You’ll notice from the moment you pop Little Big Planet into your PS3, the presentation of the introduction was given more care it seems than the entire development of many of the games I’ve played the last few years. Narrated by the wonderful Stephen Fry, the main character, known as “Sackboy” frolics through an entire level decorated with pictures of the folks who put their blood, sweat and tears into the game’s development. When the developers manage to make the credits entertaining, you know that you are in for a treat.
There is a lot to say about the “Sackboy”. Immediately endearing, this hand sewn-looking little critter is comically charming from the beginning. From the nubby appearance of Sackboy’s body to the black button eyes, he reminds me of a handmade toy loved by a child. Sackboy is very emotive, showing a range of facial expressions. His arm movements can be controlled by right and left analog sticks, and the PS3 controller’s six-axis functionality controls his body movements.
Throughout gameplay, various customization items can be unlocked, such as body materials for Sackboy, hair, clothing, eyes, nose, teeth, etc. I could easily fill two pages describing the depth of customization available. Customization items can be found almost immediately as you progress through Story mode, which is a definite plus because customization freaks like me do not want to jump through hoops to customize! My current favorite is still the lion costume!
Little Big Planet essentially takes the gaming staple of 2D platformer and turns it on its ear a bit. By making it 3D-ish. Confused? Don’t be. LBP breaks the fourth wall from the beginning, using Stephen Fry’s narration to create an awareness of a player controlling Sackboy. The action takes place by allowing the character to move objects in three planes, background, midground and foreground. Sackboy jumps, grabs and can move into the foreground and background of the environment. Sackboy’s jumps remind me of Luigi from Super Mario Brothers II, kind of slow with a lot of air. The jumping control did feel a bit unwieldy at first, however after playing for a little while I was able to take Sackboy’s jumping physics into consideration and adjust accordingly.
Level design and graphics-two more points which could easily cover multiple pages. The levels look absolutely incredible, and are all unique. The appearance of the environment lends a ton of personality to each level, from the textures of objects to the interesting design of characters you will interact with. Sackboy’s Story Mode travels will take him from Africa (vine swinging, monkeys, incredible music), South America (Dia de los Muertos Grim Fandago feel!) Old West (Explosions and Mine Cart Rides)..to name a few. All of the levels have a bright and charming cartoon-like appeal.
The music chosen for each level also deserves mention. Well one track in particular received a lot of mention and led to a delayed release, but I digress and will simply say I hope this is not a harbinger of things to come. Add to this a ton of replayability, as various points in Story Mode can only be unlocked by having other Sackpeople join your adventure. Other goodies can be unlocked by finding “stickers” which can be placed on each level.
The last point, the ability to create your own planet could take up a medium sized pamphlet. As you go through Story Mode, you find hundreds of objects that you can then use to create your own planet. As in from scratch, as in for other Sackfolk to visit, as in the tools used by the developers on this incredible game at your disposal. Good thing Stephen Fry narrates a complete tutorial, you’ll be needing it. Daunting at first, after you become comfortable with placement of objects and maneuvering about, you’ll be creating like a pro in no time.
This has been a banner year for innovation in 2D platformers, first with XBL’s Braid and now Little Big Planet. If MGS4 wasn’t enough to encourage a PS3 purchase, Little Big Planet should help close the deal. There is nothing like it on the other systems, nor is there likely to be any time soon. The perfect game really, you can play it alone, family friendly so you can play with the kids, play it with family, play online with friends, tons of innovation, many hours of game play due to level replayability and planet creation/online functionality. And for those who complain that video games are a waste of time and do not encourage creativity, I urge you to take a look at what is being created by Little Big Planet’s user community.