Written by Nathan Love
LittleBigPlanet is one of the core exclusive franchises for the PlayStation 3, and it doesn’t take much brainpower to figure out why. Announced back in 2007 with a release date of October 2008, LittleBigPlanet has since garnered nearly universal acclaim among the gaming community and critics alike, as well as selling nearly four and a half million copies worldwide. Described as one of the PS3’s “killer apps”, LittleBigPlanet is a fun, quirky, and gorgeous puzzle-platformer and creative tool that appeals to a wide variety of casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Right off the bat, the tutorials (narrated by the illustrious Stephen Fry) set the tone for the rest of the game. Your character, an adorable little Sackperson, can jump, push and pull objects, and animate in a variety of endearing and hilarious ways. The level design is, at heart, fairly standard puzzle-platforming fare; you must navigate your character from point A to point B, with various obstacles to avoid and overcome in your way. There are points to collect, harrowing jumps to be had, checkpoints after major struggles, and a goal at the end of every level- in every way, it is the very model of the genre.
Where LittleBigPlanet begins to get really interesting (and unique) is in the presentation. The artwork is beautiful and simple, with most objects looking as if they were crafted from various household materials. Everything in the game has a certain charm and specific stylistic direction. The levels all hold together cohesively through design: from the savannah, to the Mexican canyons, to the bustling metropolis, to the Asian islands, to the frozen tundra, all the levels are beautifully crafted.
The soundtrack in the game deserves special note. Many of the levels have specifically-composed music which responds and builds depending on how much of each level you have completed, and all of the tracks are absolutely astounding. Not many games have such quirky and interesting soundtracks, and it really adds to the experience to bob your head and smile at the jams in the background.
Past all these core experiences shines the true heart and soul of LittleBigPlanet- namely, the customization. Each level features a number of rewards to be collected. Sometimes they are right in your way, and sometimes they are off the beaten path and require a particularly clever series of jumps or puzzle-solving (or even multiplayer co-op) to obtain. These rewards range from new features for your Sackperson, including hair, eyes, mouths, mustaches, glasses, clothing, and other accessories, to objects that you can then employ in the game’s powerful level editor.
Speaking of the level editor, it does have some issues. The learning curve is fairly steep, although most of the tools and functions have extensive tutorials (again, narrated by Stephen Fry). However, on the whole, the level editor is incredibly powerful, and a wide array of highly creative user-generated levels is available over the PlayStation Network for free. The amount of time each player has invested into a level, learning the ins and outs of the editor, almost always directly translates into how attractive, challenging, fun, and engaging the end result becomes, and this is the real driving force behind LittleBigPlanet.
In terms of the actual gameplay, the platforming is incredibly fun and innovative, and the puzzles are just mind-tweaking enough. The levels are on a nearly-perfect challenge curve. In the beginning, they are nearly bafflingly easy, and seasoned gamers will fly right through them. Later on they become quite challenging, providing just enough difficulty (particularly during reward challenges and multiplayer) to keep you engaged until the end of the story mode. Speaking of story, there really isn’t much of one, but who plays a platformer for the story? And when you DO finish story mode, there are more user-generated levels available for play than anyone could ever ask for, or even play in several lifetimes- over 5 million of them, in fact. LittleBigPlanet is a game that is simply fun and good to the last drop… not that you’ll ever begin to approach it.
Yes, the physics are floaty. Get over it.
Overall Score: 92. Absolute gaming fun. The presentation is gorgeous, the controls are excellent, there’s just enough challenge to keep you going, and even if you don’t like other games like LBP, it’s good enough that I’m confident that you will like LBP itself.
Genre Score (Puzzle-Platformer): 97. Eat it up, fans of the genre. Very few games do what LBP does as well as it does, and only one or two do it better, the sequel being one of them. Though, admittedly, it’s a little light on the puzzles most of the time, and a little heavy on the platformer, LBP is an intensely fun experience and not to be missed.