Platform: Playstation Vita
Developer: Double Eleven
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Little Big Planet has always been a series where I’ve liked the concept greater than the execution of the final product.
The game’s tagline ‘Play. Create. Share’ is a fine embodiment of some of the best qualities about video gaming culture. Little Big Planet, when it was first released in 2007, seemed set to become the creative hub for aspiring platform game designers around the world. Here was a game that looked charming, had a robust creation toolkit for players that was both accessible and still offered the scope for designs with plenty of depth, and it was released on the Playstation 3 just as the console was hitting its stride.
Unfortunately, the game never quite realised the lofty potential that I, and I’m sure many other gamers, hoped it would attain. The game sold plenty of copies and the community did create a mind boggling two million levels but I always felt the infamous ‘floaty’ jumping and design choice to include shifting planes of depth made the core gameplay an inferior experience to the best platformers on the market. It just never felt as crisp as you would want.
The single player campaigns designed by Media Molecule for LBP 1,2 & PSP summed up the game’s strengths and weaknesses all at once: they were charming to look at and often showed great ingenuity in design but the experience still felt subpar thanks to the fiddly controls.
What’s interesting about Little Big Planet Vita, the fourth iteration in the series, is that the game seems to have flipped its qualities on its head. This is easily the best single player mode in the series and new developers Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios and XDev seem to have tweaked the controls to a point where they finally feel ‘right.’ The only problem is, with the Vita’s wretched sales numbers, this will almost certainly be the least active creative community for the LBP franchise and a month after release, there are hardly any community created levels worth playing.
Having said that, the game’s single play mode is genuinely brilliant and it is worth experiencing if you’re any kind of fan of the platforming genre. After the disappointing New Super Mario Bros 2, Little Big Planet Vita is a much better example of how you can breathe new life into the modern day platformer. Little Big Planet has never had the luxury of being able to rely on nostalgia the way that a Super Mario game can and instead, this trio of little known developers have creatively gone for broke.
As you would expect, the game incorporates a number of features that incorporate the Vita’s touch screen capabilities and once it has finished gradually introducing these mechanics, it continues to use them with great finesse throughout the rest of the game. Towards the final stages of the single player mode, you will become accustomed to navigating Sackboy around the stages, using the various items and powerups, whilst touching and interacting with the environment itself. When all these different mechanisms become integrated and brought together so seamlessly, the game really feels satisfying.
This is a very accomplished game that continually throws new challenges at the player. There are vehicular levels, auto-scrolling levels, unlockable mini games and some well designed honest-to-God straight up platforming stages that are creative, entertaining and challenging.
On top of the game delivering the goods on the play mechanics, it also maintains a high standard with its presentation. The graphics are some of the most crisp and vibrant I’ve seen on the Vita yet and the soundtrack is charming as always.
In the end, Little Big Planet Vita is a bittersweet experience. The franchise has never looked, played or been designed better than this. And yet its peaked at a time when its potential audience is at its smallest. Hopefully, if the Vita does end up finding a wider audience, this game won’t be forgotten and the community can begin to thrive. This game deserves it.