It's almost been a month since Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet hit the shelves. We didn't have much time to tell you what we think about the game at the time, so we hope that this "better late than never article" will have you pleased. Now join me inside for a little big ride.
LittleBigPlanet is a bit like visiting Wonderland with Alice. As soon as you arrive in this universe, you really feel far away from home but still you want to discover more about this whole new world. Entering the world of LittleBigPlanet also means wandering in the dreams of the most twisted minds, should they be those of the developers or those of players like you and me.
I will try not to talk too much about the cute design of the game so I won’t repeat the same glorifying comments you’ve already read dozens of times since its release and I will go straight to the essence of the game. What makes this title solid is the fact that the technology is at the service of the gameplay and not the other way round. The excellent physics engine enables the game to offer levels combining originality and creativity, everything being supported by very realistic textures (notice the “70’s velvet sofa” texture) and some pretty effects such as smoke and fire.
Sound-wise it will be difficult to find flaws. The soundtrack is fresh and will help you rest after a hard day’s work. Tracks vary from folk, pop, African and many other styles of music so that you really feel like you’re traveling from place to place in this game. To tell you all, it kind of reminded me of the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack on Super Nes. Not that I intend to compare both soundtracks but in LBP I found the same kind of magical tune as in 1994, mainly because you have this feeling you’ve never heard this in a video game before.
Unfortunately everything is not as wonderful in gameplay land. Even if the controls react rather well and the physics engine is fun, many will regret the over-exaggerated inertia of our sackboys & girls. Of course, some will say it’s part of the subtleties of the gameplay and you just have to deal with it, but you could also consider this lack of accuracy as being just a very irritating problem. Likewise, the way you move from the front to the back of the screen is neither intuitive nor smooth. This sometimes triggers undesired moves which can have a heavy impact when playing in time-attack stages for example.
LittleBigPlanet having never hidden its ambition to be mostly a community game, let’s now talk about the most important part: multiplayer. When played offline, no problem, everything runs fine, and, apart from the mess coming from 3 or 4-player-games, it is a great game and it is a lot of fun. Some people might complain about the camera which doesn’t zoom out when one of the players is left behind but the game asks players to stick together in order to progress through the levels anyway. In every level, catching some collectible stickers - you’ll need them in the level editor - requires several players, a good idea if you ask me.
Unfortunately, it’s not as enjoyable when played online because of the more or less constant lag when there are more than 2 players. We sometimes managed to play a normal game when BlimBlim, Eloniss and I tried to play together, but most of the time it was completely unplayable. I hope things will get better with time, I don’t think it’s being elitist to ask for a fluid online 4-player game nowadays.
The good side of the online mode is the possibility to submit your own creations to the community and obviously try those of the other players. The length of the game is definitely extended thanks to such a feature, provided that talented players keep posting new creations that is. I have to say I haven’t had much time to spend on the level editor but the possibility to create complex and original levels is by itself very stimulating. Let’s hope this will keep creating some emulation between players and result in the most inspired levels.
In the end LittleBigPlanet will leave nobody indifferent and is for sure a game to try for those who claim to love video games. At the Leipzig convention last summer, the game had made quite an impression on us and it’s actually turned out to be the refreshing title we saw at the time. Even though it’s far from being perfect, it deserves all the attention of players looking for original platformers. Come on, give it a try.