I've been in the sway of LittleBigPlanet since I first laid eyes on the game at the 2007 E3. It was tucked back into the back corner of the Sony booth and while I had seen videos of it from its launch at GDC there was still nothing like seeing the game in person. Media Molecule was only showing off the game portion of the game but I still remember bounding around the amazingly colorful level they created and it was love at first sight. Cyril claims I'm "in the tank" for the game and while that's accurate it's hard not to fall in love hard with such an imaginative game with such lofty design goals.
It's worth nothing that LittleBigPlanet isn't for everyone and there are certain gaming demographics who won't "get" LittleBigPlanet. Thankfully for them there are plenty of other games with guns and explosions to play. For those who are looking for something new and creative, LittleBigPlanet is a breath of fresh air and a place where people can stretch their creative legs. If you're not a creative person the game allows you to see what other people have done which may spark your own imagination a bit but we'll get to that in a bit.
At first blush LittleBigPlanet is a co-op platforming game where you and three friends can play your way around a wide variety of platform style puzzles. If you're looking for bee suits or other power ups you won't find them in LittleBigPlanet (although they'll probably make it in the semi-announced sequel) but there are plenty of other things to do in teh game. There is a nice assortment of vehicles and other environmental objects that more than make up for the lack of power-ups in the game.
Real world physics are the core of the game and your sackboy can manipulate things in the environment by grabbing on and moving them around. This doesn't sounds like much but it does allow for some innovative gameplay ideas within the game. This allows you to do things like racing down hills, swinging from vines, and even setting things on fire to solve puzzles.
The game ships with a set of Media Molecule levels to help introduce you to the game. They are themed around seven different "creators", each with their own theme to their levels. There's a part of me that wanted to call these the single player levels but you can play through them with friends online or off. The level design in these levels is really impressive as they do a great job of showing off what you can do with the game. The gameplay is standard platforming fodder as you jump over things, unlock puzzles, and defeat boss monsters but it's how these things are done in the game that makes them cool. The game is really a homage to the games that came before it. There are moments in the game where you'll have flashbacks to Mario, Sonic, and a host of other gaming icons and the execution is dead on.
What separates LittleBigPlanet from the other games is the support for four player co-op. Playing with four people can be a little chaotic but it's a lot of fun with the right mix of people. The game even passed the girlfriend test as my non-gaming girlfriend was able to get into the game pretty quickly. She did get frustrated with some of the jumping puzzles but with more time (and patience on my part) I think she'll get into it.
The great thing about the levels is that there's a ton of re-play value in each level as there are oodles of hidden items scattered throughout each level. I played through each level with a small eye for hidden items but even then I only found about 35-40% of the items on each level the first time through. Items are hidden in clever places and some can only be unlocked on a second or third play through as they require items found in other levels in the game. These items are unlocked by placing stickers on an item in the game which then unlocks these items. Another bonus is that some puzzles in the game require two or more people to complete which adds a bit to the game as well.
The Media Molecule levels themselves are worth the cost of entry alone but the real depth of the game comes once you've played through them and collected all the items within (which is no easy feat). Once you're done with the built in levels you can create your own levels using the game's built in editor which is surprising easy to use. The game has tutorials that cover everything from placing objects on the screen to how to add you own images to the game. I was a little frustrated that I had to go through a tutorial before I could play with one of the built in tools as I'm a learn by doing kind of guy.
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