Little Big Planet – PSP Review

Genre: Play/Create/Share Platformer
Platforms: Playstation Portable (PSP)
Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge/Media Molecule
Price: $39.99 (USD)

Ever since Sony first unveiled Little Big Planet at the Games Development Conference in 2007, it charmed the pants off of anyone who laid eyes on it thanks to the iconic and instantly endearing Sackboy. When the game finally hit store shelves in late 2008, it lived up to all the hype and expectations, and went on to win numerous awards and plenty of adoration from the critics and gamers alike.

Not wanting to miss out on expanding such a good thing, SCE Cambridge, in conjunction with Little Big Planet’s developer, Media Molecule, have decided to introduce the series to the PSP handheld, and the results are amazing. The game takes everything that was wonderful and charming about the original, and fits it into a bite sized package just as quirky, humorous, and creative as it’s Playstation 3 big brother.

The first thing that strikes you when you fire up Little Big Planet on the PSP is how amazing the visuals look. The game absolutely nails the LBP presentation, and the texture detail is remarkably impressive. The image is sharp and crisp, and objects like felt, metal, cardboard, brick, and wood, look precisely like they are supposed to.

The story this time around is just as simplistic as the first. Sackboy has gone on vacation to the Creator Carnival, but unfortunately, the Creator Curators, for various reasons, refuse to attend. Sackboy must get to the bottom of this, and help the Curators, so they can attend the Creator Carnival. Simple, but anyone going into LBP for the story has picked up the wrong game.

The game play has remained fundamentally unchanged: players are still charged with navigating Sackboy (and Sackgirls, of course) through various platforming stages rife with obstacles, enemies, and puzzles, all to a quirky and catchy musical tune. There are a few slight changes from the PS3 version, however. Firstly, and one I didn’t immediately notice at first, is that Sackboy no longer jumps between 3 planes on a level. It has been paired down to two, which, in my opinion, makes the platforming a lot easier and less frustrating (nothing was more frustrating in the PS3 version than wrestling with switching between the 3 planes).

The second change is smaller, and is related to Sackboy’s various emotes. Since there is no right analog stick, and the PSP is short two extra trigger buttons, SCE Cambridge have devised a rather clever way to let Sackboy be, well, Sackboy, while in the confines of the PSP’s limited button setup. The Digital Pad works the same as before; pressing a directional button will have Sackboy adopt one of four main emotional states: Happy, Sad, Angry, and Scared. These states can be made more severe by continuing to press the digital pad one or two more times. Players used to be able to use the L2 and R2 buttons to control Sackboy’s arms, but that’s not possible on the PSP, so Cambridge have mapped preset actions onto the Digital Pad when the L Button is held down. When Sackboy is Happy, and the L Button held down, and Up pushed on the Digital Pad, Sackboy will do a Back Flip. Pressing Left, Right, and Down, will result in a new animation tied to that emotion. Each of the 4 emotional states have 4 unique animations tied to them. This works really well, and many of the animations are quite humorous and adorable.

The controls are smooth and responsive, and platforming feels much better than it did on the PS3. While there are still some instances of awkward momentum when trying to make certain jumps, it’s not deal-breaking or frustrating. Overall, I found the smaller scale levels quick and satisfying, and very creative. Level design is just as top notch as the original, and filled with variety. From navigating a trippy dreamscape, to fending off an attacking dragon while fleeing in a rickshaw, each level is distinct in both theme and design. Confining the game to two planes naturally limits some more outlandish ideas, but by no means does this harm the tone and feel of LBP. It’s still one of the best platformers out there, and it’s unique physics-based game play is still blissfully intact.

One of the biggest parts of the Little Big Planet package was the ability to create your own levels, share them over the internet, and play the large number of levels created by other users. Thankfully, the PSP version does not skimp on this aspect of the game. Players can still create their own levels, upload them to the internet, and play levels created by others.

There is no connectivity with the PS3 servers, so the PSP LBP user created content is confined to the PSP and vice versa for the PS3 levels. There is no online play or co-op with other players, which is a bummer, but it doesn’t dilute the package too much. Most user created levels are designed with one player in mind, so this isn’t too terrible. The create tools are just as intuitive and user friendly as the PS3 version, so LBP creator vets shouldn’t have any problems hopping into the create mode and crafting some wonderful levels for others to play. Hopefully, the PSP LBP community will grow as large as the 1.5 million + community creating for the PS3 version.

VERDICT: BUY – This game takes everything that was wonderful and charming about the Little Big Planet universe on the PS3 and successfully shrinks it down to portable size. The visuals, controls, and level design are top notch, and the Play/Create/Share aspect of the series has not been sacrificed in any significant way, meaning that there is the potential for an endless amount of content in the future from the online community, and of course, you can always make your own. This is one of the best games on the PSP released to date, and a must own for Little Big Planet fans. Amazing.


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