LittleBigPlanet ReviewGreg Knoll
Very rarely am I ever “blown away” by a game. I play a fair amount of the “good, even the great. Games that are overwrought with airships or zombies; battles with a Colossus or battles with one's inner demons. Games that all claim to be Epic, yet harbor some resemblance to something I’ve already played.
Yet every now and then a game comes along that captures me. One that enthralls me. A game so unique, so creative, so genius that I can’t do anything but play it, and think about it long after I’ve stopped.
It’s been an era since a game has enveloped and addicted me in such a manner. Based solely on the hype I bought LittleBigPlanet, hoping for that very experience. What I got was something so majestic, so brilliant it was beyond what I could ever hope for.
I remember what I said when I first saw the game’s main character, Sackboy:
He’s so cute!
Without a doubt he’s one of the most charming, endearing characters I’ve ever played. In ways, he reminds me of a retro-rpg lead, with his big head and little body. His solemn, silent demeanor, going the entire game without saying a word. Other times, I thought I was watching an eighties hair-band rockstar with his hand gestures and incessant need to stick his tongue out. But one thing’s for sure: He’s unforgettable.
The thing that really brings him to life, and makes him lovable are his antics. Leave him to stand along and he starts grooving and bobbing his head to music seemingly only he can hear. Press on the d-pad and he demonstrates all sorts of emotions depending on the direction—from mouth open and bawling, lip trembling and terrified or excited and growling. He often uses his entire, tiny burlap body to do things like moving switches or pulling objects and every time he over-exaggerates the strain. When he swings from platform-to-platform, his legs kick faster than Lance Armstrong after a Red Bull. And all this is done while he’s in his original burlap outfit, or one of thousands of customizable costumes. For most of the game, I had him decked out as the Monopoly man with a green body and skull face. It may seem silly, but in the zany world that is LittleBigPlanet he fit right in.
As a whole, Planet’s platform aspect is simple. There’s no real storyline to be had, and no real abilities or weapons to play with. You jump, you pull objects. You avoid danger and ride moving walkways. The list of what Sackboy is able to do is a lot like him. Short. However the variety and entertainment lies not in what can be done, rather where and how it is. The game is broken into sections, that have three or four levels, and each had its own defining aspects and dangers to behold. In the first phase, “The Garden” I found myself avoiding giant cardboard ghosts attached to chains and dodging huge stomping boots with lace holes bigger than my head. In “The Canyon” I had a jetpack strapped to my back, gliding around, holding sensitive explosives and leading them down a cramped, jagged corridor. At the end, if I didn’t twitch and blow poor little Sackboy up, I dropped the bombs to blast my way further into the level. The final level of “The Wedding” was made up of ascending platforms and smooth, solid ground below them. No spikes, no fire. Doesn’t sound intimidating? Oh, right because I left out the part where you’re being chased by a massive, manic skeleton bride in a bulldozer who’s apt to destroy everything in her path; including helpless little Sackboy.
There are challenges—as well as fun—to be found in every level, and some of the later ones can get quite difficult. Yet with no real goal-oriented story, some may wonder what’s to keep them motivated. The answer: Prize bubbles. Countless can be obtained from start to finish. Some are rather easy to get, others require a fair amount of skill or the help of a friend. Contained in them are items of all sorts—stickers, materials, creatures, contraptions, switches, etc.—that can later be used when creating your own levels.
This is where LittleBigPlanet sets itself apart from any other platform. Honestly, it’s where it immortalizes itself.
Over the years, I’ve made my own wrestlers. I’ve designed cars, outfits and Soulcalibur fighters. Never have I been given the opportunity to build my own level, and I’m shocked no one has thought of it yet. Though I doubt any could do it this well.
The user interface—given the immensity of what can be done—is surprisingly simple. It took me only about five hours to learn all the ins-and-outs of building, and for the more complicated aspects they have entertaining, step-by-step video tutorials.
Once you’ve watched them all, you’re set free. Little Big Planet provides you a blank canvas and all the tools needed to make your own unique world.
You can build it any way you can imagine it.
A fair amount of items are pre-rendered, like giant bobble head skeletons, snapping crocodiles, Aztec warriors and gentle dinosaurs. If none of those fit with your levels ambiance, the game’s Material Changer allows you to fill in any object with one of several choices, like metal, dark matter (which locks your object right where you put it—even in mid-air) or green foam that dissolves when a switch is triggered. You can base your world around one central theme, be it cardboard or bones, and change everything to fit in it.
If you want to be more innovative, you can use the game’s “Corner Editor” to change the object's original design. This handy little device allows you to roam along an objects edge and re-shape it, spiking in some places, concaving it in others. If you have the patience and the eye for it, you can make items that are completely inventive.
And any of these can be re-sized, rotated, shifted to a different plane, suspended or even glued to other items. You can plant explosives inside them that will blow up upon contact, or with a trigger-switch. Add a dangerous element by setting them on fire, or having them emit erroneous gas.
Some allow even more personalization. By locking on to certain items and pressing the square button, you can tweak their aspects. For example: The magic mouth. It’s a tiny set of lips that can be placed on anything else in your level. When Sackboy walks by, it pops-up with a phrase. In tweak, you can re-write it to say anything you choose, change the radius in which it’s heard and even the sound effects that coincide with it. Tweak can change the length of a rope, the bounce of a spring and the aggression and intelligence of monsters.
Once your level is finished, or even while it’s still being built, you can publish it online for the world to play, critique or comment on. You can even play levels others have built in LittleBigPlanet’s massive community and—usually—have just as much fun.
LittleBigPlanet has plenty of it to spare. It’s one of those rare games that encompasses your entire life. I was addicted. When I wasn’t playing it, I was thinking about it. Imagining what I could add to my level, what I was going to re-shape, what I was going to set on fire. It is a game that absolutely, undoubtedly must be played, even if it means buying the system in order to do so. Just… be willing to part with your free time. All of it.
It’s worth it.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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