373rd played so far

littlebigplanetGenre: Puzzle/Platform
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Here’s a game with a bit of a history for us. We’ve been looking at writing up LittleBigPlanet for some time now, as we obtained it soon after Peter got his Playstation 3. For a variety of reasons – time at first, forgetfulness, and then our year-long binge of games we hadn’t played before (while we’d gotten some time in on LittleBigPlanet already), we never got around to it. I had even played this game before I got my hands on the PS3. I played it with one of my former university housemates every now and then on his console. I really loved the game and it was the game (along with inFamous) that made me save up for my very own.

LittleBigPlanet is a cutesie platformer, cutting and pasting elements together to create its levels. There’s a big focus on puzzle solving over action elements, although the latter are still present in places. One of its big notable accomplishments is the extensive editor, which allows for players to create their own levels. It is said (although some have doubted this) that the level designers for the game used the same editor to create the main game levels as other players can use.

Our Thoughts

One of the downsides of getting deep into a game, being distracted for some time, and coming back to it… a few years later, yeah, probably. We tried to start playing where we left off, and between trying to remember how the controls worked and how the game worked, and trying to get through more difficult levels, we were frustrated just getting back into it. Going back a bit in levels made life a bit easier… But it shows how the game gets challenging enough a few worlds in.

And that shows how deceptive the game is. While you start as a cute puppet-like creature, Stephen Fry’s calm voice leads you through the game, telling you how to play. Levels feels patchwork and put together with krazy glue and start off gentle, being incredibly inviting as you play through. You collect stickers and earn items to customize your character with – different skins, hats, shirts and so on, all very customizable to create your own Sackboy.

All of this looks gorgeous, by the way. Yeah, it’s all a bit put together, bits and pieces that you could combine in any way yourself, but most of it seems unique per level and is still designed to fit in. They all still look nice as well, vaguely 3D even when they’re mostly 2D levels (something used in part when jumping up and down mountains). Exploring the different levels are fun that way already, seeing what each is about and how the themes are interpreted and linked together.

Each level has their own mini story too, combining into a simple larger ones per world. It’s stuff like going through levels to rescue people, investigate what’s wrong with animals and things like that. They really just exist to give you an excuse to go through the levels, with a handful of scripted events in each to make you go in a different direction every once in a while, but they don’t really matter much beyond giving you a reason to play through them.

But man… it gets difficult. To be honest, it seems like, in part, that’s actually because we played it in multiplayer, as described above. There’s the obvious camera limitation – something you sort of get used to, but limits where you can go, with you blocking each other’s movements. More annoying is the life meter. They, in a level, effectively come from continue points/portals (which I’m sure have a more official name). When you reach a new one, they activate, displaying four lights. Each time you die (or either player does, in our case) one of the four lights goes out and you respawn. When all four are out, you don’t, and if everyone is dead, the level is failed. If you’re playing multiplayer, this respawning also only happens when the spawn point is in view. Ironically, this, on balance, probably makes the game more difficult as often as it helps, as you have to keep reversing to make your partner reappear, and you have more chances to fail – on a tricky jump, you would each get two tries, rather than the four you’d get in single player. Sure, it helps at times as well, and several challenges can only be done in multiplayer (with some, I believe, requiring four players), but that’s optional content that feels like it might be put in for this reason.

You can’t blame the game for it, and in fact, it’s refreshing for a game of this age. It just doesn’t stay the simple, friendly game LittleBigPlanet seems to be when you first start playing.

The area where LittleBigPlanet really shows off what it can do is in the level builder. All the way through the Story Mode you aim to collect as many of the stickers and items as you can to create your own levels (this was later supplemented by a large number of downloadable content from original Media Molecule items, mythological packages to other games including the likes of Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid and Sonic the Hedgehog). I have tried to make my own levels before (for the sake of trophies naturally) but could never produce something as creatively amazing that these easy-to-use tools would allow. I am clearly not of the mind for this sort of mode since the range of free-to-play user made levels out there in the PSN is staggering. I mean someone managed to create a working calculator from all the available stickers, wires and switches?!

Final Thoughts

In order to have a properly successful console there needs to be the killer app which is exclusive and makes you want to invest hundreds of [INSERT CURRENCY HERE] in a machine that will go out of date in 5-6 years. The original XBox had Halo: Combat Evolved and the Playstation 2… was just the best console to grace God’s green Earth. The Playstation 3 has since amassed an impressive roster of exclusive games but in my opinion LittleBigPlanet really was the first of these in terms of chronology. I only hope that we see one from the Playstation 4 in the near future.