels within bigger worlds, pits of deadly elements to avoid, enemies to destroy, and, naturally, platforms of various shapes and sizes. However, the aesthetic style of the game is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Different textures, like wood, sponge, glass, and stone, have different properties; sponge can be grabbed, while glass will cause you to lose your footing if you’re not careful. The materials work well because the game is beautiful. Metal appears to be metallic, glass is translucent, and even the sack people themselves look just like knitted dolls. Even though LittleBigPlanet hasn’t gone for a realistic graphical approach, it is still gorgeous, with some of the best-looking textures ever seen in any game.
Like I said before, LittleBigPlanet does have a story mode that consists of many similarly-themed levels set in larger environments, like a garden, a wedding, or a metropolis. The actual storyline is thin, but still endearing, and it serves its purpose of getting the player from one point in the game to another. At first, the developer-made levels are simple, but the game becomes very challenging later on; the last level is particularly difficult, and trying to collect every item, complete special multiplayer portions, and receive bonuses for not losing a life extend the replay value of the story mode a great deal. You’ll be constantly going back for more, and happy to have an excuse to do so, because the stages are wonderfully designed and a lot of fun to play. Cooperative play changes the experience as well, and you can play with up to four players in a level. Your friends may assist you or try to screw you over at every turn, but there will be times when you need assistance to reach certain items in the game. It’s rare to have a game that is just as much fun alone as it is with other gamers; most games swing one way or the other, but LittleBigPlanet manages to deliver no matter how many people are playing.
The game’s story mode, while entertaining and highly replayable, only makes up a small percentage of everything LittleBigPlanet has to offer. In fact, when I finished the main quest, I still felt like I’d barely made a dent in the game. There is a rich community of talented level-makers in LittleBigPlanet, and the ability to play user-created levels means that, hypothetically, you will never run out of things to do. If you’re worried that gamers won’t be able to make anything worth playing, I can tell you that some of the user-generated content is absolutely amazing. There are many community levels that I’ve played over and over because they’re so damn enjoyable. Sure, not every one is a winner, but at least people are flexing their creative muscles and trying to bring something new to the community, and that’s really what this game is all about.
As for creating your own levels, the tools at your disposal mean that you can do almost anything you can imagine—provided that you know how to use everything properly. LittleBigPlanet boasts what is possibly the deepest creation tool in any game, ever, so of course it comes with a good amount of instructional videos to teach you how to use everything. Normally, I hate tutorials and would rather figure things out on my own, but since each one is only about a minute long and rewards you with new items upon completion, I didn’t even mind sitting through about an hour’s worth to make sure I had the basics down. Making a really good level takes a lot of time, patience, and commitment, but if you’re willing to give it a solid effort, the only thing limiting you is your imagination.
Of course, LittleBigPlanet didn’t make it to store shelves without some problems to accompany all of its achievements. The most notable issue during the days after the game’s launch was the servers, which were offline for a good part of last week. This meant that gamers couldn’t play online or experience any of the user-created levels. Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but for LittleBigPlanet, the fact that the servers were down meant that a huge portion of the game was unavailable, which is really unacceptable. Media Molecule even had an extra week (after a large beta) to make sure everything was ready to go, and there were still problems. As of today, things seem to be running smoothly, and I assume that they will stay that way, but those problems should have been taken care of sooner and have left me constantly wondering whether or not the online elements of the game will be available.
There are also a few technical issues that are evident throughout the entire game. Like in many platformers, the fixed camera can be a cause of frustration. This is especially evident while playing co-op mode, since the players can’t wander too far from one another. It’s not such a big problem that you’ll ever want to stop playing, but there are times when it would be nice to be able to see what’s in front of you without having to make a leap of faith. Trying to switch between dimensions can also be problematic at times. LittleBigPlanet’s stages operate on three planes of depth, and moving back and forth, further and closer, can lead to some imprecise control issues. When it comes to more challenging levels, this can mean the difference between life and death. Again, it’s another small issue, but overall makes the gameplay experience feel like it’s not running as smoothly as it should be.
Yes, LittleBigPlanet has some problems, but they in no way should stop you from playing. If you are a PS3 owner, there’s no reason not to have this game. It’s fantastic, fun, beautiful, creative, and unique—pretty much everything you would want from any game and everything you would expect from a game that came with so many months of hype and excitement. With unlimited replay value and potential, you will probably be playing it for months—if not years—to come. Technical issues aside, I believe that after all the votes have been cast, LittleBigPlanet will be remembered as one of the best games of the year.