LittleBigPlanet Vita preview - creativity you can touch

What happens when you shrink a Sackboy? Well, you can stick him in your pocket and take the freewheeling patchwork fun with you, anywhere you go. That’s the idea behind LittleBigPlanet Vita, the whimsical and customizable platformer for Sony’s mighty handheld. Just like its older siblings on the PS3, the game is wild and wooly fun right out of the box, but the best part will come when the game’s thriving community starts whipping up some creative content, and the Vita’s touch features should provide ample opportunity.

Right off the bat, we should say that LittleBigPlanet Vita is not a port of either PS3 game. It boasts a completely new story, set on the planet Carnivalia. A planet of puppets, Carnivalia was once a lighthearted place, until an evil puppeteer started pulling the strings. Not it’s up to Sackboy (or Sackgirl) to save the day.

It’s less of a story and more of a delivery system for goofy characters who spout weird one-liners and clever turns of phrase. Don’t take that as a complaint, like any other entry in the series, LBP for Vita oozes charm. We were happy to discover that Brit comedian and thespian Stephen Fry reprises his role as the omnipotent, occasionally moody narrator. His mannered voiceover guides you from level to level, and through a variety of mini-games.

The standard platforming levels play like the LBP adventures you know and love. Full of bouncing, swinging, stickers and stitching, anyone who’s wished they could experience the pick up and play pleasure of this title while on the bus or lounging in bed will be thoroughly pleased. However, what intrigued us the most were the touchable objects introduced in this Vita version.

Certain blocks, denoted by a white chalk outline, can be pushed, pulled or otherwise manipulated by the tap of the finger. We fired our Sackboy into the air by pulling down on a spring-loaded platform, and slid objects out of the way as we navigated a miniature maze. In the game’s biggest flourish of inventiveness, certain objects can be pushed in and out, by switching between front and back touch.

There were clever side missions aplenty, too. One whack-a-mole style mini-game had us turn the Vita to portrait orientation, then start bopping Sackboys on the head as they rapidly popped out of a grate. There’s also a whole Arcade section full of fleshed-out mini-games, like Taplings, a moody platformer that uses screen touch to guide a delicate blob protagonist through a dark and dangerous environment.

All in all, we were impressed by the charisma and gameplay variety of LittleBigPlanet Vita. It captures every ounce of the unique style and precocious platforming of the PS3 games, but the Vita version has enough original features to make more than a simple handheld remake. The new touchable objects had our mind reeling with the sheer creative potential for the level-making LBP community. We can’t wait for this spritely platformer to hit the Vita on September 25, but we’re even more excited to see what the community cooks up.

Alex Roth