Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PS3 Look - Littlebigplanet

It's really difficult to point out exactly what makes Littlebigplanet such a special game. For one there is the "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" aspect. Yes I'm well aware that this is a very trite and overused way to describe a game but all the same it fits. In fact I would go as far to say I would not recommend this game if all someone is going to do on it is play the story-mode. Thankfully that's not really the point of Littlebigplanet as it is a community-driven game where nearly all of its truly great qualities are due to average folk like you and I.

This is not of those games that can merely be reviewed. I can't just put up a checklist and explain the controls, talk about the story, maybe discuss the point of the game. Littlebigplanet is both too simple and too complicated for that sort of nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the player is at the mercy of the world and must abide by its rules. There is a demo available that gives enough of a taste but in all honesty it doesn't sell the game at all.

The story-mode is in many ways a tutorial, a proving ground for one's mind. It may sound like pseudo-babble but trust me when I say that the story-mode serves its purpose well in preparing the player for what the game actually has to offer. Through the story the player will find all sorts of trinkets and gadgets, decorations for the worlds they want to create and the sackboy they control, and an understanding of what makes the Planet work. Like any other game there are rules to follow and breaking them will either lead to sackboy's destruction or worse they will render a level unplayable. As far as the story-mode is concerned, platformer-veterans may find it to be a bit too traditional but for the most part it's pretty solid.

All told it really isn't enough. The campaign offers just enough to get the player started but when it's all over they'll feel left out and disappointed as the game has ended before it has even begun. Thankfully it doesn't end there because the player still has access to over three million levels. These levels are all designed by others who have played through the story-mode and have a basic grasp of the mechanics and ideas this game has to offer.

Obviously with such a large number there isn't the slightest guarantee that even the smallest percentage of those millions of levels are truly great. In fact the results vary so wildly that it's actually rather charming. I've played stages that are quite brilliant and showcase a really talent for level-design. Then I play some stages that just feel a big mess of stuff to play around with and that is appealing as well. The worst stages tend to be the ones where the designer offers some scant reward for hearts. Hearts are basically the currency of LPB. Make a good level and you're bound to get some. Unfortunately hearts are also tied to trophies so players not interested in putting forth the effort think they can just buy them.

This sort of randomness is all due to the "quick-play" function. From the title-screen the player can be thrown into any one of the millions of levels. The surprise aspect of it all makes this function far more addictive than it has any right to be. There's a perfectly done search function as well for those who would rather seek out good levels but for me at least I just like going places and seeing what they have to offer.

The multiplayer is perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this game. Since most players don't have a mic communication is limited to sackboy's various facial expressions and animations as well as a text-message system that is handy but only useful if the player has the time to stand still for awhile. This actually works in favor of the game since many players will just follow along or decide to go their own way on a whim. Since the content of the levels is apparently well-regulated it's highly doubtful that anyone will end up seeing something they didn't want to. I was especially shocked because in all my time playing I've yet to see any penis-shaped objects in levels. Usually that's the first thing somebody makes when they get a game with create-able content but I guess they can only do that on their own.

What's especially fun about playing with others is that while some go through the motions and play respectfully with others there are always those moments where things go downhill. Players can drag or slap each other into pits, some get over-zealous with the paintball-gun and blast everyone nearby off a cliff. While there is a bit of a competitive aspect to the game there's really no reason to do anything to harm another player and thus when it actually does happen it adds a fun little challenge to the level. So while the player jumps around and avoids traps they also have to contend with other players trying to mess things up. It never turns creepy either since a simple command can shut down anyone who attempts to follow somebody.

More than anything however Littlebigplanet believes itself to be something of a vacation. It doesn't demand much of anything from the player except for a willingness to have fun and there's so many ways to customize the experience to the player's liking that while they can't change the rules they can still play along in their own way. The level-creator is a fantastic piece of work as it perfectly adapts to both sides of the player. Some just want to tinker with all of the different objects and experiment while others are looking to build that perfect stage. Since friends are free to join in they can either work together on this stage or they can put their imagination towards something that doesn't make any sense but it's fun all the same.

While Littlebigplanet does not have the finesse and flawless design of a favorite platformer it manages to be something very special in all other aspects. I'll go as far to say that this is a required play for all gamers.

Game Rating - 5 out of 5

My Rating - 5 out of 5

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