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LittleBigPlanet PS Vita

16:3730/09/2012Posted by Simeon PaskellNo Comments

With the almost polite battle-cry of ‘Play, Create, Share’ Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series has played an important role in shaping the current generation of gaming. Most importantly it has empowered gamers to craft their own worlds while also providing a platform through which to share them. Sackboy and chums have been genuine trail-blazers, benchmarking the possibilities of user generated content and setting a blueprint for other games to follow. Since its 2008 debut millions of levels have been uploaded and it has built up a strong community of committed – and often extremely talented – fans; but is LittleBigPlanet PS Vita an iteration too far or has Sackboy found a new home?

The task facing LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is an unenviable one; not only is there huge expectation placed on it to showcase the potential of the Vita itself, but it also has to live up to the lofty achievements of its predecessors. Thankfully Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven have stepped up to the plate, rewarding Media Molecule’s faith by delivering an authentic handheld LittleBigPlanet experience. Visually, it’s virtually indistinguishable from its PlayStation 3 predecessors and with the Vita having a full-suite of analogue sticks (two!) it faces none of the input handicaps experienced by the PlayStation Portable version of the game. If Sony were hoping for a Vitatitle to back up its ‘console in your pocket’ claims, then LittleBigPlanet PS Vita fulfils this role admirably.

That is all well and good, but what else does it do? The answer to this is, well, quite a lot actually. Beyond successfully porting the LBP experience to a handheld, through a combination of technical know-how and the sheer force of their imaginations Tarsier and Double Eleven take the series to new heights and most impressively of all open up even more possibilities for user generated content.

The first port of call for any navigator of the ‘imagisphere’ (as the ever dulcet Stephen Fry describes LBP’s world) will be the Story mode which at a glance is vintage LittleBigPlanet, as Sackboy jumps, bounces and swings his way around the screen. As the levels unfold however, their are constant surprises that make the whole experience feel fresher than it probably has any right to be. Virtually each and every level introduces new ideas and new concepts, many of which push the platforming in interesting new directions.

The PS Vita’s multitude of inputs are also put to good use, proving to be a welcome set of new strings to LBP’s bow. The front touchscreen is used to poke and prod levels, drawback catapults, turn wheels and levers, as well as to plink out a tune on a screen-filling piano. The rear touchpad, meanwhile, allows for an even greater degree of tactility and quirky gameplay, such as pushing blocks from the background to the fore and being able to direct flying vehicles with your unseen fingers. The gyro-sensor meanwhile is used to slide platforms around the screen while Sackboy hangs on for dear life. That all this is piled on top of the signature platforming makes for an eclectic adventure requiring a gently demanding and refreshing degree of dexterity on the player’s part.

It’s an adventure that is also ably supported by possibly the series’ most cohesive cast of characters and levels. The plot, revolving around the antics of a dastardly Puppeteer, sees the introduction of Sackboy’s antithesis; emotionless, wooden puppets known as The Hollows. These blank faced creatures are the apathetic counterpoint to Sackboy’s boundless enthusiasm, serving to further highlight the series’ focus on creativity, as well as tying the whole adventure together.

As has now become standard for the series, the narrative levels are supported by a selection of mini-games which can be unlocked by collecting keys hidden throughout the games worlds. These have always been a pleasant distraction but those included here (such as multiplayer tank battles, boxing and tower-puzzling) are the strongest yet and their bite sized nature makes more sense as part of a handheld-based experience.

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