Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Past and Times of Yore: LittleBigPlanet, multi-lane 2D platforming fun with friends

Release Date: November 3rd 2008
Genre: Action, Platformer
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Platform: Playstation 3
Players: 1-4
Classification: E (Everyone)

If I could think of a list of the most well-known Playstation 3 games or characters, Sackboy and the LittleBigPlanet (LBP) series immediately comes to mind. I was no latecomer to the series mind you, I did play the original LittleBigPlanet game over a long period of time at friends houses or anywhere else there was a Playstation3 as they seemingly all had it. But as you know I’m not much of a console gamer and only played the game rarely until I got my own PS3 and decided to play the damn thing by myself finish the Story mode once and for all. Of course I knew this was supposed to be a game you played with friends as throughout the game there was always these various challenges that you needed two or more players to do and I have had to get anyone around, housemate, friends etc to help with them. But I was determined to do it in any case as I had really wanted to see the whole game for a while and at least finish it myself and get some closure. I don’t have many games on PS3 as it will possibly be the last console I’ll ever own though I really need to spend more time off the computer whether it’s movies or console, my love of Emulators keeps me from going back to the Playstation and Super Nintendo, my dislike of the Nintendo 64 controller keeps me from playing that console, and of course you know from my last post I have tried twice to emulate the Playstation 2 to no avail. There’s also Skate 2 which I am trying to avoid playing again as it’s one of those games you have a love/hate relationship with and all of my other PS3 games I’ve now played many times through or had enough of so that just left LittleBigPlanet.

The "first Steps" level in the Gardens, unfortunately I am unable to get any screenshots or videos from the game so the majority of the media you'll see on the page is courtesy of Zebra Gamer's Youtube playthough which was incredibly helpful
Anyway so in case you haven’t heard LittleBigPlanet is an action platformer set in a 3D world where you move to the right in a 2D platformer fashion while avoiding obstacles including traps, pitfalls and other objects which can impede your progress. The difference between the traditional 2D platformers such as the Mario games is that LBP actually has 3 or 4 different “lanes” that you can run and jump in, for example on most long flat surfaces where you start a level you can jump to the background or foreground path which is necessary to pass many obstacles and complete many puzzles. Another difference is LBP introduces and makes heavy use of the characters ability to “grab” things like felt and sponge type objects and also other players using the R1 button. This allows you to pull objects and jump and swing from ones that are dangling from strings, they also provide a way of holding on while you are on a moving object. The story behind the game is that when people dream their dreams get stored in a world called LittleBigPlanet which is maintained by the Creator Curators, one of which The Collector has turned against the rest and is stealing the other curators creations and not sharing them with the world. Throughout the game you help the various curators across the world of LBP which is basically a miniature version of earth made out of felt. 

LittleBigPlanet, in all it's felt glory, this shot was taken from the intro so I'm not quite sure what the arrow is for.
Each of the Curators worlds is set in a particular region for example the first curator The King’s domain is the The Gardens and it is located in Europe, the second Curator Zola is a lion and his domain is The Savannah which is on the African continent, I was hoping there would be domain in Australia but I was unfortunately disappointed, I guess an ‘outback’ themed domain would be too much like the savannah. Each domain has three mains level and 2 or 3 mini-games which are unlocked by finding keys in the main levels, the mini games include endurance tests like skipping and see-saws, races where you have to get to the finish in the fastest time possible and obstacle course which you must complete before the time runs out. LittleBigPlanet has a big emphasis on playing and sharing with others and that is shown by the various puzzles throughout the game which require 2 or more players and the ability to create and share you own levels with others around the world.

Grandmaster Sensei, the Creator Curator of the Islands domain
The game starts in a very unique way, your Sackboy character pops out hole in the darkness onto a bench or something and you have full control over them right off the bat. You then are privileged to hear Stephen Fry’s voice as the narrator and he instructs you on the basic controls of your sack person and how you can change their facial expression and wave your arms around with the bumpers. You are soon on you way to one of the best intro’s I have ever seen in a game. You basically run along a linear path while the main credits for the game along with the faces of the developers appear above you while you run and jump and push obstacles around. I can’t explain the joy I had when doing this for the first time, it was sublime, one of those moments where you are like  “this is amazing, I just can’t describe it”. You also get introduced to your Popit which probably the most important tool in the game, this is where you can access and use stickers and decorations that you have found in order to attach them to certain places in the world to gain more Score Bubbles, Prize Bubbles and Keys, this is also where you can customise your character with the material and costume items you have found along the way. You also have the ability to chat with your online friends, ‘suicide’ in order to respawn at the previous save point and change your poppit colour which actually changes the colour of the Score bubbles you collect and changes your characters clothes colour slightly, I thought this was pretty damn cool when I discovered it.

The intro and first steps done by Zebra Gamer

This basically followed on into the main game but first you were dropped into your Pod, which is some sort of cardboard spaceship where you can see littlebigplanet from afar, this is where you and friends (or in my case just me :’( can run around in before you start a game or when going back to the menu. Apart from you there is basically only one thing inside the pod and that is your Pod Computer which is a replica of a PS3 controller and what’s even cooler is that when your click to use the pod computer your Sack person moves the joysticks and hits the buttons mimicking you which I thought was pretty damn cool. From your pod computer you can access the story mode which is LittleBigPlanet itself, the Info Moon where you can view your info and progress, see your friends list and news and where you can view and try other players level creations, and the “My Moon” where you can create and play your own levels.

