The above best sums up what LittleBigPlanet is all about. It's a game about level creation and sharing. It's about showing off your creative prowess to the world for all to enjoy. A simple platformer at heart -- a very floaty one at that -- LittleBigPlanet is a humble little game that appreciates all things creativity and imagination. The focus on the works of players is a testament to that, putting them in the spotlight before the developers themselves.
Developer Media Molecule's own contributions for the story mode -- all of which are excellent -- serve mostly to give you a taste of what's possible with the game's robust tool set, granting you supplies to make your own levels all the while. Journeying along the story's path takes you across many environments, such as urban allies of a large city, the frigid peaks of the mountains, and the deserts of the wild west, the justification of which being that you, a knitted plush doll referred to typically as Sackboy (or Sackgirl, should the case may be), are on a trip to meet all of the creators who inhabit the world of LittleBigPlanet. Your purpose: to gain inspiration from these master craftsmen so that you may create your own wondrous worlds.
The story remains superficial throughout, with no character development or any real interactions to be made with any of the inhabitants of the worlds you visit. Narrative is simply there rather than being something deeply involved.
Not that that's a problem. LittleBigPlanet's not concerned with telling an engrossing tale so much as it is with introducing you to its imaginative world of arts and crafts. A look that permeates every facet of its aesthetic, lending an unusual yet appealing art style that suits the whimsical tone of the game perfectly. All the story exists for is to acquaint you with the laws and mechanics of LittleBigPlanet's platforming -- an extended tutorial of sorts, if you will.
|One of the levels from the middle of the story. Swift platforming skills are especially helpful here.|
It's a necessary step, for platforming here is far from the usual snappiness of platforming greats like Mario. LittleBigPlanet is much more floaty and slippery. Sackboy isn't nearly as nimble as his platforming peers. He can't jump very high, no doubt due to the level of gravity in LittleBigPlanet, nor is he blessed with strong traction, causing him to unexpectedly slip off of land if too much momentum is built up. The realistic physics system that the game is governed by is mostly the cause for its unfamiliar feel. On the creation side, this is helpful. No worrying about wonky game physics! Everything acts as it should, making it easy to predict how objects will behave. On the player side, it's... okay. It doesn't hinder the game, but the more nuanced, floaty feel of jumps lend a sort of off feeling to it.
Most times when you're faced with a jump, there's an uncertainty about whether you can make it or not. Looking at it, you don't think "I can make this jump," you ask "can I make this jump?" Confidence isn't something LittleBigPlanet's platforming is in supply of because what appears to be a serviceable jump at one point ends up being just barely out of reach later. It's frustrating, 'cause you can almost never immediately tell what is and isn't achievable. That frustration passes as you gain more familiarity with LittleBigPlanet's eccentricities, but you'll find yourself wishing for snappier mechanics. Minor exploration is where it works best; simple activities like that are what the mechanics are most capable of handling because they're less about precision or similarly challenging tasks.
Players seem to have realized that as well, making sure to keep things simple in their works. The selection of levels is truly astounding; their craftsmanship even more so. Some of them I dare say even rival those from the developers themselves, displaying a masterful use of atmosphere and narrative (some even have deep stories in them). The game's community is what's driven this game in the years since its original release in 2008. It's not nearly as active as was back then -- the superior sequel stole everyone away, you see -- but the level population still remains incredibly rich. You have to sift through some muck to get to the good stuff, though.
Luckily Media Molecule has made it relatively easy to sift through the vast library of user-content. Apart from their own personal picks -- the most direct method of seeing the best the community has to offer -- you can also search based on tags (a single word that sums up one's thoughts on the level), ratings, and most hearted, among others. You can also just dig through the hearted levels of a user by dropping by their profile. Whatever your preferred method, it doesn't take too much effort to find the good stuff.
|Point bubbles everywhere!|
Having some friends with you in tow makes the process much more enjoyable. Up to three others can join you in LittleBigPlanet both locally and online for a bit of cooperative/competitive play. The competitive side occurs in the scores. Every level in LittleBigPlanet is filled with small prize bubbles that contain both points and tangible rewards, such as costume pieces to adorn your Sackperson in or stickers you can use to decorate your surroundings. Points are tallied at the end of each level, with the player who earns the most being denoted as the winner.
Simply exploring the level landscape with friends is the real treat of multiplayer. It can become rather chaotic having more than one player in the field, but that's part of the fun. Much like 2009's New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Wii, the ensuing madness of players attempting to work in tandem while trying to outdo each other is a delight to play. That LittleBigPlanet has so much content to see only amplifies the merriment of cooperative play because there's always something new out there for all to see. You're not just going through the motions endlessly on the same few levels.
That limitless value is LittleBigPlanet's biggest strength. As the progenitor of Sony's "Play, Create, Share" line, LittleBigPlanet proved how a community can support a game greatly when you give it the right tools. Though it's sequel has rendered this inaugural installment redundant, LittleBigPlanet still has enough charms and hooks to make it a worthwhile visit.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”