Yes, it's finally here! The game all PlayStation 3 owners have been waiting for post-MGS4. It's not Killzone 2, and it's not Resistance 2. It's LittleBigPlanet, Sony's make-your-own-adventure game, a first of its kind, and certainly one of the biggest releases of this generation. Few games have generated the kind of excitement that has surrounded LittleBigPlanet, and with good reason...what other game allows you to create your very own experience? We've got our own copy of LittleBigPlanet, and believe the hype, folks...this is sensational.
If you're not familiar with the concept of LittleBigPlanet here's what you need to know...Basically, you take control of these little rag-dolls called sacks. Your main character's "name" is Sack Boy, a fully customizable doll that'll allow you to change virtually everything about him. You start off with a simple brown Sack Boy, and as you progress through the game's story mode, you'll collect a horde of items. These items will range between anything from decorational tools to customize levels, down to items that you apply on your doll.
I started off with a brown Sack Boy, who, after 20 minutes of playing, somehow formed into a ragdoll incarnation of Jack Sparrow. The creation of Sack Sparrow, as I call him, wasn't really intentional, it just sort of happened randomly while I was toying around with the creator. With my brief time in the beta and with the actual game, I've already seen some really wild creations, including some rather solid attempts at Nintendo characters. The customization aspect is superbly deep, and much like the rest of the game, is arguably only limited by your own imagination. Additionally, these wild creations aren't just limited to customizing your character, but also creating levels.
It's important to mention just how addictive LittleBigPlanet can be. Even though I've had access to the game for weeks now, the amount of time I spend with it per session always tends to be more than a few hours. Time simply flies when you're in the world of LBP, there's just so much to do, so much to play, and so much to try out; a "quick" session of LittleBigPlanet almost always turns into a mini-marathon of exploring a chunk of the stages that have been created thus far in the game's world. And that's precisely how your experience will end up; every time you boot your game up, there will be something new for you to do.
It's comical just how addictive LBP can be, because even the simplistic stages, the ones you'd think you'd never play more than once. have a purpose, if only to finish them the fastest and sit at the top of the leader board. Simplistic stages may be quick and initially seem pointless, but they're not that pointless when you're replaying them, desperately trying to climb the leader board. Artistic stages using music can also be put together; during the beta, I recall seeing a stage where running across a board would play a note of "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns n' Roses, so if kept your running pace consistent, the melody played consistently as a result. It's simplistic, but its execution is brilliant if only for the sheer amusement.
Like I said, LBP is only limited by your imagination, and to further show you how detailed you can get...some have gone as far as to make their best replicas of stages from Mario Bros. and even Sonic the Hedgehog. Other brilliantly themed levels include a God of War stage, Indiana Jones, and even Uncharted. Again, because all of this is user generated content, the room for variation here is absolutely infinite.
For those who don't wish to just participate playing random user content, there is a story mode that boasts beautiful and lush creations by the Media Molecule team. Each stage is oozing with style and superb artistic details, making LBP feel more like a carefully crafted fantasy storybook...rather than just your everyday videogame. And that's what makes LBP such a special product, it's not an everyday experience and it's certainly not an everyday game. And if you link up with a group of buddies online or off, the experience becomes even better cooperatively.
If I had to address complaints with the game, they'd be limited to just two control issues. First, because the stages support numerous levels of depth, you'll come across levels that will make you alternate between stepping into the foreground, background, or the middle (a'la King of Fighters games). Side-stepping in LBP doesn't seem very responsive sometimes, requiring a more than solid push of the direction in order for your character to perform the action. Furthermore, sometimes the controls can feel floaty and will take some time getting used to. A heavier feeling over your character, something more akin to 2D Mario games, would probably make for a tighter feeling game, for sure.
Visually, everything you've seen from the screenshots has carried over to the final game. The backgrounds are meticulously detailed with some of the best looking textures in a videogame to date. Some of the details in the game are bordering photorealism, even the Sack Boys' cloth texture is beautifully done. While the characters you run into are of the simplistic sort, the art direction and the beautiful texture work still makes LittleBigPlanet one of the best looking games of this generation by far. Feel free to plop your kids down by the TV and show off just how gorgeous this game is, and hey, perhaps even create a storybook stage for them as a treat. The great thing about LittleBigPlanet is that not only is it stunning, but it also runs at a brisk framerate rendering 720p, without a jagged edge in sight.
As far as the audio is concerned, well...that's a touchy subject as many of you may know. While we're not quite sure how Sony is addressing the one track with verses from the Qur'an, we suspect that they will just mute the chanting voice and keep the rest of the track intact. Despite not having an immense assortment of tunes, the soundtrack is nothing short of perfection; this is easily the best soundtrack I've heard since perhaps Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 64 - neither of which had anymore diversity in their soundtracks. For the story mode, there is quite a bit of voice acting in the game, largely from the narrator, Stephen Fry, who guides you through the game's story with some really sharp dialogue.
It's a great time to be a gamer, and with a game like LittleBigPlanet part of the PlayStation 3's portfolio it's just gotten a lot better. If you haven't made up your mind on a purchase of LBP yet, then allow me to convince you; not owning LittleBigPlanet and being a PlayStation 3 owner should be a crime against, well...something. Media Molecule has created a game that'll go down in videogame history as one of the best gaming achievements ever, and you'd be extremely foolish to pass this up. There is absolutely nothing out there that can give you this much bang for your buck.
10/21/2008 Arnold Katayev