Video Game Review: ‘LittleBigPlanet’ is First Must-Own For PlayStation Vita

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CHICAGO – It’s been a rough first year for the PlayStation Vita. The new Sony handheld came out of the gate with a few interesting games and it seemed like the company could get behind it with some must-play titles this Summer and really do what they never could with the PSP. It didn’t happen. We went weeks without any Vita games at all and a the few that did come out — “Resistance: Burning Skies,” “Gravity Rush,” “Sound Shapes” — didn’t set the world on fire. The best chance to turn the Vita into a must-own this holiday season is finally coming out in a few weeks when Sony releases the great “LittleBigPlanet.” It’s not a perfect game but this original Sackboy adventure truly shows off what this system is capable of doing for players. Let’s hope it’s the start of a wave of similarly inventive games and not a mere fluke. Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.0/5.0

“LittleBigPlanet” for the Sony PlayStation 3 is one of the most influential games of the last decade. With its brilliant platforming design that melded already-developed games with deep customization, “LBP” has led to thousands of hours of missed homework and lost worker productivity. The game was designed as not an entertainment destination in itself but a mere portal to open your own creativity and play in the imaginations of others. The developers of “LBP” followed the old saying of not giving players a fish but teaching them how to fish and let them design their own levels to share with others.

Photo credit: Sony

Using that same model of creation, the developers of “LittleBigPlanet” for the PlayStation Vita have designed a game that’s intended to use the capabilities and tools of the handheld in new, creative ways. Players will have to use the front and rear touchpads regularly to proceed through levels. They’ll have to tilt the Vita to activate the motion sensors. They’ll have to turn it for some mini-levels so it’s “portrait” instead of “landscape.” They can even take a picture with the camera, put it on a sticker, and leave it in the background of a level.

Photo credit: Sony

And, of course, the Vita has been designed as a social system. One of the major focuses of the handheld from the beginning was how it interacted with your friends and even just players in close proximity. So it makes sense for “LittleBigPlanet,” a title designed around a community of gamers, to be a major event for the Vita. Honestly, it should have been a launch title. It could have really given the machine some momentum that it just has yet to have.

“LittleBigPlanet” for the Vita includes more than 45 new story levels across six themes. As mentioned, they consistently emphasize how the Vita can make interacting with this world unique. Slide a platform with the touch screen. Push a button from behind with the rear touch pad. And most levels include co-op sections designed to be complete with another player. With multiplayer modes along with the co-op sections, this is the most community-interactive “LBP” to date.

Creation in “LBP” will be familiar to players of the console versions but the addition of the touch screen allows for a lot of manipulation and interactivity that the PS3 just couldn’t replicate. It’s a whole new set of tools for players to design levels and I can’t wait to see what the community does with these creative options. It’s a game in which the purchase price is more of a subscription price in that you not only get what’s in the game but have access to new levels created by the community for months to come.

Photo credit: Sony

The Vita controls aren’t perfect. There are a few mini-game levels that emphasize touch pad control and it’s not always responsive. There’s an Arcade level called “Tapling” that nearly forced me to throw my Vita through a window. However, for every level that’s built around a Vita control that doesn’t feel quite right there are at least two that are simply brilliant. The story levels of “LBP” are intercut with at least a dozen little side levels of mini-games like “Whack-a-Sackboy” or a maze that requires you to tilt your Vita to move a ball around the track. These are addictive and brilliant.

That’s the word for “LittleBigPlanet.” It’s a brilliant franchise that has sparked the imaginations of millions of people around the world. With the Vita version, Sony is hoping that the endless creativity of the PS3 version not only finds a new home but is amplified by the technological potential of this machine. We need more reasons to pick up the Vita. With “LittleBigPlanet,” we’ll have a great one this Fall.

“LittleBigPlanet” was developed by Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven Studios in conjunction with Media Molecule and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America. It will be released exclusively for the PlayStation Vita on September 25, 2012. It is rated E (Everyone). content director Brian Tallerico

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