LittleBigPlanet Vita Review
Sometimes simple ideas yield impressive and unexpected results. LittleBigPlanet is such an example, a veritable phenomenon. At first glance it’s a pretty straightforward puzzle platformer, the kind we’ve been playing for decades. But upon further inspection, realistic physics and fiendishly clever level design give the basic gameplay more depth than expected. Cap it all off by including the tools the designers themselves used, thus allowing the player at home the chance to create their own unique levels. This essentially makes these games infinitely replayable; at last count there were over six million levels. Yes, you read that right. Sure, most of them are pretty terrible, but there are enough hidden gems that users have created that are worth seeking out. The adventures of Sackboy have gone mobile for the second time, now on the PS Vita, and let me tell you, this could be the best one yet!
As you’d expect, LBP Vita is almost annoyingly cute! This time around it’s up to Sackboy (and friends) to defeat the evil Puppeteer who has fallen to darkness and spoiled the once bright and wonderful world of Carnivalia. Colonel Flounder, the former ringmaster, sets you on your quest. On the way you meet another host of cute characters, each specific to his or her own world. If it sounds familiar, it is.
In fact, there isn’t much unexpected here. It’s more LBP! The formula hasn’t changed much, and that’s perfectly okay. Sackboy is adorable as ever, and playing dress up with all the fun stuff you find is as addictive as you remember. You traverse the levels that make up each unique world: running, jumping, swinging, grappling and flying through, all the while gathering score bubbles and collectibles that are scattered all over the place. Each world offers unique challenges and loads of things to find, often demanding extra playthroughs to discover all the goodies.
Taking advantage of the PS Vita’s new technology is the hook for this one. Touch screen controls take a fair amount of precedence in actual gameplay. I think it compliments the traditional platforming that makes the core experience, rather than overshadowing it. You’ll guide rockets around obstacles with your fingertips, build bridges by pushing blocks in and out. These moments blend in surprisingly well, feeling natural rather than gimmicky.
One thing I really loved is the newly improved “side quests.” These off shoot levels are simple mini-games that I always considered to be the weak link in previous entries, but on the Vita version, the emphasis is wholly on the touch screen controls. The very first one is a wack-a-mole style game that I played more than once… something I never did on either console version.
Along with the mini-game challenges, there is a whole new range of side games in “The Arcade.” These are wholly separate games that can be played at any time. Some of them are puzzlers, some are simple touch screen games. They are a nice distraction, but I don’t think they add that much to the overall experience.
On the whole, the touch screen controls work admirably… except for one glaring exception. There are some levels that require the use of the back touch pad to maneuver Sackboy about with jet packs. While the motion controls work well enough, these flying levels are frustrating. It’s not just that it takes some getting used to, but it feels all together completely unintuitive.
The background graphics are just as good as on the PS3. The lighting and design is all top notch; it really shows off just what the Vita can do. Another constant to the LBP experience is the soundtrack, which once again heightens the experience. The voice acting gives each unique level more personality, not to mention the incomparable Stephen Fry returns to narrate the adventure. It wouldn’t be LBP without him!
What would the LBP experience be without the option of creating your own personal levels! Using the touch screen controls to augment and alter the designs is a nice touch. I also love how you can make use of the Vita’s camera to add a little personal flair to your designs. However, fair warning: the interface is still complex, almost too much so. I get that they don’t want to dumb it down too much. Giving those truly talented individuals the tools to let their imaginations run wild has yielded some astonishing results. However, I still feel like intricacy turns off the more casual (and less imaginative) fans. The real downer is that there isn’t access to the breadth of content already created.
While Media Molecule is no longer directly in charge, the trio of new developers took the LittleBigPlanet spirit and ran with it. You wouldn’t even know it was made by a veritable conglomerate of companies. I’ll be honest, they should all be commended for making what could be the best LBP yet. The Vita version takes all the best parts of the console games and successfully infuses motion and touch controls to add just that much more to the mix. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the community at large comes up with in the future. Just like its console brethren, LBP Vita takes puzzle platforming to new heights, and the fact that you can do so on the go makes it just that much sweeter.
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on the PlayStation Vita version of LittleBigPlanet provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.