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LittleBigPlanet review

Astonishing

LittleBigPlanet may be the best game Nintendo never got around to making. There’s the fuzzy little mascot, colorful worlds, a charming story and an unending barrage of innovation. It’s Nintendo to the core; except the core is made by Media Molecule and it’s on a Sony console.

The clues are there, though… LittleBigPlanet looks better than any game pretty much anywhere, has a licensed soundtrack to die for, and doesn’t shoehorn in motion controls where they’re not required. LBP delivers constant laughs. It’s a game where you’ll sit through every tutorial just to hear plummy Fry scold you about creating ‘rude’ shapes or cuss-laden levels with the warning that every naughty you make causes a little Sackboy to die. And then there’s the Sackboy himself – a blank slate upon which you stamp your own personality. Squeezing the triggers will let you gesture with both hands independently, while tipping the Sixaxis will make the little fella look around or swing his pelvis like a wooly Elvis Presley. He’s an endearing little chap, and all the better for being tarted up with paint, stickers, and costumes.

Much of the hype surrounding LBP will focus on the ability to create and build, but all that crumbles if the core experience is more Bubsy the Bobcat than Jak and Daxter. LittleBigPlanet’s greatest strength, then, isn’t the creator, or the beautiful presentation, or the lengthy campaign, or the millions of downloadable levels, but the robustness of the platforming – the way the Sackboy moves and interacts with his environment. 2D platformers have fallen out of fashion so badly that, even if it were just average, LittleBigPlanet would still be the best platform game since, er, 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. on the DS; but with the fully physics-powered environments laden with outlandish contraptions and wonderful toys, LBP distances itself from what competition it has before even cracking into the level editor.

While other platformers throw focus on the protagonist – loading them down with new moves and gimmicks, Media Molecule give the Sackboy just enough moves to let the environments shine. With only a jump and a grab button, Sackboy has all the tools he’ll ever need. Jumping will take him over obstacles; grabbing will have him pull objects aside, hang from ropes, flip switches, and start up vehicles. Use your imagination a little, and that grab becomes something special. Take a concrete cube; attach rockets and a length of string with a spongy handle on the end; hook up the sponge with a switch attached to the rockets and drop the whole thing into your world. Then grab the sponge and hold on tight – you’ve just built a rocket-powered, land-based, water-ski thing. Put a ramp in front of it, and things start to get special.

You’ll build a lot of, er… things during your first few days with LittleBigPlanet. If the public beta has proven anything, it’s that the world’s first inclination is to build an object – be it cube, arrow, or penis – and attach engines to it, just to see what happens. The initial stages will be spent dropping weird objects into barren wastelands and experimenting with how physics affect it once you hit the gas. Try setting up a winch that propels Sackboys hundreds of feet into the air and then into a wall of spikes at breakneck speed like a fuzzy-felt trebuchet. The options are virtually unlimited.

In spite of Media Molecule’s amazing demonstrations of what the creator is capable of, it’s still a monumental feat to pull together your misguided experiments into something resembling a level. Yet, every stage in LBP is built with the same components that are on offer in the creator, and every world Media Molecule has crafted could be replicated on your own time. Yet, perhaps the greatest giveaway that Nintendo had no hand in LBP’s creation is the quality of the levels already on this disc – they exist more to demonstrate the power of the tools than as fun levels to complete. We got the impression that Media Molecule are better app-makers than game-makers at times, seeing as the campaign levels are a very mixed bag indeed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are the finest creations in LittleBigPlanet. It’ll be hard graft to build Insomniac-quality, or even Media Molecule-quality levels, but it’s possible. Critically, giving life to worlds is fun; LBP’s level editor could have been a cumbersome chore, but instead, it’s as much fun to sit and build as it is to run around the completed work. The Popit menu (tap Square) works beautifully, every new object comes with its own tutorial, and a tap of Start will let you jump into and play your level at any time.

So much of LittleBigPlanet is experimentation that you’ll forever be diving in and out to test whether the rocket ship you’ve just built will support a Sackboy pilot; whether it needs more thrust, or whether it’s an overpowered three-second death ride. And does everything you build need to resemble a level? Why not just build crazy contraptions? Why not build a set of Jurassic Park gates, opened by a complex counterweight pulley system? Why not build a rocket ship which breaks into segments at the touch of a button, going higher and faster with every dumped section like we did? Why not build a pinball table? Why not build something, just to see what happens?

