LittleBigPlanet PS Vita's self-described world of "fun, frivolity and mild peril" is massive and getting bigger by the day. Around every corner of this dystopian Toyland is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered, and just when you think you've seen it all you'll be invited to start creating a story of your own. Don't make the mistake of underestimating this game's scale or level of detail because it's "just a handheld game" - perhaps its greatest strength is how thoroughly it shows you that the Vita can pack a punch.
Enter the world of Carnivalia, a land of circus-themed dreamy mystique that has seen better days. It once prospered under the rule of The Puppeteer, but everything changed when he received some unexpected criticism. Now he's a bitter tyrant, and it's your job to stop him and save the day. Some of the folks you'll be asked to help are definitely odd, and many of them look like they've escaped from the set of Tim Burton's latest animated film. While the strangeness of the world can make its characters a bit difficult to relate to at times, the genuinely human motivations that drive the story make it easy to get invested in the outcome. The game's ethics collaborate quite thoughtfully with aspects of play, too, like the lack of serious death penalty reinforcing an impetus to try again rather than letting failure eat you up like The Puppeteer.
Hop, jump or fly to your next fantastic location as you race through this platforming game's traditionally linear levels. Though simply getting to the end of each level seems like a straightforward task, maneuvering through the labyrinth of floating discs and tunnels can be quite a challenge. There will be plenty of lava pits to fall into and electric fences to fry yourself on as you move your Sackboy from one area of stable ground to another. In addition to running and jumping, you'll be asked to use your fingers on both touchpads quite often. Some doors might be gated, for example, requiring you to scan a fingerprint by pressing your thumb against the screen. On top of all of this each area will give you a new toy to play with, like a grappling hook or a car. Every time you think you've mastered a skill you'll either be nudged into using it in a new way, like bouncing around a corner with your grappling hook instead of just swinging from it, or you'll move on to the next ability entirely.
If you tire of the story-based levels, there are a series of distinct mini-games for you to experiment with on the side, each with an interesting new twist on the handheld controls. A Tetris-inspired mini-game, for example, can be pretty arduous. Your goal is to carefully stack one oddly-shaped pillow atop another by dragging it across the touchpad with your finger, all without causing the tower to tip over.