Since 2009, the LittleBigPlanet series has been a dream come true for creative gamers and platforming fans alike. Sackboy’s cute face and Stephen Fry’s amusing narration gave single-player fans something to enjoy, while players with a green thumb for game design could make platforming stages and try to make other things. The tools were too limited for anything that wasn’t at least a bit like a platformer, which led to LitttleBigPlanet 2 completely changing things. Gone was the platformer restriction. If you wanted to make a shooter, you could. If you wanted an environmental-heavy game, you could have it. Games inspired by titles like Wolfenstein 3D, the Legend of Zelda, Super Hexagon, Flappy Bird, and even Flower had LBP 2 players enjoying the game for years to come.
Even with portable entries, including one after LBP 2 on the Vita, nothing could top the second game. It raised the bar for consumer-level creation tools in games and probably gave people confidence they never had before to actually make something substantial in a game. LittleBigPlanet 3 lets you play everything that was created in LBP 1 and 2, which is quite astonishing – although since the games aren’t curated by entry, it’s tricky to see what was made for a past game and what was made for LBP 3. It pretty much requires staying on top of a forum for the game to do that, and while that’s far from the worst thing, it’s not ideal.
Past single-player campaigns have served as glorified tutorials and while that holds true here, this is the first LBP game to have a plot I cared about it. Before, Stephen Fry’s narration carried me from one challenge to the next. Now, the story of Sackboy being deceived by the Hugh Laurie-voice Newton and having to restore the land of Bumkun to its former glory was enough for me. LBP 3 retains Fry, but adds Laurie and other actors who do a fantastic job of playing their roles with a Shakespearean charm. Everything is performed like it’s a stage play with tons of broad acting, but it’s not so broad that it’s impossible for older people to enjoy – it’s like a show that is written for children to enjoy, but contains enough witty banter that adults can enjoy it too.
It’s a hard balance to strike, but Sumo Digital has done that here. The first mainline game in the series without Media Molecule at the helm worried some, but it’s not something fans need to be concerned with. Here, you grow to really get attached to Sackboy since his emotions are so clear. When he’s betrayed, you can’t help but feel sorry for him given his forelorned face. He’s so devastated and you are too. Sackboy is joined by a few friends to help him out. You’ll take control of Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop (as well as the Yeti) for certain areas. Generally, you’ll switch between the three new main characters and Sackboy for levels, with the Yeti being used the least and not being given any real character development.
Sackboy controls the same as ever, while Oddsock is a speedster, Swoop controls the air, and Toggle provides both power and agility by switching forms with L1. Certain areas require that he be gigantic so he can weigh things down, push objects, or smash through them, and you’ll also need to morph into his tiny form to get into small crevices and perform daring platforming feats. It may seam like the game veers into Lost Vikings territory, but it doesn’t quite go that far with this mechanic since you don’t swap between the characters in real-time and levels are tailored for each character.
New items allow you to do things like grind rails, while perspective-shifting sections have been added that have you run along brightly-colored portions of the environment from the background to the foreground or vice versa. The illuminator acts as your in-game flashlight. It features some impressive lighting effects, and will also show you the path to some hidden goodies from time to time. Wall-gripping sections evoke Super Mario World, but go a step further as you’ll also need to dodge debris at times too.
Beyond the campaign, a new Popit puzzle mode has been added that blends platforming with cause and effect Incredible Machine-style puzzles. Here, you’ll use tools like a grabber to take objects in the world and manipulate them to fit your needs. You may need to grab an item, then spin it and resize it to re-purpose it for a tricky jump. You could also need to move some things around to progress. The puzzles are all logic-based, and since they’re limited to what’s on-screen, you’re unlikely to get confused for very long. A clear head and logical thinking will take you far here.
While 99% of the experience is a blast, there are some respawn issues – especially when it comes to boss battles. During the very first one, I kept being respawned into the deadly water, or right in front of a laser beam. Later, a hazard-filled level kept respawning me near a death trap. While death isn’t a huge penalty at times, you can run through your points fairly quickly and then wind up restarting a stage after getting 90% of the way through it. It’s a bit frustrating – especially when you’ve had a great run until you reach a rough patch.
Visually, LBP 3 is a little bit better looking than past games, but not a tremendous upgrade. Character models are slightly more animated, but nearly everything in this looks like it could be on the PlayStation 3. There are some really nice flourishes with the fabric though that maybe couldn’t have been done on older hardware. This isn’t a bad-looking game by any means, but if you’re looking for a technical showcase, this isn’t it.
LBP’s sound design is always top-shelf and the same holds true with this entry. The soundtrack is full of whimsy. Beyond the original music, licensed songs like “Mr. Sandman” and “Pink Shoe Laces” evoke a sense of nostalgia that perfectly fits the ’50s themed level its used in alongside the classic cars and the has-been mentor you’re given for that level who steals the show with funny acting and a camera roll pompadour. The cartoonish sound effects blend in nicely with the more realistic ones, and if you loved what the prior entries did with the audio, you’ll love this one too.
Overall, LittleBigPlanet 3 is more of the same, but it mixes things up more then LBP 2 did thanks to the additional characters. Their inclusion gives you far more variety with the main game than ever before. The end product is something that is very easy to recommend for long-time fans as they’ll still be able to use their old stuff whether it’s levels they loved or DLC they purchased – so it’s a fine value overall. Newcomers will be overwhelmed by the created level selection, but after checking a few “best of” lists, you’ll find at least a handful of things to be hooked on.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on a retail copy of LittleBigPlanet 3 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.