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LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3) artwork

LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3) review

"Suddenly I felt hope. Hope for myself. Hope for humanity. Sony mightíve intended HOME to be their global glue for PS3 players, but the true community is right here, in Little Big Planet."

There are games which we play for hours. There are games which we play for days. There are games we SAY will never get old, and then there are games that really never get old.

And then thereís Little Big Planet. Little Big Planet goes beyond a video game. Itís an art-form.

Actually, at first glance itís a platformer. A platformer where you play as a little sack person. A little sack person that you can customize to look like anything from a pre-teen school girl to Solid Snake. Then you can watch Solid Snake be eaten by a giant two-dimensional crocodile right outside a strip club for naked mole rats.

Okay, so maybe ďstandardĒ wasnít the best word to apply to this game. But really, outside of the kookiness of the style (think Paper Mario meets Katamari Damacy) and creativity of the levels, it does operate like a basic platformer.

The game plays out on a 2D plane and the challenge mostly consists of the classic things like timing your jumps over flame filled pits. Thereís some 3D elements incorporated, as well, mostly in the ability to move closer or further away from the screen on the four different ďlayersĒ that each level has, meaning you can move behind objects, or interact with objects in the background.

But for the first hour or so of the game, you likely wonít care about any of this. My first hour was spent making my little sack person dance. I couldnít stop. The insane smile on my sack boyís face as he moved with my controller to rocking music while Stephen Fry narrated with his usual dry wit was utterly engrossing. Then I put a silly wig on him and made him do it again. When I finally did move on to the platforming, my response was ďWhat?! Thereís more?!Ē

Thatís the real beauty of Little Big Planet. Like a child in a toy shop, the game never stops thrusting things in front of you for you to look at. Thereís no chance to get bored. Thereís always something new to do. And itís all great.

Itís not all perfect, however. Hopping between the layers on the levels, while a good idea, can get confusing, as itís visually difficult to tell which layer youíre on. It wouldíve be better if the sack boy shrunk or grew more drastically as he hopped between the layers. Also, the game sometimes automatically changes your layers for you as you approach objects, which can be more annoying than helpful.

Then, too, the timing of jumps is a little strange. Sack boy has a tendency to float a bit during the apex of his jumps, so sometimes youíll go soaring past an easy to reach ledge. Counter this too much by pulling back and youíll end up way short, plummeting towards fire, spikes, or angry hippos (depending on the level).

This is all saved by the interesting quality of the visuals. Rather than throw your controller across the room at every death, youíre more likely to be scratching your head, saying ďDid I just get eaten by a giant Mexican frog with wings?Ē

Maybe your friends are even there, laughing at your unique demise. Because Little Big Planet is also multiplayer in the truest sense of the word, offering simultaneous (often crazed) platforming.

Everything Iíve mentioned becomes irrelevant, though, once you find your way online and start looking through the community levels.

This is where things get exponentially more genius. Little Big Planet comes with a level editor.

Alright, so maybe thatís not the huge announcement it was back in the days of Doom. I want to remind everyone, though, that the reason most games donít include their level editors is because you need a degree in computer science to use them. And the patience of a fourth grade teacher. Even then, youíre often times limited enough that no matter what you make, itís blown out of the water by the companyís next release or spin off (think Half Life).

Not the case here. Iíve seen levels and designs that even the developers admit they wouldnít know how to make. Thatís because Little Big Planet lets you do damn near anything.

Donít like the creatures the developers have created? Then make your own. I mean it. Make any shape you can think of. Put legs on it. Slap an eye on the abdomen. Give it six mouths. Have it sing Happy Birthday while croaking like a dying frog. And force the player to blow it up to proceed. Then have it turn into a flying blimp that they have to ride in to get to the next part of your level. In Little Big Planet, the ball never leaves your court.

I wonít lie, though. While the tools are intuitive, making your own levels is no cake walk. Thereís simply so much you can do that you can become easily overwhelmed. It took me three hours just to make it through all the tutorials. Also, thereís a lot of trial and error involved. The process is just as fun as the rest of the game, though. And itís narrated by Stephen Fry.

Of course, not all of us have the impetus or time to design our own levels. Thatís okay, though. Because playing other peopleís levels is a ball, too. I cannot emphasize enough the variety available here. In my first run at playing other levels I came across a Japanese themed kung fu level, a black and white Noir level with a Sin City-esque story, and a level where youíre a French robber.

And thatís basic stuff.

I also came across a level that was literally a giant piano that played Beethoven for you. A few minutes later I played a recreation of Ico, including everything from windmills to a cardboard cutout of Yorda that you have to drag through the stage. It even had the shadow monsters and the Ico music. Even cooler, when you beat the level, you get some of these designs for your own use.

A warm feeling started to spread through my heart as I realized that all this brilliance was being done by players like me. From scratch, too. Itís not like Yorda was made by the company and then someone made a level using it. No, it was just some dude who had the 60 bucks available to buy the game (and who may very well live in his parentís basement).

