LittleBigPlanet Review (PS3)

Last time we saw something with a sack for a head was when we were having a chainsaw plunged through the jugular in Resident Evil 4. So, itís nice to see something that is not only the complete antithesis of this terrifying image, but something that has come to symbolise a realm of immense possibility and hours of engaging fun. We are of course talking about LittleBigPlanetís ubiquitous sackboy, an endearingly cute, woolly, beady-eyed little character that is yours to manipulate and customise to your heart's content. He's not only the star of the show with a range of adorable expressions controlled by twiddling the analogue sticks, shoulder buttons and D-pad, but he is also the focal point for the almost limitless set of tools that LittleBigPlanet gives to you. In essence, sackboy represents both your avatar and paintbrush for composing your very own potential platforming masterpiece.

In all probability youíll have spent the last year absorbing the hype and coverage surrounding LittleBigPlanet, always wondering whether it would deliver on its ambitious promise. Essentially a powerful level design package, streamlined and refined to be as user-friendly as possible, LittleBigPlanet allows absolutely anyone to create something, anything, as basic or as elaborate as you like. As such the game opens with a lengthy tutorial (brilliantly narrated by Stephen Fry) introducing you to LBPís fundamentals. Following this opening tutorial, youíll have edited your first sackboy and been sent to your Pod Ė the gameís hub area where you can cycle through the gameís pre-fabricated stages as well as your own creations.

You can build monsters from winches and motors
Your Popit menu makes selecting items quick and easy

To begin with, tackling a few of the levels featured on the disc is the perfect way to become acquainted with sackboyís world and get a few ideas to take with you to your first blank canvas. Having beaten a few stages, youíll finally unlock My Moon, your planet dedicated entirely to your created levels. Selecting a slot inside one of My Moonís craters transports you to your bare level template, which is then yours to do whatever you want with. Your entire toolset is accessed by pressing square to bring up the Popit menu, which is made up of a series of simple icons representing your basic options for creating levels. Upon selecting each option youíll be presented with another Fry narrated tutorial, which can be skipped although we highly recommend taking the time to trawl through every one of these tutorials, as itís the only way to unlock everything and fully exploit what LBP has to offer.

Once youíve endured the entire learning process, itís finally time to get building. Clearly, this is the crux of LittleBigPlanet Ė taking the time and effort to construct your own very world changing platform game. And while creating in LittleBigPlanet is incredibly simple to learn and get to grips with, constructing something truly special can take hours of hard work. Take for instance the first successful invention we managed to muster Ė a metal jet car for sackboy to ride in Ė took a good twenty minutes to build and refine. Cutting out the shape, tweaking the aerodynamics, attaching the wheels and rockets still produced a crude looking jet-powered turd on four shonky castors. Of course you can make your inventions more aesthetically pleasing by adding decals and stickers, although painting our jet turd a sickly shade of red and plastering it in colourful shapes didnít help. Still the fact remains that in twenty minutes we had built something fun that we played and experimented with for an indeterminable amount of time before attaching rockets to a milk bottle and watching it fly around the screen.

And thatís it. Once youíve been bitten by the LBP bug, thereís no going back. When youíve made your own items, you can consult the capture feature to drag a box around your fabricated object and save it for future use. Experimentation then becomes the name of the game as you attempt to cobble together crude flying machines or a truck for your sackboy to thrash around in. And thatís before youíve even thought about building a stage to drop your wacky objects into.

That famous skateboard shot. Again.
There are loads of readymade levels to explore for extra items

There are two main options to choose from the Popit window when building: Goodies and Tools. Goodies open up a menu that is home to all manner of materials, shapes and other readymade objects to drop into LBP. Tools let you embellish your creations, lending them context and purpose. For instance, you can bolt together a series of wooden shapes from the Goodies bag, add wheels and decorations, then bestow them sight and behaviour, by accessing the Tools which then allow you to customise every minute aspect of each mechanism, object or creature you create. So should you wish to give birth to your very own Frankensteinís monster there are AI brains that you can attach to inanimate objects to bring them to life. Weíre still vainly trying to build a gigantic walking robot that shoots lasers from its lobster claws though.

