LittleBigPlanet 3: Getting even more creative…

When the original LittleBigPlanet launched back in 2008 (which is a pretty long time in video game terms) it came to market with a huge rush of top notch titles surrounding it. But Media Molecule’s apparently unassuming platformer brought with it a whole new approach two, in fact. Firstly, it took physics, and material physics in particular, very seriously. Secondly, it came at a time when user generated content was a watch-word in several industries. But while many UGC driven ideas have
fallen by the wayside, LittleBigPlanet has grown up into a smart, sometimes even sophisticated title in the form of LittleBigPlanet 3.

The biggest change here and there are a few is that the series originator, Media Molecule, was not behind this title. Rather developer Sumo Digital had the daunting task of taking on a title that is part of a franchise sporting many rabid followers, One misstep here could have spelled doom for the series, but Sumo digital have not only stuck to principles instilled by Media Molecule, they have managed to keep all the silly charm of the first two titles intact.

Much of this comes from the often strange dialogue delivered by series stalwart Stephen Fry. He is joined by a talented voice cast, including his long time collaborator Hugh Laurie (who is more the Prince Regent from Blackadder than Gregory House in his portrayal of the antagonist, the light bulb-headed Newton). The cast of characters is as off-beat as one would expect from the series, and some of the humour that tey inject into the tale is priceless.

But that’s all background one of the biggest changes here is that instead of just one main protagonist, in the form of Sackboy, LittleBigPlanet 3 offers four playable character. In addition to the traditional hero, players will get to control Oddsock (the doglike, fast character who can bound off of walls),
Toggle (who can change from very large to very small and back again at will) and Swoop (who flies).

Each of these characters has unique strengths and weaknesses. But, strangely, Sum decided to give them very little screen time in the campaign, which lasts a rather paltry eight hours or so. Instead, the bulk of the action goes to Sackboy. Players can feel free to replay levels with any character, of course, which will help unlock all those goodies that are so useful in the level creator, but Sackboy is the real hero here.

The game’s story is spread across three main areas, each of which served as a mini-hub within the game, with level, side quests and challenges unique to each one. Each also has a unique look and feel, although the overall design of the game (visually) tends to be more theatrical, more steam punk and much darker than before.

The levels themselves feel much less like platform challenges and more like traversal puzzles this time around. It’s a nice change from the break-neck pace that characterised the first two LittleBigPlanet games, and makes this title no less challenging. To augment the puzzling, the player will gain access to a number of new pieces of equipment. These range from a gun that can blow or suck at elements of the levels, to a helmet that attaches to rails, to a pair of boots that provide limited hovering capabilities and more.

These add immeasurably to the puzzling and pace of the levels, and the player will have to sport some pretty quick reactions from time to time to successfully complete the game’s challenges. This isn’t made easier by the controls, though, which feel a little loose. The problem is that sometimes LittleBigPlanet 3 demands very tight control, and the player may find some frustration in getting things just right via the controller. There are also a few bugs that plague the game, but they were fairly few and far between, and nothing that returning to a checkpoint couldn't fix. LittleBigPlanet 3 is also pretty forgiving, with checkpoints liberally scattered about and numerous lives to keep the player going.

The game also has a set of challenge levels. Which largely serve as tutorials for the game’s creation tools. These tools are much freer than before, and can even be used while the action is running to make adjustments to the environment. The challenge levels can prove to be extremely satisfying, too, and help the player get to grips with the new ways in which the level creation system works.

And that’s where the real value of LittleBigPlanet 3 lies the user created content. While it will likely be a smaller percentage of users that end up making levels, there is still a massive LittleBigPlanet UGC community out there. The new tools are powerful, and the player can now build levels with a whopping 16 layers (compared to the three available in LittleBigPlanet 2). In addition, a massive
amount of content already uploaded to LittleBigPlanet servers is already available for download, including the levels made by community members for the previous titles.

While the single player campaign is a little on the short side and the game does bring a few bugs to the table, the real joy here is in this final aspect of the game. LittleBigPlanet 3 takes level creation to new heights, and even allows players to define elements that were previously set by developers. It is a work that doesn’t only allow creativity to flow freely through it’s intuitive and easy-to-use tool set, but it allows creators the world over to share that creativity with millions of community memebers as well. In short, Media Molecule managed to create something in the UGC space that worked, and worked well and Sumo Digital have managed to take that formula and improve upon it, refining the ideas and processes to allow even higher levels of creativity to spring forth from users.

As such, LittleBigPlanet 3 won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and while the easy-going traversal puzzle nature of the game might seem like a great idea for youngsters, it will be older users who are inclined to be creative who will get the most out of this title. LittleBigPlanet 3 is a creative platform first, and a game second, and those that invest in it for its game component really won’t be getting the biggest bang for their buck. But even those folks should give the addictive level creation system a try… they will likely be surprised and inspired by its power and versatility. And the community will benefit as a result.


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