LittleBigPlanet is difficult to describe, there’s just so much to it. Firstly there’s the top-notch platforming element that spans two games on the PlayStation 3 and one on the PSP. Going back and playing those again as reference for my review I was reminded how engaging they are, and what unusual worlds they create.
But of course they go beyond creating these worlds for you to play in and enable you to create worlds of your own. Their “Teach a man to fish…” approach to game design not only makes you appreciate how good Media Molecule is at using their own tools, but also presents a very real possibility of creating your own levels. Granted, you needed to invest a considerable amount of time and effort to do this, but it was more than worth the investment.
This world of possibility now comes to the PlayStation Vita. Some years on, after the initial LittleBigPlanet excitement has died down, it would be easy to overlook how significant this is for Sony’s powerful little system — not to mention budding game makers. With some great technical input from Dave Banks, here’s my family review on LittleBigPlanet Vita.
Play the Vita version for a few hours and you soon realize that this is not only PlayStation 3 quality visuals, but that all the level creation tools are included as well. In fact there are even some new additions to the tool kit that include a “Memorizer” that provides save points for levels so they can be more in-depth. This also helps when playing the game on a portable device on the go if you want to stop and save when you’ve reached your destination.
You can also take advantage of the Vita’s screen dimensions by designing levels to be played in portrait orientation not to mention using the tilt sensitivity to trigger buttons. Then there is the Vita’s built in camera that can be used to grab images for use as stickers in the game — which is the method used for “dressing” different materials. Finally the microphone opens the possibility of adding your own sound effects.
All this can sound a little involved, so before I had given it a try I had expected to get stuck before too long. However, provided you invest some time and effort in the very good series of tutorials there is no reason you can’t create a functional level.
As you can see in the video, I have a standard level the kids like from the console version. Basically we create a skateboard of some description and then attach a rocket. To this I add a switch which turns the rocket-booster on when triggered.
The kids have had hours of fun, often in hysterics, jumping on and off our makeshift jet-kart and driving it into various other objects or making jumps. It’s the sort of messing around you can do in your backyard, just less dangerous and much cleaner — although in fact this inspired me and my kids to try out a series of bottle-rocket experiments out back that got us all covered in mud and soda before too long.
The main game itself benefits from these interactive elements as well. Although the younger children found reaching round to the rear touchscreen a bit of a stretch, once they realized you need to touch it only in one place they got on much better. The mechanics of popping elements “in” with the front screen and “out” with the rear screen soon gets embedded in your psyche and makes a lot of sense. It reminded me of the “pinching” action in Escape Plan that worked equally well.
The icing on the cake for the kids was the discovering that the DLC we had bought for LittleBigPlanet on the PlayStation 3 was compatible with the Vita version. Suddenly they had a whole new wardrobe to try out on their little sack people (really squishy versions on Amazon for $9.99).
You can play LittleBigPlanet Vita in multi-player mode, although I have been unable to test this so far due to a lack of family friends with a Vita. There is another social feature that I liked that enables you to find other LittleBigPlanet creators locally. This stems from the ability to upload your level creations for use by other people who play the game, when you arrive in a new location you can be notified about levels from that place. A really nice way to cross over between virtual and real life.
Finally there is a LittleBigPlanet arcade where a host of mini-games are on offer. Again these are ideal if you are looking for some quick pick-up game play and further demonstrate how varied an experience you can create with LittleBigPlanet. Tapling is a real favorite and has more in kind with Limbo than it does with the main game.
[Disclosure: Sony provided a copy of the game for review.]