It’s easy to presume that with all of Sony’s hype, LBP is a game solely for closet level-architects and game-builders, but with just the content on the disc, LittleBigPlanet is already a bumper-sized chunk of fun. Once you crack into the online space, LBP becomes a game without end – often one of dubious quality – but an endless game nonetheless. Whether you’re one for building and creating is irrelevant. It’s true that even bad games become good with friends, and there’s a lot to be said for grouping up with three chums and leaping from user-created stage to user-created stage at speed, debating the merits of each before plowing onto the next. As more players enter the fray, creating, building, and rating one another’s work, the best stages will rise to the top. The beta trial already contains tributes to Mario, Shadow of the Colossus and GTA, rated by keywords like ‘fun’, ‘genius’ or ‘boring’. In truth, LBP, for most players, won’t be a game of construction but of experimentation.

The question then is whether to review the game on the disc, the tools you’re given to play with, or the creativity of the community and the potential longevity it offers. It’s a toughie, so let’s instead just say this – nothing like LittleBigPlanet has ever existed before. Even if nobody buys it, the file servers remain empty, and the co-op space stays a barren wasteland, it’s still a rock-solid platformer with enough levels and fun to justify your money. If you loved LEGOs and never lost that love for building and creating, you’ve got a lifetime of experimentation and play ahead of you. And if, as we suspect, the world falls in love with it, LittleBigPlanet is absolutely the best game on the PS3, the best game of 2008 on any console, and the best toybox you’ll ever get to play with.

Oct 15, 2008

More Info

Release date: Oct 07 2008 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Platformer
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Media Molecule
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence

53 comments

  • croatianmaniac232 - September 7, 2010 1:22 p.m.

    sweet never really got to this but i probably should... PS3 4 life
  • mdiaz033 - March 27, 2010 6:05 a.m.

    i've played this game with many a folk and never have i encountered someone who didn't end up saying after playing one or two user-made levels: "dude, that's it! i'm getting a ps3!"
  • farewellandgoodnight - October 15, 2009 1:49 a.m.

    Bought it and got bored very quickly. If you're a creative type and enjoy designing your own levels it's utterly stunning. For a single player platformer it's endlessly imaginative but IMHO just not engaging. Best 2 platformer's still Mario World without question.
  • toasteez - November 4, 2008 2:41 a.m.

    I am completely and utterly addicted to this game. Where did my life go?
  • sinster_sign - October 30, 2008 8:25 p.m.

    wtf?? i hav no idea abt this game what the game is abt how to play it lookin at it's screenshots doesn't look so interesting can anyone tell me abt this game??
  • HAIGHY94 - October 30, 2008 5:57 p.m.

    lol a got a ps3 n xbox 360s suck n i have already preorded this game
  • vic88 - October 28, 2008 2:49 a.m.

    does it have local multi player?
  • Thegreenslob - October 25, 2008 10:16 a.m.

    Is this game only going to be online or does it have a story or something? plz explain to me
  • rumpsteak08 - October 24, 2008 4:23 p.m.

    i so can not wait for this game!!!!!!!!!:):):):)
  • georgeguy - October 24, 2008 12:26 p.m.

    i want this game!! but i also want cod 5...
  • BigBlastBoom - October 23, 2008 11:18 p.m.

    as much as i hate when games are delayed, i gotta say, this game is probably gonna be worth it, seeing as it gets perfect scores from tons of places can't wait till i get it
  • bilstar - October 19, 2008 3:18 p.m.

    That's my christmas present to myself sorted then. The reason I needed to get a PS3 to play it on too. Roll on christmas!!
  • solidsnake_5552000 - October 17, 2008 3:58 p.m.

    I hope this game becomes the killer-app the PS3 needs if sony wants to stay alive on the console wars this generation. I'm sure this game is a must have like MGS4 for all PS3 owners. Great review !!
  • xXgodlypunkXx - October 17, 2008 2:40 p.m.

    this game looks pretty cool, but i still prefer xbox 360
  • key0blade - October 16, 2008 10:47 p.m.

    YESH 10/10. DEFINITLY A LAUNCH BUY!
  • jamboy199three - October 16, 2008 6:28 p.m.

    the game looks cool but im not the most crative person and building stuff is half the pricetag
  • Gonri 13 - October 16, 2008 9:46 a.m.

    Looks amazing. It's gonna have to wait till christmas though, I have to conquer Fallout 3 first! :D
  • mfwahwah - October 16, 2008 1:16 a.m.

    I don't even know why I'm buying other games before Killzone 2. LBP should be enough to last me this whole damn console generation "apartment men's"
  • Defguru7777 - October 16, 2008 1:04 a.m.

    I wish I had a PS3 right now. But not one that'll leave me bankrupt.
  • Rattlehead - October 16, 2008 12:43 a.m.

    The PS3 owners deserve a great game like this. I kinda wish I had a PS3 now

Showing 1-20 of 53 comments

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