When LittleBigPlanet hit the scene almost a year ago, it was an instant classic. Today, that statement holds true. Media Molecule has done what few other developers bother to do, theyíve constantly upgraded and improved upon the original game with a plethora of downloadable content. What the Game of the Year Edition adds to the original game is well worth the attention of new PS3 owners. See thatís the genius behind this release. Given the recently reduced price of the PlayStation 3, Sony has packed LBP with 16 costumes, three sticker pack, the Metal Gear Solid expansion and 18 exclusive creator levels. Yes it retails for the same price of the original game, but youíre getting over $30 of extra goodies. The 18 exclusive levels are quite fun to play through even though they arenít as imaginative as the Media Molecule levels. For anyone who hasnít played through the original game, this is an instant buy. If you have played through the original release, then 18 levels certainly arenít worth the price of admission. There are no new trophies, and all of the other content can be purchased separately off the PlayStation Store. The bottom-line is this; Sony released this game for people who just bought a $299 PS3. Itís that simple. For all of those, this game is still a 9.6. What follows is the original review for this wonderful game.
What can we say about LittleBigPlanet that you havenít heard before? Should we repeat our hands-on time with the game? What about listing off everything it allows you to create? You know what, why donít we just tell you that if you happen to own a PlayStation 3, you simply must buy LBP? There has never been anything quite like this game before. We have a feeling that moving forward; you'll be seeing a paradigm shift in the way games are created, and itís all thanks to this one title. Howís that for an opening paragraph to a highly requested review? (EiC Justin Joseph approves)
Like Mario before it, LBP is a platformer at heart. That means you spend most of your time jumping from one platform to the next. Throw in some bad guys here and there, and you have LittleBigPlanet. Well, thatís not entirely true. What makes LBP so incredible is that every story mode stage could've been created by you. You name it; everything from enemy placement, designs, textures, can be fully customized. If that's not enough, you can share your creations with the whole world. You excited yet? Whatís more, you can even rate user-generated levels, offer comments and even add them to your favourites. This is a game where the developers simply kept the ball rolling. The community will take LBP to all-new heights. Even though this review is written mere days after the release, there are already countless user-generated levels that are far more creative than anything I could have ever thought of.
The purpose for story mode is to show players what can be done with the powerful stage-building tools. The levels also reward players for proper exploration. At first you may be surprised to hear that there're only fifty-odd levels, each taking mere minutes to complete. Once you realize that each can be played an unlimited amount of times, with up to four players online, the experience becomes far more interesting. The stages also act as a portal to finding unique tools, stickers, and more, that you can use in the create mode. Stickers are exactly as they sound, images that can be placed on virtually any surface. Whatís really unique is that certain stickers actually have abilities. For example, you may be running around a stage and notice how a star doesnít have any color. If you open your tools menu, called the pop-it, and select the star active sticker, you may open an otherwise hidden area. We're blown away by all the hidden goodies in each stage. Even better is that if you visit a stage a hundred times, the action is always fresh. This is because of both the online multiplayer and the simple joy that comes from playing. In total, there are eight themed worlds, each with around four levels. If you explore them thoroughly enough, you may even be rewarded with new challenge stages. These range from a jumping jacks mini-game to car racing games. These levels are so creative and varied that you'd be blown away. Again, up to four players can enjoy the game online, or offline on one system.
Iíll delve deeper into the online mode later on, because first Iíd like to bring up Sackboy, Sonyís new mascot. For years Sonyís tried to design a character that really spoke to its audience. They had Crash for a while, but that wasnít owned by them. Other than that, who would you associate with the PlayStation brand that was also owned by SCEI? Lately Sonyís been preaching Game 3.0, which is essentially about allowing users to create game experiences themselves. In that regard, Sackboy is the perfect mascot. Not since Mario has a trademark been so immediately loved and respected all throughout the industry. Everyone knows his name and wants to be just like him. Rivals Nintendo and Microsoft have both publically stated that Sackboy and LBP are truly awe-inspiring. So why is he so revered? Well for starters, heís just so damn cute. The other reason is because of what you can do to the little guy. You can change the material heís made of; add new eyes, a mouth, clothes, everything and anything you can imagine. You can even give him facial expressions like cross, overjoyed, upset and more. By holding down L2 and R2, his arms can be manipulated. Itís insane! You could spend hours just customizing your Sackperson. Believe me, because I did. Whatís even crazier is that you can customize others' Sackpeople as well. Letís say you're enjoying a four player game and are about to place a sticker on something. If your friendís Sackperson happens to walk in front of the sticker just as you place it, heíd have a permanent color stain from the as a result. Now imagine what you could do with all the other tools available. Want to add flowing grass that reacts realistically to physics? Well shrink it down a bit and slap it on your Sackpersonís head. I know what youíre thinking, "Wow!", and we agree with you.
