The original Little big planet was nothing short of amazing. The mechanics where, even at the time, rather outdated and giving them a quick polish worked amazingly well. It’s pure innocent charms and Steven Fry’s commentary are impossible to resist. But really how complicated can a platformer be? Sure the graphics are nice and the platforming is huge fun but ultimately that’s not enough. And there lies Little Big Planet’s key to success.
As with so many successful modern games opening design and creation to the community can be a huge advantage. You can all but guarantee that eventually someone will make something amazing or use tools in a totally unique way that nobody ever thought of. There’s something very satisfying about playing each level knowing you could make everything in it, with enough talent.
So Little Big Planet was something new and Little Big Planet 2 added a huge amount of features to expand the creative side of the game and therefore what was possible in a level. For Little Big Planet 3 Media Molecule had a seemingly simple, albeit brilliant, idea. More characters. Given what was possible in the previous two games with one character imagine what you could do with 4. In essence the single player campaign is an extended tutorial, now more than ever given the amount of new stuff to be explained. But it’s a decent adventure with the usual pantomime villains and silly jokes. As usual it’s impossible to resist Little Big Planet’s charms for all of its 6 or so hours offline.
The plot is simple, Sackperson has been captured and 3 new characters are tasked with rescuing him. There’s Odd Sock who’s a sort of dog like Sackperson who can repeatedly back jump off walls to make his way between two objects. When playing as Odd Sock there’s a definite flow to the game with levels tending to be fast paced and almost Sonic like at times. The speed and momentum is similar to the standard platforming with that slight weightlessness that makes the platforming so satisfying, but with some extra jumping abilities levels feel surprisingly refreshed.
Toggle is probably my favourite character to play as and also adds the most new function to the game. Toggle can either become very small so that he has very little mass or become large and have a very high mass. It’s another case of a simple mechanic that can give birth to complicated gameplay. One example is launching yourself out of water by first becoming heavy and sinking then switching back to being light and rising to the top violently to spring yourself up and scale an obstacle.
Swoop is basically a bird and as such can fly – a bit. Swoop is a little less interesting to play and can basically glide and fly about as well as flappy bird. As Swoop you can also pick certain objects up and move them around as a sort of plug and socket puzzle. There isn’t the same pace and momentum that I like so much about the gameplay of Little Big Planet and swoop just doesn’t capture me like the other characters. But still it’s yet another way to play and another option for level creation.
The compulsory tutorial that you always have to complete before getting stuck into level creation has thankfully been drastically overhauled. Previously they have became stale long before the end. Even Stephen Fry’s narration wasn’t enough to keep the boredom away. With as many complex features as Little Big Planet now has an in depth tutorial is inevitable but luckily LBP 3 makes it slightly more interesting than before. Instead of pop-ups full of information and the odd video the tutorials now play as simple puzzle solving levels.
In one series you will need to create, delete and reshape items to get through the level. In another you will use string and elastic at different lengths and strengths to move objects or create swinging grab able items to Tarzan over a gap. Slowly but surely you make your way through all that LBP has to offer. Making the tutorial a series of mini challenges rather than just being told what to do you not only gives you a greater understanding of how to use the tools but helps prevent boredom too.
And once you’re done you can create and upload levels as much as you want. They can be simple or complex, long or short but they’re fun to create and LBP still invites you to get stuck in and just play around. Creating with a friend is especially fun and can even be quite productive. But I’m not a creative kind of person so playing other people’s levels is the main attraction for me. Luckily all the levels from both previous games are playable in LBP 3 which means there is an absolutely colossal archive of levels ready to be played already. There are some really amazing levels to be played from the previous games so it’s nice to have them all in one place.
Following tradition everything still looks great but nothing is allowed to look slick. Everything has that tacked together feel that makes LBP look so distinctive. But that doesn’t mean the visuals haven’t been improved. The fuzz from Sackperson’s material in particular looks amazing. It catches the light just as you would expect and really makes you want to reach out and scratch the hessian.
All the usual charm and character is still the basis for LBP. In fact it forms the foundations for everything else to be built on. The first game was a great base and the second one expanded on that in a way that seemed very complete. But Media Molecule have managed it by adding new characters with new abilities that can drastically change how a level is played, or created. Even without substantial new tools just having a couple of key new mechanics has yet again expanded on Little Big Planet’s already impressive world. Even if you’ve been here before and played the previous games extensively LBP 3 is well worth visiting.