When Media Molecule’s latest creation landed on PS3 it was considered one of the most inventive and charming games to reach the system, or any system for that matter, to date. The idea of creating levels or simply enjoying what the game offered out of the box or online supplied hours of entertainment for gamers young and old. Sony has recognized this success and decided to bring SackBoy and his interesting world to the handheld market via the PSP. LittleBigPlanet has all the same charm and design of its big brother but also a few much needed tweaks making it a must have for fans of the original. This is more than just a port of the original game, which makes it all that more appealing.
This time around the reigns have been handed over to one of Sony’s other internal studios, Studio Cambridge. Instead of simply cramming all the same levels onto a UMD the new team has crafted 30 brand new levels that spread out across seven different themes. These are also unique to the PSP version and include an Australian outback, a taste of the Orient and even some Middle Eastern levels all of which bring the same charm that the original was so good at. Almost everything else from the console version makes an appearance here including level creation, downloadable levels and of course Stephen Fry narrating. The only omission is the inclusion of online multi-player.
In some regards the portable version of the game even performs better than the original. This is most notable when it comes to the fluidity of the controls. Some gamers had a hard time with how floaty SackBoy controlled in the original game. Studio Cambridge has really done a great job of tweaking these just enough to not only create a more streamlined experience, but to accommodate for the analog nub on the PSP. Controlling SackBoy has never felt more precise or more comfortable than it does on the PSP.
If you have never played LBP before let me give you a quick rundown of what it really consists of. At its core it is a traditional platformer that uses creation tools, customization and physics-based puzzles to create an incredibly cohesive experience. SackBoy maneuvers through each level trying to overcome the obstacles that give off the appearance of having been created with various objects and made to work. It is this charm and simplicity that made the original game so appealing. The best part was that all the included levels were made using the same level editor that the game comes with. You can collect new stickers to decorate levels or even your SackBoy at will using the pop-it menu.
The pop-it menu is at the core of what makes LBP tick. Hitting a single buttons causes this little menu system to appear and it allows you to customize your creations on the fly, as well as control and add items in the level creator. With the portable version the standard problems can persist when creating a level. Since things are much smaller now the system can feel a bit clunky at times. Still the amount of depth in the creator is impressive and you can really do some amazing things if you are creative enough. In addition once you complete the first few levels of the single player you open up the Community Moon which allows you to download more levels from the community. As you can imagine playing this game pre-release really limited the amount of creations, but once the game gets into more people’s hands I imagine the level of creativity will be on par with the console offering.
In addition to other tweaks made to the core mechanic to make it more user-friendly for the portable market Studio Cambridge has also made some adjustments to the checkpoint system. It is much more forgiving this time around also allowing for an unlimited number of lives to be used so starting over is never an issue. This doesn’t mean the game is a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination though. There are levels later in the game that will test even the most patient of players. Some of the creativity spawned from the original game has definitely spilled over into the creation of this portable outing. Veterans of the series will even find some of these more challenging than the previous game.
As a whole LittleBigPlanet on PSP is by far one of the more impressive achievements on the system. Delivering most of what made the original so charming and addictive and even tweaking some of its problems definitely makes for a unique experience for PSP owners. Of course everything comes with a price and this time out it comes in the form of no online co-op for this pint-sized version. One of the best parts about the original game was completing levels designed with multiple players in mind. It made going back through previous levels more interesting when new pathways opened up depending on how many partners you had with you. It is a small concern, but one that could have greatly helped the longevity and replay value of the title.
Visually I am astounded at how much Cambridge was able to squeeze into this tiny UMD. The game looks absolutely fantastic. The only real difference now is that instead of three planes of depth the game only has two, which limits geometry, but you rarely ever notice it. The animations are just as charming and the level designs look great on the slick PSP screen. Sound is also once again a standout as Stephen Fry reprises his role as the saucy narrator and the music just fits the mood with every change in venue and dynamic. LittleBigPlanet excels when it comes to presentation.
LittleBigPlanet remains one of Sony’s most endearing franchises and the PSP version is definitely on par with the quality of the series. If you loved the original and are looking to be able to take SackBoy on the road with you this is definitely worth picking up. Perhaps in the future we will be able to share levels between the two versions, but for now I hope the portable community is just as active as the PS3 community when it comes to creating some truly inspired levels. LBP for the PSP is definitely worth the price of admission and worth checking out if you own the system.