Now you have a clear idea of just how creative LBP is, and what a portion of it is all about. Although while it may be super imaginative and an enjoyable platformer, LBP isn't without its share of issues. Most of these stem from the unique plain system. Sackboy can run left and right, like any 2D platformer, and grab onto things with R1, but in this case he can also move in and out. There are three distinct plains in the game, middle, inner and outer. Occasionally Sackboy will switch plains mid-jump, which can cause him to fall off platforms or miss jumps completely. The controls do take some pratice. When playing a stage from an amateur game maker, you will likely fall off a platform or run into an enemy more than once simply because of the plain changes. Media Molecule are pros, so most of the story mode levels are designed in such a way that you can easily navigate between the plains. Even with this shortcoming, the platforming involved is unlike anything we've ever seen before. Imagination is what LBP is all about, and thankfully the varied gameplay is what ultimately makes this game one of the best. Had this been a strict platformer, the control issues would've distracted from the experience. Instead you may find yourself running alongside a bunch of bulls trying to reach a new platform, and then suddenly be whisked away in the air into a giant game of pinball. We truly have reached a point where I can say your imagination is the only limiting factor here, and because of that, the gameplay is utterly fantastic.
Nowís a good time to tackle multiplayer. Right away I'll tell you that some of the moments weíve had in LBP are unlike anything else. When you have four people trying to figure out a puzzle, race each other, fly with each other, all in one stage, you'll never hear so many laughs, giggles and what have you. Itís almost as if Media Molecule was able to bring out the very best in gamers all over the world. To date I've not heard a single person cursing at me or anyone else online. People simply come together for a good time. Itís hard to believe, but thus far itís true. Thereís an issue with multiplayer though, the camera. Because the action is two-dimensional (at least for level structure), if players are too far separated, the camera becomes problematic. This is the case with many similar titles. The way Media Molecule attempted to solve this was by killing off any player that strays too far from the pack. A timer counts down, and if they donít rejoin within five seconds, poof. They can always re-enter the level through a checkpoint, but only after another player has activated it.
Still, I have to mention that adding players to your existing level couldnít be any easier. You simply press the start button, select the friend you want, and hit the invite button. You can send them messages as well. The game also fully supports voice chat, but you already knew that. Every single level in story mode has both a private and public lobby, but itís all hidden from the player. That means you donít have to wait around for anyone. You select the level you want, and the game asks if you want to play alone or online. If you choose online, it means that anyone can join in. Pick alone, and you can send out invites yourself. It couldnít possibly be any simpler. As of writing this review, Sony hasnít released the online create mode patch. Currently players are able to enjoy any level with up to three other Sackpeople. Iíd love to tell you that everything works perfectly smooth, but thatíd be a lie. The truth is that the servers were completely destroyed by the amount of people online on day one. This is on top of delays and an extensive beta period. Thankfully only a day later, Sony fixed some of the server-side problems, and the game is no longer that problematic, but it's still not perfect. There remains moments where lag affects a game, players are kicked out for no reason, etc. The little problems we've experienced aren't enough to detract from the experience though, not when it's this involved. With any luck, Sony will have everything running silky smooth in the upcoming days, but as it is now, the servers still take a beating during peak hours.
