How can anyone not love Sackboy? Just look at him; he is just so damn “cute” that even the most hardcore gamers can’t help but smile when they see him. At least, that is how I see it. Sackboy and the LittleBigPlanet series have always done that to me: made me smile. They offer an odd combination of simplistic gameplay and a level of depth unmatched by most games today. You would be hard pressed to find a series that offered both as well as the LittleBigPlanet games have.
Sony is getting ready to launch a new installment in the series in LittleBigPlanet Vita.Based on the time I have spent with a preview build of the game, I would say that the popularity of the series is going to continue; actually, I would argue that it is picking up steam and just now beginning to hit its stride.
On its most basic level, LBP Vita is simply a portable version of LBP2. All of the same tools and features from the now-classic PS3 game have made the transition to the portable platform with a few additions. You even have access to all of the tutorials and instructional videos featured in the big brother version. Just imagine everything you have enjoyed on the PS3 version in your pocket and accessible on the go. Don’t worry, this isn’t a carbon copy; there is an entirely new adventure mode included as well as a variety of other pre-made creations for you to play through as an example of everything the game is capable of doing. This is LittleBigPlanet however and as enjoyable as the adventure itself, the real fun lies in the ability to create and craft your own.
The development teams have added quite a few new toys to play with and create with, each of which takes advantage of the Vita’s motion and touch sensors as well as the camera and microphone. I know what you’re thinking: “oh great, they shoe-horned a bunch of gimmicky features into the game and ruined it”; that was definitely my fear going into the experience. Rest assured however, that isn’t the case.
The developers have taken their time and implemented these features with care and precision to make sure that these ended up being more than just “tacked on” novelties. For example, the front and rear cameras are used to create custom stickers, which brings an unparalleled level of personalization to your level and game design. Best of all, this can be done on the fly; you don’t have to launch into a special mode or menu screen to craft an original sticker. You simply need to go into the sticker section of your popit and select the camera icon; the camera interface immediately pops open and allows you to snap a shot of anything and resize / maneuver it as you see fit in the environment.
The biggest and most beneficial addition to the game is the inclusion of touch controls. Thanks to the Vita’s front and rear touch panels, players can literally go hands on with the LBP world. Their implementation makes perfect sense; not only can you quickly navigate through the various menus (including the popit during gameplay) but you have ability to literally craft your creations with your bare hands. This makes it a lot easier to resize and position objects and materials in the creation mode with an unmatched precision.
The touch controls fit well in the gameplay portions of the game too. You will experience new, interactive elements such as sliding panels and platforms as well as the ability to manually fire off springs and launch platforms. It “feels” really good when in use too; they are all responsive and intuitive. It all just feels natural. Sometimes you will have to press in panels to clear a pathway for you to proceed through or perhaps lift a platform to a new height in order to reach an area previously not accessible. The best part is that you can use these elements in your custom creations too. If you have played any of the previous games, you will feel right at home here.
The interface is nearly identical and most of the game’s mechanics remain in tact from the other versions. If nothing else, they have all been refined and streamlined in the Vita version. Sackboy and the tools feel a lot more responsive than ever before which enhances the entire experience. Sony is making sure that the teams play it smart to and have made sure that the game will work seamlessly with its console brethren. Players will be able to share a variety of content between the console and Vita versions of the game, including downloaded costumes and building materials. Levels should also be accessible on both platforms thanks to the forthcoming firmware patch which will allow the Vita to serve as a controller for your PlayStation 3. And of course, all of your creations can be shared not just between your systems but with the rest of world via the PlayStation Network.
After spending countless hours with the preview build of the game I find myself questioning the purpose of both this game and this system, but not in the manner you would think. Was LBP built for the Vita or was the Vita built for LBP? This installment of the series feels more refined and tailored to the platform than any of the others we have seen released. I have played and thoroughly enjoyed both of the PS3 games and neither of them felt as good as LBP Vita version. This is the perfect version of the series and the Vita’s features serve the LBP experience better than they have any other game before it. It is as if these two were meant to be together, and pretty soon they will be. The Vita finally has its system seller title and I can’t wait to see what the community does with it.
LittleBigPlanet Vita launches on September 25, 2012.