Simple things such as the swell of pride that you feel when youíve successfully wired motors to the wheels of your first car stand out as one of the most rewarding feelings to be had playing a game. For every one of these successes youíre always thinking ahead to the next possibility, conjuring up new contraptions or devices and ever more fiendish designs and puzzles. If LBP fails to invade your dreams, youíll be thinking about it on the way to work or you might even have a Ďeurekaí moment while youíre sitting on the loo.

Everything in LBP has a deliciously tactile physicality to it, which enforces the sensation that youíre actually crafting something. You can build a wall and wire up a lever to explosives to blow it up, or you can re-create a loving homage to your favourite Mario level or construct a nightmarish labyrinth of traps and switch-operated doors. Inserting traditional videogame mechanics into your levels is easy too, enabling you to insert vehicles, enemies and moving parts into the game with just a few button presses.

Each material in LBP has the exact real life properties that youíd expect too, so polystyrene is light, wood burns, rubber grips and metal is heavy. When constructing, you have to take these physical properties into consideration, so building a metal spaceship may not be advisable unless youíre willing to painstakingly attach hundreds of rocket boosters to get it off the ground. Which is also where gravity comes in. Before closing the Popit menu, its advisable to ensure that every component of your level is fastened together properly otherwise one loose connection can sabotage the whole thing. Should everything come tumbling down, a simple tap of left on the D-pad rewinds time to the last action executed while up toggles between pause and play. Locating the faulty wire or bolt is simple as you can easily float around with sackboy to the source of the problem.

Co-op is great fun. You can grab onto your buddy and solve puzzles together. Yay!
Balloons attached to a wooden platform. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best

Creating something of genuine worth in LBP can seem like a daunting task, and unless youíre prepared to put some time and care into assembling something, this can invariably be the case. However, the simplicity of making stuff in LBP renders the activity an absolute joy, with the only limit being your imagination. While this sounds like a predictable thing to say, in LBPís case itís completely true. However, if you want to get the most out of the game, you really have to think about what youíre doing and consider every possible angle. We actually found that sometimes it helps to plan something out using a pen and paper before jumping headlong into LBPís treasure trove of goodies.

Thereís literally nothing else like LittleBigPlanet on any other platform anywhere and almost stands as reason enough to buy a PS3 if you havenít already. At its worst, LBP can be frustrating during the times that youíre unable to translate your fevered imaginings into tangible existence on screen, but at its best, LBP can induce moments of genuine satisfaction, making you feel like a god as you step back from your almighty creation and realise that itís good. Itís very good. And even if you donít get on with LittleBigPlanet as a building tool, thereís still plenty of single or multiplayer platforming fun to be had. Either way, you canít lose. LBP is nigh on essential and if sackboyís beady button eyes and cutesy smile donít convince you of that fact, then you must have a heart of stone and a head full of fluff.

Top game moment: The first time you build something that actually works has you jumping for joy while making you realise that anything really is possible.



By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Nov 17, 2008
Good review. But still, dunno about the game? Is it really that good?
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Nov 17, 2008
It is that good, although it can be frustrating at times.
By Mandalorain (SI Newbie) on Nov 17, 2008
it looks fun but u wish it would come out on the 360 so i don't have to buy a ps3 just to play it
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 17, 2008
Think I might dig out my old copy of The Incredible Machine instead. These games seem to be getting a little too prolific (as in SPORE, The Sims etc).
By madpuppy (SI Member) on Nov 18, 2008
I have the game, I am an FPS whore so I am not a keen about it as most other people. still, It's good fun that you can play with your kids or if you like the whole level creator aspect.
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 08, 2008
PS3? they don't make the PC edition? how's classical...