Suddenly I felt hope. Hope for myself. Hope for humanity. Sony mightíve intended HOME to be their global glue for PS3 players, but the true community is right here, in Little Big Planet. Here players are openly sharing the very creativity that makes us all individuals. Their reason? To have fun and let others have fun. In Little Big Planet, life boils down to very simple principles. Thereís no commercialism, no back stabbing, no grabs for power. Itís just people having fun.

With everything thatís wrong in the world these days, itís good to once in a while be reminded that thereís a reason human beings are worth keeping around. Whether whatís wrong with your day is the global economy or the fact that your best friendís getting married and youíre still a virgin, pop in Little Big Planet. It will make you feel better, I promise. Stephen Fry says so.


zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (December 30, 2008)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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drella posted December 30, 2008:

Great review.

"Like a child in a toy shop, the game never stops thrusting things in front of you for you to look at."

This doesn't quite make sense due to the order, I think. As is, it implies the child is doing the thrusting, and not the toy shop. Unless you mean the child thrusting toys in front of a parent. That's a bit of a reach as phrased currently.

Maybe avoid using thrusting and child in the same sentence altogether.
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overdrive posted December 30, 2008:

That is a very good review. Especially as you really got into it. I could really feel the excitement there while you were talking about the community this game has and all the fan-made levels you can play and the variety there.
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zippdementia posted December 30, 2008:

Thanks! I'm really trying to move away from the English Major dry reviews that I did for a while and into a more emotionally "here's the feeling I get from this game" kind of thing.

Glad that came through this time.

LOL at child and thrusting. You got it right the second time though, I was thinking of a child thrusting toys in front of a parent.
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Lewis posted December 30, 2008:

Lovely-lovely review which manages to convince me I enjoyed LBP more than I actually did.

That said I've only played it for an hour or two, and not even bothered with the level editor yet.

One thing that's got me a bit arsey is that people are heralding it for its "innovation" that allows people to create their own content. So, um, just like every game Valve has ever released, then? I suppose this is more user-friendly though, and taylored towards the community adding to the game. Is this what Spore was trying to do, perhaps?
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zippdementia posted December 30, 2008:

You got it. As I said in the review, even the good level editors tend to be difficult enough to master that the truly good material is limited to the developers. Half Life is a great example of this (though I remained impressed by what you've created with Neptune).

The problem with Spore (and I just had this discussion with a friend), is that Will Wright likes to give people building blocks, much like giving someone a box of legos. But these building blocks are limited, not only in what they can do, but in what setting they are placed. Spore's creature creator is very cool, but it's creating content.

LBP doesn't have you create content. It has you create a whole game. If we stick to the lego analogy, then LBJ provides you with the molding material to make your own legos, rather than a pre-configured set.

It's impressive.
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Lewis posted December 30, 2008:

"though I remained impressed by what you've created with Neptune"

I've worked with that engine for about a year, though, and had worked with the Quake Engine (on which, bizarrely, Source is heavily based) for five years before that. It's one of the more user-friendly SDKs, but it is distinctly an SDK, not a user-tool integrated as part of a game.

I almost feel a little bitter about LBP - currently battling out the Resolution GOTY feature, and LBP is keeping Fallout 3 in a dismal third place. I guess that says something wonderful about the quality of this year's games, though.
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zippdementia posted December 30, 2008:

Fallout for me was a 9/10. But then consider that I gave Morrowind a 5 or 6 out of 10. That style of game just doesn't hit me as hard as it does most.

Or rather, it hits me FRICKING hard... but then I recover rather quickly.
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Lewis posted December 31, 2008:

Wow, what would you give Oblivion? Minus six out of ten?
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zippdementia posted December 31, 2008:

Ha ha ha, to be honest, I didn't play enough of Oblivion to ever review it. I played two hours, in which I escaped the first dungeon, very quickly got diseased, and spent the second hour looking for someone to cure (never found them).

One of the reasons I haven't written a Morrowind or Oblivion review is that I'm not yet sure WHY I didn't like them. And I refuse to write a review on a game until I understand my feelings on the matter.
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EmP posted April 18, 2009:

Unless it's Vampirism you caught, you cure almost anything by GOING TO SLEEP. Hell, you can cure vampirism in that fashion if you're quick enough.
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wolfqueen001 posted April 18, 2009:

Are you talking about Oblivion or Morrowind? In Morrowind, diseases are only urable by taking the appropriate cure potion or going to a shrine. Unless it's Corpus, in which case there's a whole quest for that.

There's Vampirism in Morrowind, too, but I've never contracted it. I did contract the werewolf one in the Bloodmoon expansion, though, and that was curable just with a regular potion or shrine visit, so I imagine vampirism would be the same in that game.

You must be talking about Oblivion, then. Seems kind of silly to me - just sleeping them off. Haha.

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