LittleBigPlanet Vita Review
Welcome to a must-have game for your PlayStation Vita’s library. Sackboy has been impressing critics and gamers alike for years now, and the latest iteration designed specifically for Sony’s new handheld is every bit the elite experience you would expect it to be. Some of the more in-depth creation elements are still on the complicated side and one could argue the touchscreen commands are just a tad shy of perfect, but those are about the only complaints I can muster.
Considering what the Vita can do, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the engaging, highly imaginative universe of Craftworld spring to life in glorious (albeit bite-sized) high definition. Every once in a great while, when wandering about cramped areas, you can spot a wee bit of clipping but aside from that, this a gorgeous, crisp, diverse visual presentation. You could swear this was developed entirely by original designer, Media Molecule, when in fact it’s a combined effort from Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven Studios. But don't you worry none about that; those teams obviously know what they're doing.
In addition to the graphics, which really are quite impressive from a portable perspective, you’ve got the amusing audio, which never ceases to enhance the overall experience. The sound effects have always been top-notch and that hasn’t changed here, and the soundtrack holds plenty of variety and keeps you interested in your oft-changing environment. LittleBigPlanet is perhaps best known for its irresistible charm and widespread appeal; that is partially due to the nearly flawless technical presentation in these games that continually reinforces the lighthearted, breezy fun inherent to every Sackboy adventure. It’s just a pleasure to play.
So as the tech stuff continues to work its magic, you get involved in everything from the story mode to versus games and when you feel that creative spark, you can dive into some design and cultivation. Although the game isn’t available just yet, you can bet the LBP community will respond with hordes of unique and highly stylized stages, which, in addition to the 40+ levels already included, will keep you entertained for countless hours. After playing for a while, you’re almost convinced that LBP works better on the Vita, just because it seems expressly generated for the portable world.
I’m not really sure what makes me say that. Maybe it’s because the zany quirkiness of the characters within lend themselves to a daintier, quainter package. Or maybe it’s because playing this game on the go makes perfect sense; you don’t always have to dedicate hours and hours to feel like you accomplished something, and a quick LBP session while taking a quick train ride or waiting for your oil to be changed is just great, fulfilling entertainment. On top of it all, there’s the addition of some ingenious level design that includes some stuff even the hardcore fans have never seen…
That’s right, there are some new elements and slight alterations and additions to the familiar gameplay mechanic that help flesh out this well put-together platformer. But you know, I’m not going to spoil all that for you. You should definitely find out for yourself; there are parts of the game that will make you grin, other parts that will make you go, “Wow, that’s just cool,” and I don’t want to ruin any surprises. But I will say that in terms of the touchscreen controls, I thought they were hit or miss at first. After some time, however, I started to realize they’re plenty reliable…just a little quirky.
What I mean is that the responsiveness could be called into question, but I only count that as a mechanical flaw when it’s erratic and messes up your timing. Nothing is erratic about the touch controls; you just have to get the timing down. If you remember, mastering Sackboy’s kinda floaty jump took some practice, too. So some may call this a drawback but I really can’t say it’s a negative, because it seems to be implemented properly and, while it may seem a touch off, once you get the hang of it, you’re golden. And besides, given all the awesome stuff you do with your fingers in this game, it’s so worth it. And I don't even like touchscreen, usually.
For the record, I am not a huge fan of designing my own stuff in games. I’m from the old school, in that I believe it’s the job of the developer to make awesome content for a game I buy. That being said, I think such an addition really encourages widespread creativity among gamers and can even prompt some to enter the industry, and that’s a gigantic boost. And with LBP on the Vita, you get one hell of an awesome setup: Above all else, you can now create your own games, bring your characters over from LBP2 and best of all, take advantage of the Memorizer. This sucker is a game changer, people, and I don't say that lightly.
Basically, you can save your progress in any game you invent. So in other words, you can generate these long, innovative adventures that take you a ton of time, and when playing through it, the Memorizer is exactly like a game save. It’ll remember everything. How amazing is that? This is the kind of robust tool you might expect to see in LBP3 but if you really think about it, that’s exactly what this game is: LBP3. Don’t bother waiting; it’s right here, even if that’s not the exact title. Just remember that if you really want to do something mind-blowingly impressive, you’re going to have to spend some serious time learning and tinkering.
If you’re willing to do that, the result will be a game that offers ridiculous bang for your buck, along with a style that is all Sackboy’s own. It’s an all-around beautiful title for your Vita, it can keep you occupied for months if you get involved with the creating tools, the level design is some of the best you’ll ever see, and the touchscreen element is various and innovative. It can be a little tough to get used to and there are a few small hiccups here and there, but for the most part, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is among the elite portable experiences available. Get it. September 25 is the day.
The Good: Crisp, gorgeous visuals. Top-notch sound effects and overall audio presentation. Plenty of content (with more to come from the LBP community). Diverse and engaging throughout. Unbelievable level design. The Memorizer magnifies the already-incredible depth.
The Bad: A few small technical miscues. Creation and invention option can feel awfully daunting.
The Ugly: “Kudos to the developer savant out there who takes to the creation like a fish to water.”
9/15/2012 Ben Dutka