Posted by: peanutmaster | November 1, 2008

Little Big Planet – Sony – PS3

Some Assembly may be aquired…

Nothing in life worth doing is easy. Attaining the perfect body takes hours of toil at the gym, acheiving the perfect mind requires hitting the books hard, and creating the perfect Little Big Planet level demands patience, creativity a decent grasp of physics and the steady hands of a brain surgeon. But the results can be stunning. Absolutely stunning.

For proof look no further than the game’s Story Mode. It’s an incredible feat of design that looks, sounds and plays like a dream.  At heart it’s a complex 2D platformer with an emphasis on physics dressed in next-gen finery, but the sense of gobsmacking wonder a mere five minutes play time will produce is staggering. Here is a handmade world of weird and wobbly invention, stuffed to the brim with bizarre characters, collectable doodads and clever platforming challenges. Even the ordinary is extraordinary with familiar platform cliches like mine carts, lava rivers and collapsing platforms managed with such flair that they feel entirely fresh.

And then we loaded up Create Mode and collapsed in a heap. We felt nervous at first; however could we hope to reproduce the wonders  we’d just witnessed? We fiddled about for a bit and felt angry, disheartened and angry. We started to disbelieve that Story Mode was created using the creation tools at all. So we gave up and played through again, and started to notice the tell-tale signs that told us we’d got it wrong. For every event, big or small there’s a switch or mechanism visable. That’s when Little Big Planet starts to reveal it’s true genius; all of it’s workings are on show for those who care to look. It’s happy to share it’s secrets, eager to encourage you to do better.

Feeling newly confident that we could, with a little work, produce something magical we reloaded Create mode and began working our way through the tutorials. Even these are astounding. Voiced by Steven Fry they are some of the wordiest, funniest, best animated in-game tutorials to ever grace a console. they make the whole learning progress a delight – even for old hands like us who usually absolutely loathe tutorials.

Before long we had grasped how things worked… There’s a massive variety of things to do.  The only limit to what you can create is your imagination.

The whole process is navigated using a handy device called the Pop-it menu. With the press of a buttonit allows you to create, decorate and manipulate things (and by ‘things’ we mean everything!). You can select from a staggering range of materials (from plain old cardboard to intricately carved wood and metal) and then select a shape before placing it in the world. Once your imagination is bubbling over you can add more shapes, bolting them onto your creation with everything from glue to elastic to motorised bolts. If things aren’t behaving how you want them to select the Pop-it menu and tweak them until they do!

There are a staggering range of devices on offer al of which are pleasingly versatile.  Take, for instance the variety of switches available. First we built a door, attached a wich and hooked it up to a simple two-way switch. No, too simple. Instead we hooked the switch up to some explosives. Entertaining, yes, but it was far too obvious. Finaly, we settled for a sticker-operated switch that will only open the way when a specific sticker has been slapped onto the corresponding panel. Genius. And then there’s the range of creature peices, lights, sound effects and pre-made contraptions to consider. Whew. It’s an incredibly versatile tool-kit that once grasped opens up endless possiblities for level creation. Seriously, every night since playing Little Big Planet we have gone to sleep dreaming of new contraptions, constructions and creatures to start work on. And every morning we have fired up the PS3 and tried them out. There really is tremendous scope to this game, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

It’s not flawless. At times the Create mode feels so intricate that it’s overwhelming. It can also be very fiddly. The game world is 2D, but there are several planes in which you can place objects. Learning to understand these layers is key to success, but making mistakes is a big part of the learning process. Prepare to mess up, get frustrated, scap things and start again. It’s frustrating at first but as your grasp of what is and isn’t possible (it’s all down to physics) improves, so does then sense of acheivement when you finally built a contraption that works as you intended.

Like we said, it takes hard work to get the best out of Little Big Planet. But every little moment of defeat is repaid later on with a snowballing sense of achievement.Even better, you wont be working alone. In fact, should you choose to, you can sit back with your feet up and wait for new levels to magically spawn in front of your eyes. After all, one of the best things about the game is that it will gain a vibrant online community itching to share their latest masterwork with fellow sackboys and girls.

Inevitably then, scoring a game like Little Big Planet takes a bit of vision, a little faith. With such a massive emphasis on user-generated content we have to trust that what the public will create will be up to scratch.  Judging by how inventive would-be coders have been with simple level creators like Line Rider and the versatility of the tools on offer here,  we’ve got no doubt or worries. Someone, somewhere wil create something astounding (I have already seen some amazing creations by clever people inspired by Shadow Of The Colossous and even Tetris!). Potentially somebody will create something more impressive, entertaining and inventive than the bundled story missions. And while that person won’t be us, we’re very excited that thanks to Little Big Planet, anything is possible. It’s all up to you now, so get out there and create something incredible.

Here’s something brilliant someone’s created – a Little Big Planet version of God Of War’s Kratos!



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