LittleBigPlanet Review: LittleBigger Is Better

“LittleBigPlanet” is Sony’s saving grace this holiday season. If it didn’t come out there’s a chance that the PS3 might have fallen off the radar for a lot of gamers, especially the ones that haven’t picked one up yet. I’ve had numerous arguments about how “LBP” isn’t a system seller, but I genuinely think that it’s the breath of cute, fresh air that the console needed to get its’ second wind. “LittleBigPlanet” sold me on the PS3 a few years ago when I first saw it, and now that it’s finally here, it has lived up to just about every expectation that I’ve had.

“LittleBigPlanet” has a bunch of things going for it. The graphics are adorable, stylized, and inspired. The gameplay, although time-tested and classic, has been updated to offer new and creative ways of navigation and puzzle solving. The level of character customization rivals that of almost any other triple-A title on the market. It’s also simple enough for anyone to enjoy; even the lapsed gamers who haven’t picked up a controller since their NES stopped working. Not to mention, “LittleBigPlanet” may have the best character to never be seen on-screen in the game’s tutor. While, most of those things aren’t necessarily revolutionary, “LBP” achieves each of them superbly, and really makes it a delight to take your Sackboy and run all over each of the levels looking for all the collectables.

The story in the game isn’t particularly deep, and it basically just serves as a vehicle to get Sackboy moving around the planet collecting points, stickers, and other items to adorn himself with. While “LittleBigPlanet” is fun to play solo, it shines a little bit more when there’s more than one Sackboy jumping around the screen, whether in local or online multiplayer. Not only does it increase the game’s overall enjoyment, and make each level a bit more competitive, but it also open up additional areas of the game that are strategically designed for more than one player.

Now, if the game stopped there, and the story mode was all that was released as the full “LittleBigPlanet” package, it’s so good that it would have still been a solid 4 out of 5; outstanding, but still missing something. However, Media Molecule went the extra mile (or ten) and included what may be the most robust level creation tool ever released on a console, and then allowed for the levels to be uploaded for anyone to access, making the game almost infinitely replayable. Not only is this a huge added value for the consumer, but it also allows would-be game designers to cut their teeth creating levels, and then getting feedback from fellow gamers. In other words, it’s a complete package.

I really had to go looking for something that I didn’t enjoy about the game, and, really, the only thing that came to mind were game’s controls. Basically, “LittleBigPlanet” puts Sackboy in your traditional left-to-right scrolling levels, however, there are three different planes that Sackboy can traverse to get by obstacles. Think of it as a three-lane highway, with the levels built to periodically force Sackboy to use one lane over the other two. Essentially, jumping from one plane to another can get a bit frustrating, as it isn’t always as fluid as you need it to be, especially when you’re trying to investigate an area that your certain has something hidden. While it isn’t a debilitating flaw, it is something that some gamers are going to find annoying.

Oh, and my one other problem with the game; too many collectables. This game will single-handedly drive completionists, like myself, insane. However, when you consider the amount of time that you’ll get out of the game, for your $60 investment, it’s well worth it.

Platforming went 3D with “Mario 64” in 1996, and most gamers have never looked back. Some have latched on to the idea of being completely immersed in an environment. However, there are still some gamers out there who found true love with the idea of 2D, left-to-right platforming when they first laid eyes on Miyamoto’s most beloved classic “Super Mario Bros.” It’s truly the greatest game ever made, and the root of all modern day gaming. It’s a little surprising that in the year 2008, that “LittleBigPlanet,” one of this year’s most innovative products, an update to the style of gaming that first sucked so many people in, comes from Sony, the company that needs to take a big chance this holiday season, because they’ve got nothing to lose. “LittleBigPlanet” could very well be my game of the year, and there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t give it a chance, unless, you know, you haven’t bought a PS3 yet.

Rating: ★★★★★

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