Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sony Computer Entertainment LittleBigPlanet
- One of the most charming, unique, creative and fun games we've ever played
- The controls are a little fickle at times; those looking for an actual 'game' might be disappointed
It's one of the most amazing and interesting gaming experiences ever designed. It's a sandbox, it's a playground, it's a set of creation tools powerful enough to fulfil your dreams — it's all those things and more. Seriously, if you own a PS3, you have to experience this game; heck, even if you don't own a PS3, go find someone who does and beg them to let you play. It's something you truly have to experience for yourself and I dare you, I triple purple dog dare you, to try and not enjoy yourself. I promise you won't be able to resist the urge to smile.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
Every now and again, a game comes into the GamePro offices and brings everything to a screeching halt. Halo 3 did it, as did Metal Gear Solid 4 and Super Mario Galaxy. I'm talking about the type of game that causes every GamePro staff member to drop whatever they're doing and cram into a cube like they're trying to break a Guiness World Record. When we first got beta codes for LittleBigPlanet, it had that effect on our work flow-people began ignoring IM's, emails and phone calls because they were too busy playing the game.
Then came the day we tried to give away some beta codes on our website: GamePro.com came crashing to its knees, felled by the thousands upon thousands of users hammering our servers to try and win a coveted code. Now, you may be asking yourself why everyone is going so nuts for this game but trust me, it only takes a couple of minutes of playtime to see that it's worthy of the hype.
And go ahead Sony fanboys, start crowing to the Xbox 360 fanboys and the Wii fanboys because you just got one of the most original games ever and it's exclusive to your platform. Yeah, yeah, yeah, scoreboard, right? Now, stop talking about it and just go play it already. Geez.
Kind of a Big Deal
It's hard to explain what LittleBigPlanet is exactly. On a basic level, it's a platform game crossed with a set of creation tools wrapped up in a warm and fuzzy layer of happiness that has the same effect on your mood as looking at pictures of cute kittens or getting a hug from your grandmother. Seriously, you can't help but smile when you experience it. Jumping around, grabbing onto objects, donning jetpacks and hovering about-it's all insanely addictive and more importantly, fun. Even just manipulating your sack puppet's facial expression-done with a flick of the D-pad-is engaging.
The real strength of LBP, however, is the tremendous sense of freedom and creativity that it instils in you. Running around in the lush and vibrant world of the little sack people gives you the feeling that anything is possible. It's a truly freeform game and while there are timed challenges, obstacles to overcome and point orbs to collect, you'll have the most fun just messing around and exploring the many options available to you. You can slap stickers all around the level, dress up your character with various costumes and delve into the immense level editor to craft your own virtual worlds. The possibilities truly seem limitless, especially when you consider the online capabilities of the game; while the retail product comes loaded with pre-made levels and content, the game's true potential lies in the user-created content that is no doubt flooding the network as you read this.
Have It Your Way
Heck, even now, with the limited beta going on, we're already seeing some brilliant uses of the creation tools; for instance, I just saw a video online of someone who'd created a functional calculator that can add or subtract two two-digit numbers. What's most mind-boggling about this is that I would have never imagined that something like that was possible. But that just goes to show you the game's potential: the tools are robust enough and open-ended enough that, in the right hands, they will lead to some tremendously original and unique creations.
Navigating all that user-generated content is ridiculously easy as well: you're given a treehouse-like hub armed with a television and a giant PS3 controller which pulls up a world map. From there, you can nav to the many user-created levels and hop right in. You can play online, which opens up the world for other people to join in, or offline where you can play alone. You can also rate the levels and attach adjectives so other users know how you felt about it; hopefully, this'll allow the good levels to rise to the top while the terribly designed levels sink to the lowly bottom where they belong.
Go Anywhere, Do Anything
From a presentation standpoint, LBP shines with an amazing sense of style. The sack puppets are ridiculously cute, the environments are sharp and crisp and the music is uplifting and whimsical. The only thing I didn't like about the game is that sometimes, the controls were a little fickle when it came to moving your character among the three planes of perspective; it's also not technically a game so much as it is a sandbox to play around in, so if you crave structure and plot in your games, you might be put off by LBP's freeform nature.
I'm also a little worried that the online network will be filled with a bunch of crap levels and you'll have to dig through a mountain of garbage to find the one level that's actually worth playing. But after seeing some of the levels already out there, I can't wait to see what the more creative users come up with. Recreations of popular video games like Super Mario Bros.; amusement parks complete with working roller coasters; dizzying fantasy landscapes populated with bizarre creatures — who knows what to expect?
All Around The World
There's really nothing I can say other than this: if you own a PS3 and you don't buy LittleBigPlanet, you are robbing yourself of one of the most unique gaming experiences ever designed. It's one of those games that leaves an indelible mark on the industry and I expect it will lead to some tremendous things, not only in terms of the levels and objects that users and companies create but in terms of how we think about and approach gaming.
But that's a conversation for another day. Right now, all you need to know is that it's amazing, it's fun and it'll leave a smile on your face that won't go away for a long while.
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