The final leg of this review looks at the create mode. Here youíre free to create levels to your heart's content. While story mode takes place on its own planet, the create mode is stationed on a moon just to its right. Here, players select a crater and fill it with a design. Once finished, they can play their level locally, or be brave and publish it for the world to see and play with. Itís even possible to copy a user-generated world and tweak or add stuff to it. The possibilities for greatness are everywhere, and based on some levels weíve played, that's already been achieved. The way you make a level is both easy and difficult. For starters, you have to sit through a bunch of tutorials. Some may find this annoying, but the truth of the matter is that without them, you wouldnít know what to do with the tools. Every time the pop-it menu is opened and a new tool or item is selected, a tutorial plays. It can be a cumbersome, but again, itís truly necessary. You only have to watch a tutorial once, but often times you may actually want a repeat simply because of all the functions the tools offer. They range from simply picking objects up, to putting a brain in a creature and bringing it to life. So many things can be done with these tools that it would take me a lifetime to mention them all. Perhaps the only downside to the create mode is that it requires a lot of time to develop something stunning, and it can be tough to understand all the ins and outs of the system. That being said, even if you donít completely comprehend how to build a perfect stage, youíre certain to enjoy yourself. Once the create mode goes online, the fun will only be exponential.
With all the content thatís already online, itís a good thing you can heart levels, which essentially makes them your favourites. Media Molecule did a fantastic job of creating a game within a game. This is LEGO for the 21st century. User-generated levels are easy to find, and return to. Theyíre also easy to comment on, tag so they appear with similarly-themed levels, etc. The point is, a few years from now, new players will have no trouble finding the best levels out there. Thatís the single most important aspect to any online multiplayer user-generated game. Yup, thatís a mouthful.
One would assume that Media Molecule had to make a trade-off somewhere, given all the tools they added to the game. Well, there is a small one; you canít make a level span for hours. The way they limit players is by a thermometer, which sits on the left-hand side of the screen. This is only for use in the create mode. It keeps tabs on your level. Once that meter is full, you can no longer add objects. Based on what weíve seen so far, I canít begin to imagine how long it would take to fill the entire thermometer.
Thatís not the possible trade-off I was thinking about though. I was referring to the graphics. For a game this rich and diverse, one would automatically assume that the graphics would pay the price. If you thought that, youíd be dead wrong. There are tons of particles and environmental effects, and so much more. Remember how technically impressive LBP is to begin with. The entire world is based on a physics system, so everything and anything can be pulled, moved, shifted, turned, etc. In a world like this, you donít expect to see your characterís reflection in an orb or smoke stains on your white-clothed Sackboy when he passes too close to fire. Taken together with the incredibly imaginative development staff, and we have a game thatís not only a delight to the senses, but an artistic masterpiece.
The narrator, Stephen Fry, is one of the best weíve heard in years. Heís the nice gentleman that walks you through all the tutorials. He has a witty sense of humour that's immediately enjoyable to all. He fits so perfectly with the atmosphere. The music is also a perfect match. You may recognize a song or two, but chances are you'll play through the game wondering what these excellent scores are. The big controversy is now over with; a song featured words from the Qurían, but has since been removed via a patch. Why even mention this? Because it's worth so, and helps explain just how unique the game's soundtrack is. There are songs from all over the world that feel as if they were written specifically for the levels they compliment. Ahmad Mosly, whom Iíve been naming a lot lately, will likely find a way to pick up a lot of these tracks. Theyíre so catchy that youíll be humming them on the way to work.
Iíve left out so much detail that Media Molecule would be disappointed. I didnít mention that you can take pictures of anything in the real world and put them into the game. I didn't say that you can not only customize the look and feel of the game, but also the sound. I didnít point out that LittleBigPlanet is one of the most original games I've ever played...wait a minute... Seriously though, Media Molecule is the first developer to finally create a game where players are the ones who determine how the series progresses. Not because of complaints or blogs, forums or anything else, but with their own wonderful creations. They're the ones that will change the way everyone looks at this game. While it may have a few minor hiccups, thereís no question that LittleBigPlanet is a tremendous success, one that will only evolve for the better with time. Sony finally has a mascot they can call their own, but itís you who will shape Sackboyís future. Now go have some fun!