October 27, 2008

Even before it was released, “LittleBigPlanet” was featured by Sony as the new flagship franchise, the one that will finally bring them the mascot they always seem to be missing.

This was a risky move of sorts, as the company relied on month after month of hype in order to build up what is essentially a platformer with creative options available to the players. Boiling the game down to that kind of concept is not fair though, as there is a lot more going on in “LittleBigPlanet” than the advertising campaign has put forth. The question is, is there enough in it for you this fall and winter though, when there is no shortage of quality games to be found?

326256456There is plenty to love about “LittleBigPlanet,” starting with the fact that it’s disarmingly adorable. The graphics themselves are easy on the eyes, with detailed backgrounds and foregrounds for your Sackboy to run and jump around, but the real winner here is just how cute everything looks. The graphics and Sackboy’s traverse the line between cartoony and realistic, but developer Media Molecule struck a balance with this decision that ended up helping the game’s presentation.

The music is high-quality, addictive stuff. The kind of music you catch yourself hearing in your head or whistling at various times of day, which is always a plus in a game. It’s not of the same caliber as the fantastic soundtracks to some other recent platformers, say, “Super Mario Galaxy”, but it’s still a diverse, well-rounded and catchy soundtrack that you will be hard-pressed to find complaint with. This adds to the presentation as well, which is phenomenal and one of the key draws to the experience.

You can customize your Sackboy and make him or her look however you see fit, though at first your options are somewhat limited. Before you even finish off the first of the worlds though, you will have collected enough unlockable costumes and accessories to jazz up your Sackboy’s appearance. Your character is not the only thing you can customize with user created content, the backbone of this game, is on a scale that arguably no console title has ever reached before.

You can create your own levels and find more parts to use in these levels by collecting and unlocking more of the game’s hidden stickers, level parts, etc. The system itself is easier than one would suspect, given the nature of what you can do. My creative juices do not flow enough for me to have completed anything worthwhile, but the system itself is easy to handle, and as many have already proven, you can make some quality levels that rival those packaged with the game. This also gives the game near infinite replay value, for those who enjoy their platforming.

One issue that has cropped up since the game’s release has to do with the user created levels. Many levels have been taken down for being “tributes” to intellectual properties that Sony does not own-for example, good luck making a level that is based off of “Super Mario Bros.” and having it survive for any considerable length of time. Many players know exactly why their level was taken down, as their tribute breaks the rules in the user agreement everyone (had the opportunity to) read before ever playing with their Sackboy.

The issue for some has been that Media Molecule, who is essentially policing the Internet, has not been giving out reasons for why levels are being deleted. This can be a problem, especially for those who tediously work on their levels and create legitimate fun arenas for play.

As for the gameplay itself, there are pros and cons. The platforming is fun and simple, and even those who are not “core” gamers can pick up and play, and play well, relatively quickly. The first world is essentially an extended tutorial-it’s not overbearing, and the narrator both explains himself well and is witty. This works to ease those who are not used to playing into the experience, and helps more experienced gamers get their bearings early on.

You run, you jump, you pick up objects and move them to help you climb, and you use a jetpack to fly around, either for moving up in a level, crossing a gap, or to assist in moving objects to where they need to be. It’s simple, but it’s addicting, thanks to smart level design and the adorable nature of the title. If you play cooperatively, they also rank the players in order of points, and then compare your total score versus other teams who have played the levels. It gives the pre-packaged levels additional replay value along with the multiple runs to unlock all of the level’s items.

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About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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