It’s a (little) big world afterall

The Playstation 3 exclusive LittleBigPlanet does not go on sale until the end of the month, but a few (thousand) lucky people have already been able to play with the beta.  As it has been one of my most anticipated titles for Sony’s big black machine, I’m very grateful that I am one of those lucky people.

Read on for my brief first impressions after a couple hours’ worth of play, and why it made my daughter cry.

It may be hard to categorize LittleBigPlanet. On the surface, it’s a 2D (ish) action platform game, a graphically fancy version of the run-and-jump games we’ve all played for years.  Start at the start, collect a bunch of objects, and reach the goal.  What sets this game apart from practically every other game is the insane amount of customization you and your fellow players can access, directly shaping the game experience.

You take control of Sackboy, a cute little character that is best described as an organic version of those designer vinyl toys that are so popular these days.  Beginning as a brown canvas sack, you’re immediately given the opportunity to customize the little guy, with a variety of eyes, hairstyles, fabrics, clothing, and accessories, and despite his name, you can easily control a Sackgirl instead.  As you’re led through the controls, you’re exposed to some of the most charming and whimsical visuals yet seen in a video game, with levels made up of objects that look like the product of some deranged seamstress.  Everything has a tangible weight, the game’s physics being responsible for the key gameplay moments, not pre-written scripts.

You are shown how to apply stickers to various game objects, and you find out that just about everything (including your Sackboy) can be given a wild coat of paint with a few button presses.  But it’s when you are given the ability to manipulate game objects themselves, not just their appearance, that the game truly opens up.  While the game has its own story mode, the real draw is going to be the practically infinite number of user-created levels and game types.  In the week or so that the beta has been available, we’ve already seen mad scientists creating working computers from a series of strings and pulleys or recreating the levels of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros.

But what do I think of it so far?  In a word, delightful.  There are a handful of games that bring me genuine joy when I play, a smile plastered on my face as I watch the action unfold happily, the last two being Katamari Damacy and Super Mario Galaxy.  Little Big Planet brings much the same reaction, I’m just glad to be playing.  Not that I got to spend much time with the controller – my three year old was hogging it, as excited as I was to find out I had beta access because she fell in love with the game from the moment we sat and watched the first previews together.  This is the first game that has me looking to buy another PS3 controller, because the idea of all of us playing along together, creating our own family adventures, is irresistable.

So why was Charlotte left in tears?  It was bedtime and we had to switch the game off.  I’m dreading her reaction when she finds out the beta ends on Sunday..

No Responses to “It’s a (little) big world afterall”

  1. I got the beta too and I completely agree with you. It’s awesome. I’ve been waiting for this game since its was first announced at GDC07 and this beta hasn’t disappointed. The amount of stuff you can do with just the amount of the level editor provided in the beta is awesome. People have made battleships, cannons, calculators, pinball, space invaders and a whole load of other things with the tools provided by the beta.

    I didn’t know that you had a PS3. Since you need a PSN account to access the beta, that means you must have one. What’s your PSN account alias?

    Also, LittleBigPlanet is all one word.

  2. Yep, quite right, it’s all one word – I’ll change that in a sec. We were playing again this morning, exploring more of the community levels. Someone has done a great one where you need to shoot a cannon into a dragon’s mouth, it’s brilliant. And playing together with others is great fun too, as long as the lag isn’t too bad.

    I have to say that this is probably the first game that could only be done on the PS3, so it deserves the limelight Sony is giving it.

    I’ve had a PS3 for a long time now, I thought my username was common knowledge – SiW
    Unfortunately I don’t play online that much, it’s hard to schedule a block of time when you’re a gamer dad.

  3. “I have to say that this is probably the first game that could only be done on the PS3”

    Why is that?

  4. It’s one of those titles where presentation is just as important as the gameplay, so the Wii is ruled out immediately because it just can’t pull off the graphical fanciness. I’m sure the 360 would have no problem in this regard, but unless I’m mistaken Microsoft still demands that developers take the hard drive-less models into account which would cripple the whole customization aspect. Plus Microsoft’s control over Xbox Live may limit what would they would allow to be shared (for better or for worse). Finally, while this could be regarded as a non-essential feature, the PS3’s motion controller is used to add more expression to your character, like a little digital puppet.

  5. Great article Simon. I’ve been ignoring this game on purpose (which is a good sign because that means I’m interested in it) and I’m glad to hear it achieves some of its promise. I did this same thing with Spore btw, figuring mediocre is the best it could manage with that kind of ambition.

  6. Cool – thanks for explaining that Simon!

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