By ELIOT HAGEN
“LittleBigPlanet” is indisputably one of the biggest PlayStation 3 exclusive releases in the console’s lifespan. Its innovative gameplay, unique aesthetic and unparalleled charm all work toward its universal appeal. The game’s tagline, “Play, Create, Share” is the perfect descriptor for the experience.
On the “Play” front, we’re treated to simple platforming on a 2D plane. The only twist is that there are three planes—the background, middle-ground and foreground. This makes the gameplay simple enough for anyone to pick up but with plenty of room for more complex maneuvers.
Aside from the obvious running and jumping, the ability to grab things allows your character to swing from ledge to ledge as well as pull and push objects, while the physics engine keeps things flowing and very interesting. Playing alone is a blast, yes, but if you want to enjoy the game properly, you’ll have to get another controller—or three of them—and play with some friends.
There’s a strange feeling of giddy euphoria that comes over one when playing “LittleBigPlanet.” It could be from the fluid gameplay, the intoxicating soundtrack, the ingenious level design or the heart-melting cuteness of the game’s protagonist, Sackboy (or Sackgirl).
In terms of your character, there are literally thousands of clothing items and accessories that will allow you to tailor your Sack Person to your liking. At the beginning of the game you don’t have much to work with, so you’ll have to play through the campaign mode to track down all of the extras. In addition to costume and Sackboy-related upgrades, you’ll also find hundreds of tools that’ll be helpful in level creation.
The main game is set in a knit version of the Earth with dozens of stages and challenges all over the world. Bringing back memories of the themed worlds in “Super Mario Bros,” each stage has a different palette and soundtrack depending on which part of the world it’s in. You start off in the quaint gardens of Britain but soon you move to the African savannah. You have the Day-of-the-Dead-inspired South American levels (think “Grim Fandango”) and the urban areas of the USA.
However, the fun doesn’t stop there. “LittleBigPlanet” is one of the few titles that’s built on the concept of creating worlds rather than destroying them, and the game gives you all of the tools required to create your dream world.
Using the very straightforward stage creator, anyone can create a fun level. You can even import photographs from your camera to include as backgrounds or ‘stickers’ in your stages. After a bit of tinkering, I was able to create a simple stage involving a few spinning wheels and a skateboard, but there are extremely skilled creators making levels beyond the imagination of even the developers.
This bridges over to the “Sharing” aspect of the game, which is one of its main features. Despite the requisite online multiplayer where PSN Friends can pop in on you and play, it’s the level-sharing feature that’s going to guarantee this game’s longevity.
Already there are levels that defy everyone’s preconceptions of this title. There’s a full re-creation of the first temple in “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link,” a level that takes place in a “Tetris” grid, levels inspired by games like “God of War” and “Shadow of the Colossus,” and even levels that change the gameplay into that of a shoot-em-up, as with the now famous “Gradius” stage.
“LittleBigPlanet” is the Prozac of gaming. It can’t help but put a smile on your face, regardless of your demeanor. The scrapbook art style, the whimsical and addictive music and Stephen Fry’s hilarious performance as the narrator will guarantee to brighten up your day. If you have a PS3, you have to get this game. It’s cheaper than anti-depressants and it works almost as well.