LittleBigPlanet 3 - Review
It makes sense for Sony to release a new LittleBigPlanet early into the PlayStation 4's lifespan. After all, since the release of the original LittleBigPlanet back in 2008, there's been a version of the game on every Sony console; two on the PS3, one on the PSP, and one on the Vita. Unlike Microsoft or Nintendo, one of Sony's strengths and weaknesses has been its lack of an identifiable mascot; it's clear however, who they want to be there mascot.
As with the previous games, LittleBigPlanet 3 continues in the same vein. Essentially the game is split into two halves; part platformer and part game creator; summed up by the original game's tagline, "Play, Create, Share". Items you unlock whilst playing add to the options you have when it comes to making your own levels, which you can then post online for the whole world to see.
Sumo Digital, the new caretakers of the series, have opted for a slimmed down approach to the game's single player adventure. The main levels are incredibly short, and it's entirely possible to complete them in an afternoon or two with a little patience. There's a general story draped over the top, with three evil Titans threatening the world of Bunkum. It's all light-hearted and twee, with the ever-present Stephen Fry returning to provide narration, and Hugh Laurie playing bad(ish) guy Newton, ramping up the whimsy factor even more.
What Sumo Digital have effectively done is turn the single player adventure into a lengthy tutorial. It's here where the game will dole out all the new gadgets, which include an air-gun, rocket boots and teleporter, along with introducing the new playable characters.
LittleBigPlanet 3's biggest addition is these new characters you get to play around with. First off, there's Oddsock, the cute dog-like Sackboy who's capable of running along walls and bouncing off ledges like a canine version of Prince of Persia. Toggle, meanwhile, is the shape shifting heavy man, capable of smashing down big blocks and pulling heavy objects, but also morphing into a pint-sized version when the need arises, perfect for squeezing into small gaps. Finally, Swoop completes the new additions as the little sack-bird capable of flying.
These new characters, along with the new gadgets Sackboy has access to, greatly increase the variety of levels that players are able to create. Toggle in particular feels as if you could build an entire game around his skill set, with his growing and shrinking mechanic working well with platforming and puzzles alike.
If there's one thing to complain about then it's that you'll have to be the one to get the most out of the new characters. The single player levels are so thin on the ground that it's left to the LittleBigPlanet community to create interesting challenges for these new critters.
Whilst it's clear that Sumo Digital want the adventure to be seen as a tutorial for the real game, if anything, they manage to undersell many of their new creations. Most of the main game sees you playing as the usual Sackboy, with only a handful of stages being devoted to the rest of the cast, which seems rather odd given that they're one of the biggest additions to the series so far.
Still, LittleBigPlanet is the kind of game that's as big or as small as you wish to make it. Along with the standard developer-created adventure, there's a host of creation challenges that likewise function as a puzzle-tutorial hybrid for the game creator. Not much has changed in terms of how levels are made, although the creation challenges are likely to help ease more people into the otherwise overwhelming task of making their own levels.
This leaves the user-created stages as the final element in LittleBigPlanet 3, and it still remains one of the most exciting parts of the game. It might be because you're aware that many of the levels are designed by amateurs, as opposed to professional games developers, but there's still an odd joy about finding a strange level that someone's poured their heart and soul into, even if it might not always work right.
With all of the previous two game's creations being carried over, there's plenty of different levels to get stuck into. It's a slight shame then, that the game's user-interface still manages to be somewhat awkward to navigate. Levels are never clearly highlighted in an easy to read fashion, and finding good, high rated levels can be a pain when the game chooses to have them buried in a simple vertical list. It's not even as if you can find particular levels by searching through individual genres. LittleBigPlanet 3 might offer boundless creativity, but it doesn't always give you a perfect way to sift through it.
All in all, this is a safe, predictable evolution of the series. It's not as groundbreaking as the original game was back in 2008, and even Media Molecules' sequel brought a greater shift to the template with the addition of new game types that could be created. Despite being a solid instalment overall, you can't help but wish that Sumo Digital had pushed the boundaries a bit more with the series' first outing on the PS4.
Still, if you're hankering after the world's biggest box of Lego, there's no better box than LittleBigPlanet 3.
LittleBigPlanet 3 was released on November 28th, for PS4 and PS3.
This review is based on the PS4 version.
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