|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Double Eleven, Tarsier|
|Release: June 26, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p|
by Sean Engemann
It doesn't take much to elicit a response from any Sony owner upon the mention of LittleBigPlanet, with that response almost always being a positive one. Heralded as one of most innovative games of all time, and certainly at the top of the list for Sony, this gem of a game was first gifted to us back in 2008, where it won dozens of awards, including several of our own Cody Awards and a top spot as the Best Game of 2008. Every iteration since has compounded the creative aspects, and has been met with equally high critical praise. The Vita version, right now simply titled LittleBigPlanet, will be the fourth official entry in the series, with two having been released on the PS3 and one on the PSP.
Thankfully, the core formula of the game will not be changed. You'll still spend some time platforming through levels, with an eclectic backdrop of all manner of manipulated worldly items set in front of a larger than life, pseudo-realistic backdrop. Whatever the final story ends up being, it will undoubtedly have you solving many platforming puzzles, even adding some minigames along the way. But as anyone who's played past entries will tell you, this is no ordinary platform jumper, and the new controls on the Vita will only separate it even further from the mainstream.
Although this will not be Sackboy's first foray into the portable arena, there are so many more input variations in the Vita than in its predecessors. From official trailers and gameplay footage, just a fraction of one level is seen involving many different control styles. You'll still physically move your character with the control stick, but spend a lot of time touching the front screen as you're turning gears, moving items, and launching Sackboy via a slingshot—just a few of the hundreds of possibilities. The rear touchpad will truly make the world feel like it's in the palm of your hand, pushing objects and platforms into the foreground to progress through the stage. The system's Sixaxis motion sensing will also be used liberally, tilting the system to help Sackboy across chasms (among a myriad of other uses).
We'll all be exploring every inch of the story levels, partly because they look stunning, but mostly to get our hands on every sticker, material, and costume piece, which are used to create our own stages. This is where the meat of the game lies, an aspect that has truly sparked the imagination of every LittleBigPlanet owner. As a base comparison, the Vita version design studio will be most similar to LittleBigPlanet 2, but new and tweaked tools have be added, specifically tailored to the Vita.
The Controlinator will still be the main design implement, with the Touch Sensor and Touch Tweaker able to fine-tune the touchscreen and rear touchpad inputs. The Motion Recorder replaces the Move Recorder from the PS3, but functions the same way, simply using the touchscreen instead. Layers are also being given and interface overhaul, making it easier to adjust how thick or thin your objects are. There's now a Sticker Scrubber that will remove all the stickers from an object at once without making you peel away each one individually. There are also new materials, such as the Rain Material, letting you add precipitation to your levels and adjust the size and speed of the raindrops, and the Invisible Material that lets you place insubstantial boundaries instead of having to slap on a wooden board or brick wall.
Using the camera, the real world becomes an endless series of portraits for you to cut and paste. Anything you photograph can be cropped and applied to game, either as projectiles for Sackboy, part of a monstrous boss at the end of a level, or any set piece in between. Levels can be easily saved and uploaded to the community, and right from launch you'll have access to all the previously built creations, of which there are now nearly 6.5 million. As usual, there will be a comprehensive sorting and ranking system for all the user uploaded content, and you'll be able to favorite the ones that keep you coming back.
There will also be ample tutorials, allowing dedicated gamers to make the most of their designs. It's a system that thankfully hasn't been watered down from past games, but looks to have a slightly more user-friendly interface. Keeping the sandbox content robust is one of the main reasons LittleBigPlanet is considered more of a social engagement than a game.
This is a series that has accomplished what 99% of developers only dream of—creating a game that is accessible and lauded by every age group, with a cool factor that puts it on the personal A-list of every gamer out there. It's got great sounds, solid vocal work, a cute but trendy mascot, lush graphics, and some of the best in-game physics ever created for a video game. And since the powerful Vita hardware does not require watered down content for space, we can expect the community to keep growing. Hopefully Sackboy can help take more Vitas off retail shelves, putting them into gamers hands where they belong.
Date: April 24, 2012