Sony’s adorable Sackboy is back, bringing the “play, create, share” mantra into LittleBigPlanet PlayStation Vita, the fourth entry in the puzzle-platforming series. The intrepid, happy-go-lucky, walking ball of yarn fits in right at home on the new handheld; taking advantage of the PS Vita's touch controls in a way that not only changes up gameplay, but also allows creative new minigames to be possible. Plus, custom level creation is more intuitive than ever.
Sackboy's (or Sackgirl's) new portable adventure takes him to Carnivalia, a fairground-themed planet where an evil Puppeteer and his Hollow minions are sucking all the joy and life out of the once-festive world. It's a fairly simple tale of "sinister person wreaking havoc upon the world and Sackperson must save the day," starring a cast of colorful and quirky characters. LBP Vita continues the tradition of having unique, interesting areas in its story mode that are paired with appropriately themed music which brings the handmade world and its inhabitants to life. Through short, fully-voiced cutscenes, you'll get to know your new set of oddball friends whose eccentric personalities match the wacky environments that they reside in, including a Tron-like '80s universe complete with camcorders and video tapes.
Watch the game in motion
These locations are a blast to explore, and when armed with power-ups such as the grappling hook and the Grabinator from LBP2, it makes platforming much more exciting. Not only can you play along with two to four players via local and online multiplayer, each world comes with a variety of minigames that give you a reason to return with others. Playing with friends has always been the highlight of LittleBigPlanet, and you'll need their help if you intend to find every item.
Other than the multiplayer aspect, part of what makes the LittleBigPlanet series stand out--and the Vita version is no exception--is the incredible amount of detail in each area. Whether you're swimming through Marianne's Land of Odd, which is a blend of nature and discarded junk, or traipsing through the inner corridors of the Spooky Mansion, the levels are packed with creative platforming sections built out of common objects as well as collectible goodies that you can then use in Create Mode, the game's powerful level editor.
What's most impressive is that LBP Vita looks better on the handheld than its console counterparts, and controls better too. It's rare that you find yourself on the wrong plane and have to wrestle with the controls to discern which one you should be in. And while our little Sackchum is still a bit floaty when he leaps, the stages are designed in such a way that whenever you mess up, it's almost always entirely your fault.
The same can not be said about the touch controls, which lag behind the precision of an analog stick. But thankfully touch controls are used sparingly in the main story mode and never turn into a point of frustration. Several of the minigames do take advantage of the Vita's touch screen, but it’s not nearly fast enough when you're sharing half the Vita with a friend in a rousing game of air hockey. That said, smearing your fingerprints across the screen is useful when building levels at your own pace, be it coloring in a background or changing the dimensions of an object. It's not required to use the touch controls, but it's a handy alternative as well as intuitive when you want to use the screen's shortcuts to select the right tools.
Ultimately it's up to the community and their collective imagination to keep the game alive and thriving for years to come. It’s unfortunate that the several million levels that have been created on the PlayStation 3 can’t be played on the Vita, but your costumes are transferable. LBP Vita is an open sandbox for anyone who is willing to take the time to learn how everything works, this is a game that will continue to challenge you in many ways--not just with the creator and its massive list of tutorials. While the main story isn't difficult, there's an arcade with a collection of minigames (some more fun than others) that will put your skills--and the Vita's various capabilities--to the test.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita encapsulates what the system can do, and deserves a spot in your Vita library. Running through each level (even multiple times) is a charming, creative, and incredibly rewarding experience, regardless of whether it's to beat your friend's leaderboard score or if you're simply going after every collectible for that satisfying "pop" sound. Even when you feel like you've exhausted all your minigame options, what you can create in the Imagisphere with the game's powerful toolset is only limited by your imagination. As the narrator Stephen Fry says in the opening, "If ever there was a masterpiece that could be enhanced by a single swish of a paintbrush, then you are that paintbrush, and the painting is LittleBigPlanet."