The main screen with your Sackboy at the controls, you can see the Infomoon and My Moon in the picture too
 You start the story mode in the King’s Garden and it’s a good introduction to the basics as you would assume, running, jumping, grabbing and pulling and collecting Score Bubbles which are one of the three collectibles found throughout the game as well as Prize Bubbles and Keys. Score bubbles are simply that, a way of keeping score on the levels you complete and comparing to other players similar to the coins in the Mario series though from what I can remember you don’t get an extra life. Prize bubbles have stickers and character customization items in them and keys give access to the mini games. It was fun enough running and jumping over obstacles and enemies and I truly loved grabbing and pulling items and swinging and jumping was great, it was like the old Donkey Kong Country except everything was so much more detailed obviously with the realistic character animation and sewn felt and sponges and wood and pretty much everything. I loved your how your sack character jumped and flailed around realistically while they bounced off objects with blocks bouncing and falling around them with almost perfect physics, it’s all very beautiful to watch.


The Sensei's Lost castle level, damn those rollers haha

The Creator Curators and other characters help you throughout the game with hints and tips and sometimes come in the form of vehicles such as wheeled wooden horses, skateboards, toy cars or odd things such as Don Lu’s Dog from the The Wedding's level, The Darkness in South America. It seems that apart from your Sack person all the other characters are made from art and craft materials like cardboard, paper and wood and speak in a sort of gibberish voice similar to the original Banjo-Kazooie game. Controlling your Sack person is relatively easy, as I said before you can run, jump with the x button and grab with the R1 button, sometimes I found a slight delay on jumping but that may have been because my character was not full on the ground or the particular objects I was on. The base game revolves around making it through the level avoiding traps and obstacles and solving puzzles in order to continue and it’s masterfully done, Some bits I found I enjoyed in particular was flinging myself from object to object like hanging lanterns or spinning windmills, riding characters and vehicles such as the skateboard in the gardens and the car in The Metropolis and dressing up my character of course as I loved how you got a whole new (male and female) outfit for each new world you went to.

Don Lu's Faithful Dog!
I usually don’t have too much to say about the graphics and music but in this case they were both absolutely marvellous. I loved the way the worlds were made up of everyday art and craft materials like cardboard, paper, wood, felt, sponge, plastic etc and how they all looked so realistic, there was so much detail there in the foreground, the background, it’s funny that a game that mimics so many 2D platformers looks so good in 3D but it just does. The detail of all the levels is just amazing especially the European medieval themed The Gardens, the South American Day of the Dead themed The Wedding and the oriental themed The Islands and I remember seeing it for the first time on PS3 and just going “whoa” though funnily enough playing it again much later I can appreciate it more. The music is great as well one of the main ones that stood out was the music from the Wedding world’s “The Wedding Reception” level which introduced you to the day of the dead theme and sounded fantastic along with the beautiful visuals. The sound effects including all the bounces, pops and springs all sound great too, though I would have appreciated actual voices in the game but I guess it’s ok how it is also when you get new items the “You got new item!” popup can be annoying when you get a few at once as it can block your view.

The Subway level in Metropolis, note the found item popup, now imagine it with like 5 of them XD
I didn’t dabble too much into the multiplayer aspect of the game with this playthrough as it was the first few games I played with friends where the multiplayer really shined though I didn’t appreciate it as much then as I do now and getting people to play it now is kind of hard apart from the times I could do the 2 player ones when there was someone around but haven’t done more than two people for a while but I remember it being fun pushing and pulling your friends around. Doing the two player challenges was fun when I could get someone unfortunately I had to skip the 4 player ones and some two player ones as well though I admit the game would be more fun with friends. When playing through the story you actually had the option to “Play online” meaning someone could join you when playing though I found having another person from the internet just annoying as you couldn’t communicate and they just rushed ahead. I had a look at the level creator but didn’t fiddle around with it much, I had much more fun trying out other players levels via the info moon, they were pretty cool, one was even based on Minecraft! and another was a racer which was fun. I must remind myself to go back in and try more of them.

The very explosive Mexican-themed canyons world
In the end there’s not much more I can say about LittleBigPlanet just that it was a great modern platformer and reminded me that we can still have them in these days of Triple A, MMORPGS, RPG’s and FPS’s. LBP was a game that was done incredibly well and with such dedication and love put into it it’s hard not to appreciate it, everything from the gameplay to the visuals was spot on and with the right amount of challenge to not be frustrating. The only reason I could not give this game a 10/10 as it isn’t a game I can continue playing it was perfect enough as is unless of course I went crazy with the level creator but it just didn’t seem appealing enough and doing user made levels is fun but gets boring after a while. But as always I encourage anyone to give this a try, I have not actually played the sequels (of which there are two) but might try to in the future, and maybe even try the karting game if it gets cheap enough, I can never get enough of themed racers hah.

JD
9/10

Things I liked:

Immaculate presentation, great graphics.

Easy learning curve.

Terrific music and sound effects.

Lots of fun with friends

Just challenging enough to be fun.

Things I didn’t like:

Player controls can be a bit fiddly at times

No voice acting just gibberish speak and reading text.

Limited replayability

The LittleBigPlanet Official Trailer

p.s special thanks to Zebra Gamer for his excellent playthrough on Youtube

Might as well jump

2 comments:

  1. There's a world based on Australia in LittleBigPlanet for the PSP!

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    Replies
    1. oh awesome, thanks I didn't know that

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