Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


LittleBigPlanet (Playstation 3) 

LittleBigPlanet is a revolutionary title from Media Molecule and Sony for the PS3 that seems to be a standard platform title on the surface, but gives players unprecedented freedom to create, share and play unique platform levels. Its an incredibly well-designed title that creates a unique experience that makes it one most charming and fun games to come out in a very long time.. However, LittleBigPlanet's real revolution lies in the fact that it gives players the ability to create completely unique levels, using an incredibly flexible and powerful interface that's surprisingly intuitive. Once players have created their own levels, they can share and download other players' levels, which gives LBP an unprecedented focus on the users' creativity. Look inside and discover why this is an almost irresistible experience that breaks new ground for console gaming.

As you enter the surreal world of LittleBigPlanet, you are greeted by a friendly main character named Sackboy who acts as your guide through some amazingly creative, and highly enjoyable pre-developed levels. As charming, cool and fun as they are, these represent just scratch the surface and give you a small taste of what the game has to offer. The game is based around Sackboy's many adventures and allows you to control him as he explores and jumps around a variety of whimsical levels that offer both challenge and wit The first thing you'll notice is the unique and whimsical design in which every element has a hand-sewn, buttoned up and zippered look of a hand-made diorama. It's a unique look that gives LittleBigPlanet an immediate appeal and look. The first few levels are relatively simple platforming exercises where the player goes from left to right, jumping over obstacles, hanging on things and solving some pretty interesting puzzles. It's gameplay is remarkably tight for this day and age and a tribute to a kind of 2D revival, but now in beautiful high-definition. You can see the level of detail and care that has gone into the levels, which feel alive with multiple objects spinning and whirling around while you play. This approach gives you a familiar and accessible genre to play around with the player an immediate sense of being part of a unique and sometimes quirky environment, a feeling that only deepens as you explore the many options and creative sections available to you.

Most of the early levels act as a kind of tutorial that introduces you to the basics of control and how to interact with the game. As in many other platform games, you can collect loads of little blue orbs to achieve a high score. Each level starts with your little Sackboy character meeting up with a level guardian who lays out the rules and objectives of each level. Following this, you can jump onto a video screen and get a quick, and incredibly charming short video that gives you a humorous look at the adventure ahead. Most of the levels have a great variety in terms of design. You'll find yourself running over massive plarforming, moving blocks, avoiding bad guys and trying to sole elaborate puzzles along the way. The game gives you frequent respawn points that you have to run over, where you'll restart if you lose a life. LBP's controls are fairly easy The levels themselves offer quite a range of style and approach, some of which are shorter and fairly easy, while other offer multiple puzzles to solve in order to progress. One of the most enjoyable parts of LBP comes when Sackboy jumps onto a rolling object and gets to race through a level in timed mode. There's a seemingly endless variety to the game's levels and design, and since the levels can be selected and played in a non-linear fashion, the sense of endless possibilities is a huge plus. One of the more interesting aspects of LBP is that it allows the player to customize their character's appearance on the fly, which allows the avatar to reflect your personality and style. It's even more impressive because you can do this on the fly during the actual gameplay, which shows just how far-reaching the game's engine really is, which also makes a good example of how far LBP's creativity extends.

You can change the appearance of the levels as you play by clicking on the character's menu box, selecting stickers and other items and pasting them onto the actual levels themselves, which is quite cool and can be helpful in mapping out targets or other notable sections of each level. You can find loads of these stickers and objects throughout the game by playing through the levels and running over the bubbles that contain them. Each level contains dozens of these items, and its difficult to find all of them. This is especially true because certain areas can only be completed with two players working co-operatively. These are labeled clearly so they don't have to be played, but it's a nice functionality to have. Most of the game can be played in small chunks or large doses, and you'll quickly be able to build up a large inventory of objects to use. This can be seen as an added bonus in addition to exploring the many charming levels and areas of the game. LittleBigPlanet's overall game design is quite good throughout, with the tight controls and excellent play-action that most platform games require. It should be fairly straightforward and most of the action is self-explanatory, though there are some areas where you'll need to move SackBoy between planes which can be somewhat odd at first, but is done automatically in many sections. Your other main ability comes in grabbing items using the R1 button, which you can use to climb up to higher ground or swing across gaps, which is fairly fun. You'll also find a variety of other objects such as jetpacks and skateboards that you can use to aid you in the adventure.

If this all that was offered in an ordinary title, it would be impressive in its own right. However, there's much more to LittleBigPlanet than merely platforming, and what you can do with the objects and items you collect goes a long way in helping to make this game stand out from the pack. The most impressive aspect of the game is its level creation feature which allows you to make, tweak and play your own levels using an intuitive and charming interface. It's fairly easy to get the basics down using the tutorial levels, and you'll quickly be able to create incredibly elaborate, multi-tiered designs without much effort. The array of tools, objects and items at your disposal is incredible, and since you can find an almost endless supply in the game itself, you'll never be bored. You have a lot of room to store your own levels which can be quickly accessed in the MyMoon menu, played through then changed if you so like. This makes for an exciting enough addition - but the ability to upload and play others' creations as well in the community feature gives the player an almost limitless number and variety of levels to play. Accessing these community features is quite simple enough and most players should find the menus almost seamlessly integrated into the main game. It's impossible to describe just how cool it is, and the creativity and sophistication in the user-created levels we've sampled so far shows that, far from a minor part, the creative aspects of LittleBigPlanet will become its driving force. The fact that so much content, and so many varied designs can be created and performed without significant effort is incredible. If this game catches on, it could go a long way in democratizing the process of game creation, and make level modding go from a niche pursuit to a mainstream activity. While the interface is easy to understand, it's got an incredible amount of power. Its flexibility makes the user generated content play in LBP look and feel nearly as polished as the professionally developed main storyline levels.

This is the key element that makes LittleBigPlanet stand out so much from the many other games on the market. While the main game is fun, charming and challenging, giving players themselves control over their environments, allowing them to create their own unique play worlds and letting them share them with other users is a revolutionary concept. What's more impressive is how well the whole thing is sewn together, creating an almost seamless transition from playing to creating and back again that makes this feel like much more than another game, it feels like an entirely new platform within a console. LittleBigPlanet has won much praise for its unique, community-based approach, and experiencing, creating and manipulating it to your liking helps to make this one of the most entertaining and engrossing titles released on the PS3 to date.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: A

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