It's About Time! :: Reviews by a Stranger of Sorts
With a review of...
Little Big Planet
It's befitting that I start these It's About Time! reviews with a game that I worshipped for months but I feel it has been completely misrepresented to the majority of people. Little Big Planet was set up to be the flagship game for the PS3, much like Halo is for the Xbox 360 but was met with mediocre sales despite overwhelming positive reviews. It was developed on a budget of only 1 million pounds (mere pocket money) by Media Molecule, a small company based above a bathroom warehouse in Surrey.
Little Big Planet falls under the genre of "puzzle platformer" and places a strong emphasis on user generated content, the idea was that you would play through the story mode and then be inspired by the ideas you see to create your own levels for everyone else to play. Basically, you could play this game and still be playing new and interesting levels forever!
Now I'm somewhat of a Little Big Planet veteran, having gotten the Platinum Trophy for it (one of the hardest ones to get out of all games on the PS3 mind you)and continuing to play through nearly all the DLC that was released and creating dozens of levels even when the community was waning to the point that I could only expect about 20 people to play each one. So I feel I am well qualified to lecture you on the world that is Little Big Planet.
When you first play the game you pop into a sort of interactive credits/ tutorial level which is very bright and colourful but you have no idea what you are doing so just jump around everywhere. Then, who's that to guide you? Well, it's none other than the man who stole God's voice, it's Stephen Fry. Now, being an avid QI viewer I squealed with joy like a school girl meeting Justin Bieber, but on a more serious note Stephen Fry was possibly the best person they could have chosen to narrate this, his deep and terribly English voice really go well with the quirky nature of this game.
The beginning of what can be loosely described as a story level is pretty dull to play with pretty boring scenery and easy jumping sections (for those who don't know as far as movement is concerned you can move forward, backward, left, right, jump and grab. That's it). Luckily though, it is carried a long by a wave of charm which comes from the colourful, simplistic and surprisingly good graphics, the soundtrack and Stephen Fry.
As you progress through this mode things start to change, noticeably the style of the levels as there are eight groups of levels each done by a different 'creator', ranging from a Gothic wedding to a scrapyard and even a military bunker in the Arctic. The difficulty also takes a rather sudden and dramatic turn into challenging, anyone who has played Little Big Planet will remember the infamous "wheel bit" where the level revolves and you have to do the obstacles as fast as possible, if you get stuck you die.
All of the levels in the 'story' mode can be made using the level create mode, which just shows the amount of creativity that has gone into them. The level create mode is surprisingly sophisticated, it is (with a lot of practice) possible to create almost anything you want. When you first enter the create mode you are forced to go through a huge series of tutorials which, however annoying at the time, are vital to showing you exactly what you can do with the tools you are presented with. And there are a lot of tools, dozens of materials, hundreds of decorations, loads of switched, rockets, vehicles, bungee cords... the list goes on. The create mode is relatively easy to use at first but become second nature as you spend more time in it, this helps to explain the millions of user-created levels that there are.
Granted the majority of these user-created levels are nothing special (the most played level is just an oversized skateboard going down a ramp) but some are easily better than any of the story levels. They are so creative and clever that all you can do is gasp and wonder 'How the fuck did they make that?' There are remakes of levels in other games such as Super Mario or even Dead Space, that one even made me a little scared, there are levels where your Sackperson is flung around in a twisted version of Mouse Trap. And then you get to my favourite type of levels, the ones where the user has spent hours just making it look fantastic, one example of this would be a level called Up and Away which had you using balloons to traverse various obstacles in the wonderful world of sky town.
Something that's also worth mention is the soundtrack, which is amazing in this game. It includes everything from light hearted orchestral pieces specifically made for use in Little Big Planet to indie songs like 'My Patch' by Jim Noir. Furthermore the create mode gives you full control of these, allowing you to change the volume for vocals, percussion, melody... whatever you want basically.
But what would Little Big Planet be without Sackboy? This charming little knitted humanoid is fully customisable to be pretty much anything you want. There are dozens of pre made costumes but you can also make your own by mixing these with stickers and saving the outcome. My personal favourites are Jesus and Sackzilla; and if you're stuck for ideas there are 100's of levels that are just tutorials of how to make really cool costumes, usually of people from other games and movies like The Joker and Soap MacTavish.
The multiplayer aspect of this game is also stellar, it's a mix of competition indifference and full fledged messing around as you run havoc in a world that somebody else has kindly built for you. Half the time is spend helping each other accomplish challenges that require one more person and the other half is spent 'slap jousting' where 2 players will run toward each other and see who can slap the other over first. It's truly epic.
By now you will probably have realised where I stand with this game, I absolutely love it and am sadly disappointed by its poor sales and diminishing community. It's a great example of a platformer and it's just plain fun. Everyone with a PS3 should own a copy, don't be off put by it's childish demeanour as underneath is one of the best games I have ever had the privilege of playing.
-Thanks for your time. Any comments are welcome.