It is no secret that Sony’s Vita has struggled since its release. The high price tag is certainly one deterrent, but the lack of software is its biggest villain. As we get closer to the holiday rush, the bigger names start releasing titles. One pivotal title for the Vita is LittleBigPlanet. Sackboy is no stranger to portable gaming, he made a debut on PSP three years ago with fantastic results. Now, he is making his way onto Sony’s latest handheld and the results are pretty much the same. If you own a Vita, and are starved for software, prepare for a heaping helping of fun with LittleBigPlanet Vita.
If you have played any of the previous games, things will be strikingly familiar here. You begin with an intro to the mechanics with Stephen Fry as you progress through the tutorial level. From here, you enter the hub where you can partake in the main story missions or discover new user-created levels, and of course, create your own. Customization plays a major role once again with stickers and objects you unlock. The formula is tried and true, but its move to the Vita was a major success.
The story mode pits you against five various worlds for a combined total of over 40 levels to conquer. The objective this time out is to save a world known as Craftworld. The characters are as deranged as ever, invoking memories of the movie Labyrinth, complete with a junk world littered with scavengers. It is an abundance of content to wade through, and the story is entertaining, but let’s be honest; most of us only play through this mode to unlock new stickers and parts for the customization aspects. The real meat of LBP has always been the user-generated content.
The core design remains the same. You can play solo or with up to three friends through each level, with main goals being to collect everything and finish levels without dying. It keeps you coming back for more, and when you add multiplayer into it, new paths open up that are only available with friends playing with you. The game is also compatible with all of your costumes from the first two games on PS3 which is a nice touch.
With this being a Vita game, you knew that touch controls were going to factor in. Most games shoehorn them into scenarios that simply don’t work, but LBP avoids this by adding in ones that make sense. You can drag platforms on the front touch screen and tap in blocks to open up pathways. You can use the back touch screen to pop out blocks to create platforms. You can also guide missiles and vehicles around with touch, and it works. The precision required is combined with a little forgiveness to make it feel fluid. I never died or got frustrated with their implementation, which is exactly what you want.
While the mechanics of LBP have always been a subject of debate, they have always been consistent. If you are not a fan of floaty jump mechanics or awkward physics at times, the Vita version will do little to remedy that. Still, once you gain a hold of the concept, it works. This continues with the touch screen functionality. Things such as the Pop-It (the menu for customizing all things) can be navigated with either the controls or the touch. This is nice considering it may be easier for some to simply touch items, while others may prefer traditional controls. This also spills over into the creation aspect.
Like any good LBP game, you can create levels and games within the core package. The biggest addition this time around though is the Memorizer. This new function allows you to save progress in the games you create. For example, you can track stats, keep track of level progress and even piggyback one Memorizer onto another to keep things going. The possibilities are mind-boggling. I cannot wait until the community at large get their hands on this new system to see what they come up with. Creation also utilizes touch controls by allowing players to drag and drop while still using the buttons. It is a great system that makes creation much more intuitive and simplistic. There are some issues with memory limitation, but for the most part the creation aspect is outstanding.
In addition to that, a slew of minigames also make an appearance in LBP Vita. These mostly use the touch screen and range from whack a mole style endeavors to simple puzzles and block building. Think of them as small iOS apps and you get the idea. The range is dynamic, and they add some nice flavor to the traditional platforming package. It is also worth noting they were all created with in-game tools, so imagine what we will see down the line. There is also a secret sixth world in the game that focuses on these creations from the developers. These new games don’t include Sackboy, and instead, mimic other genres that can be created all within the core game.
Visually, the game keeps the same charm as its big brother version with a little less detail. The levels are well constructed and look great on Vita’s gorgeous screen. Sure, it won’t look as sharp as the PS3 version, and the colors feel a little washed out, but it definitely doesn’t suffer for it. The frame rate remains solid, and the design is great. Music is standard fare with tunes sounding lifted from previous games. The narration by Stephen Fry still sounds great and remains the highlight once again. Menus are easily navigable and everything just feels slick in its presentation.
LittleBigPlanet Vita is a must own title for the platform. The series feels right at home on a handheld, and the new implementations made for this version are outstanding. If you are a fan of the series, even if you have gotten burned out recently like myself, this is still an adventure worth taking. With the Vita’s anemic software library, this game stands head and shoulders above the rest as one of the must-have titles. I cannot recommend it enough.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.