As the 2007 Game Developers Conference approached in early January 2007, many folks in the game industry were unsure what to make of Sony's PlayStation 3. Just a couple of months old, the console only had a handful of titles, most of them sub-par, and the promise of some bigger games down the line. Many new PS3 owners were losing hope, and then LittleBigPlanet happened. Media Molecule's baby, even in the brief look we got courtesy of Phil Harris and crew at the Sony GDC keynote, captured the imagination of not just the gaming public, but the entire industry, promising levels of interactivity and user-created content unheard of for a console title.
So now it's the better part of two years later, and despite some last minute setbacks, LittleBigPlanet is in the hands of PS3 owners everywhere. So how'd that work out for them? Witness sackboy quivering under the steely gaze of game critics, after the jump.
...one of the game's big ideas got lost in the chatter: an idea that will probably mean more to more people than any of the Game 3.0 posturing and theorising, or the daringly ambitious online features, or the astonishing freedom of the creative tools. LittleBigPlanet sets out to resurrect the simple fun of a game you control with left, right and jump. It sets out to make the side-scrolling platform game relevant and exciting again. And it succeeds.
Story mode is surprisingly good and an excellent look at the game's potential. As Sackboy, you explore various continents bursting with imagination and exquisite music. Europe, for example, challenges you to scale castles and dodge ghosts, while Africa has you avoiding crocodiles and bouncing off meerkats. You'll ride horses, use a rocket pack, complete simple but cool puzzles, avoid burning coals and visit a bizarre wedding, all the while scoring tons of points by collecting bubbles and goodies used for editing. Most of these levels are short, but the various mini challenges and hard to reach areas encourage multiple plays.
It will take time, patience, and lots of testing to make a level worth sharing online, but hilarious abominations can be created in minutes, and there's definitely a thrill in playing your own creations. With the ability to rewind and pause time, it's easy to mess around with the levels, or pepper your world with the spoils of the story mode. Even the most complex interactions are all funneled through real world symbols that fall well south of C++.
If I had to address complaints with the game, they'd be limited to just two control issues. First, because the stages support numerous levels of depth, you'll come across levels that will make you alternate between stepping into the foreground, background, or the middle (a'la King of Fighters games). Side-stepping in LBP doesn't seem very responsive sometimes, requiring a more than solid push of the direction in order for your character to perform the action. Furthermore, sometimes the controls can feel floaty and will take some time getting used to.
It's so satisfying to finally have a game that not only lives up to the hype but exceeds it so many ways it's almost unfair. If you haven't guessed by now, LittleBigPlanet is one of those games. The pre-made levels are a blast and offer some of the most creative and awe-inspiring experiences you'll ever have in a game. The level editor contains enough options for us to create entire games for the rest of our lives. And the online community means an endless supply of content and playability. If Metal Gear Solid 4 wasn't reason enough to pick up a PS3, you have absolutely no excuse now.
New York Times (No numeric score given)
None of the major companies that make game systems -- Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo -- has been known to embrace user-created content. Instead all three have been overcontrolling and paranoid. That it is Sony that has opened the avenues of creativity is no small shock. I haven't hesitated to call out Sony's missteps. Sir Howard, this time your people got it right.
What makes LittleBigPlanet a must buy is its ability to deliver a fun, innovative set of levels and to do so using the very same tools you are given to create games. I have no doubt that there are already user-created levels out there that would stun me, in fact I've played a few. And that stream of games will likely only get deeper and better and I won't have to pay a cent to play them. But what really excites me is how people will inevitably start using this game to create non-traditional games. I can't wait for the educational titles, the Sackboy story books, the plays, the things I don't yet know exist. This is a game of potential, a jumping off point for a great journey and it's up to the gamers not the developers to see how it turns out.
Play...Create...Buy It Now.