The original LittleBigPlanet was one of those rare gems that immediately became an instant classic the moment it hit the shelves. With a unique charm all of its own, it took the familiar concept of classic platforming and turned it on its head by offering a simple, yet intuitive, in-game level creator that opened the floodgates to a virtual endless supply of new user-generated content. Since LBP‘s initial launch on the PS3, it has spawned numerous sequels, ports and spinoff titles spanning a range of formats and over 9 million user-generated levels (yes – over 9 million). Now, finally, for the first time, Little Big Planet is here on the next-gen PS4 system.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, LittleBigPlanet is a side scrolling, pseudo 3d/2d, platformer with a puzzle focussed gameplay. The main story campaign is generally composed of levels that challenge you to guide, jump and avoid obstacles in order to deliver your character to the finish line. The series traditionally stars a lovable stuffed creature named Sackboy and it emphasizes user generated content, both in the customization of characters and in the creation of levels and items using the built in creation tools.
The first thing you’ll notice when booting up (besides a rather lengthy update download) is that it’s very much like the first two titles. One of the reasons I wasn’t as big a fan of LittleBigPlanet 2 was that it seemed too similar to the original without bringing any truly groundbreaking new content to the table. Sure, you got rocket packs and some other interesting abilities, and there was a new emphasis to online co-op play, but it was basically at its core the same game with a less appealing story mode. And there’s some of that sameness going on in LittleBigPlanet 3. Even with three new controllable characters, Toggle, OddSock and Swoop and the use of new equipment like a wind gun and a teleportation device, it still feels like more of the same when it boils down to it.
I don’t really know what I was expecting (that’s not my department), I just know that when I played this third installment, I didn’t experience the same sense of explosive wonderment that I had when I first played the original. I totally agree with the “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” mentality, and while this is certainly as good as the series has ever been, there’s just room for more and I feel like it didn’t meet its own potential. Basically, whether all you’re looking for is more of the same great gameplay you’ve already come to love, or if you’re completely new to the series, you really don’t need to know more – you won’t be disappointed, it’s a solid and fun platformer. I guess I was just personally hoping for some more inventive risk taking from the same franchise that first made an icon out of a stitched, fabric sackboy.
As you probably expected, the graphics on the PS4 are crisper, sharper and brighter than they’ve ever been in LittleBigPlanet. While it’s not as obvious a leap forward as when Mario first went HD, Sackboy is now being presented for the first time (at least on the PS4) in full 1080p resolution. It looks good, and you’ll be certain to notice a difference in any side-by-side comparison; but to be completely honest, I can’t help but feel somewhat underwhelmed by what might have been a beautiful showcase of the PS4’s capabilities. I realize that LBP isn’t a series that’s recognized for its graphical prowess, instead preferring a more innocent and simplistic approach. I just assumed a first party brand exclusive title making a debut on a new console would have more bells and whistles… but maybe that’s just me. As it is, the graphics look nicer than they ever have, but there are definitely better looking PS4 titles out there. I can’t help but wonder if the graphics were intentionally watered down in order to facilitate the game’s tandem PS3 release.
Okay now that I’ve gotten all that bad news out of the way, I want to stress that there is still plenty to love about LittleBigPlanet 3. Actually, there are more than 9 million things to love about LittleBigPlanet 3. All off the previous player-created levels from LBP and LBP2 are fully available from the moment you start the game, and there is always new content being added. By now there’s a level inspired by just about anything you can imagine; in fact, the last one I played was an authentic recreation of the ill-fated Titanic, and it was amazing.
The same quality of brilliant music and bursting-at-seams creative level design is back and up to the par of excellence expected from the series. But most importantly, the same simplistic and approachable gameplay is still intact. In what is essentially Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s favorite mustached plumber, LittleBigPlanet 3 has a simple enough control scheme that allows even the non-gamers of the house to join in for cooperative play. Which brings me to my most favorite aspect and the real reason LittleBigPlanet remains an enduring title in my videogame library: It’s a game that I can enjoy playing with my girlfriend, something that’s in a very short supply on the PS4.
There’s loads more stuff that I need to explore before I can confidently give you guys a solid ranking for this ever-expanding title. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what sort of new tools are available in the level generator and I really want to spend more time utilizing each of the three newly playable characters before giving you my full impression. But as a first taste review, I would have to say that my feelings towards LBP3 are similar to the feelings I first felt when playing LBP2. It’s a great game that’s only real flaw is that it fails to impress with groundbreaking innovation as much as the original.
I’d easily recommend this to anyone new to the series who isn’t already coming in with preconceived expectations. I would also recommend LBP3 to anyone who loved the first title and enjoyed the second game despite the criticisms I’ve mentioned here. My only real reluctance is in recommending LBP3 to someone who, like me, fell in love with the first game only to be let down by the second one because it failed to match the first’s achievement. LBP3 is a great game, but to me, it still feels like an echo of a classic.