LittleBigPlanet PS Vita Review

  • Posted September 12th, 2012 at 11:00 EDT by Kyle Prahl

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LittleBigPlanet PS Vita

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This compelling, imaginative adventure is the best LittleBigPlanet yet and breaks new ground in a hybrid space of touch-and-button-based gaming that is only possible on PlayStation Vita.

We like

  • Exceptional platforming and level design, augmented by clever new mechanics
  • An empowering suite of creation tools that take full advantage of PS Vita's unique features
  • Bridges the gap between console-quality gaming and mobile accessibility

We dislike

  • The rare inconsistency with touch response
  • No support for user-made levels from previous installments

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

A fleeting glimpse belies the truth - Sackboy's latest adventure may seem like old hat, but closer inspection reveals something revelatory. By enveloping finger feedback in the warm embrace of traditional mechanics, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita forges a new path for gaming and bridges the gap between mainstream and "casual". Comforting in its familiarity, yet exhilarating in its newness, LittleBigPlanet Vita is a captivating ride into uncharted territory – a place where buttons and touch controls harmonize to create a game that, amazingly, is more fun than ever because of it.

This beautiful union starts with the Imagisphere, a place where literal seams burst with creativity and ideas fuel the adventures of material creatures like Sackboy. Of course, no imagination is without corruption, and our corduroy hero is called forth to save the Imagisphere more often than not. Such is the case when Colonel Flounder informs Sackboy that the world of Carnivalia has fallen prey to the evil Puppeteer. Once a beloved entertainer, the Puppeteer turned to extracting joy from others when the same joy disappeared from his solitary life. As an army of devious, faceless Hollows streaks across Carnivalia, the residual effects are felt on LittleBigPlanet, and Sackboy must step in to save Carnivalia before its downfall spells doom for the Imagisphere.

This always-engaging adventure is spread out over five worlds packed to the brim with story levels, Score Challenges, mini-games, and the like. Each of these is then packed with something more important: joy. Pure, unadulterated fun positively oozes from arguably the best level design in series history, and the experience is amplified by the most engaging touch mechanics ever seen in a video game. Themes of wonder and discovery are no longer theoretical constructs to provide background for this world. For the first time, wonder and discovery are things you feel as you jump, swing, and puzzle-solve through clever use after clever use of the Vita's unique control features.

That's not to say that every touch mechanic in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is novel. Moving platforms into place, swingshotting Sackboy to new heights, rotating environmental objects, and guiding rockets to well-protected enemies are familiar concepts that any iOS gamer has seen in principle. Even tilting the system to navigate a ball labyrinth or using rear touch to steer a firefly pal through perilous traps won't set the gaming world on fire (though the latter is admittedly only possible on Vita). However, citing specific differences is irrelevant, because the magic lies in the context. Where touch was once only suitable for bite-sized fun on smartphones, it has now found a comfortable home in a console-quality game. The benefits are mutual. By embracing the Vita's unique features but adapting their use to traditional platforming, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita retains its sense of self and never fails to recognize why it's so much fun in the first place.

Instead, it becomes MORE fun. Touch is not a replacement, it's a supplement – to make level designs more creative, boss fights more thrilling, and puzzles more challenging. Each element is aided by new ways to interact. Consequently, there's simply more gameplay to love. You're not just bouncing between platforms -you're creating a path for your high-flying sackperson by pushing platforms in and out of the screen. You're not just hitting a switch to call down an elevator - you're freely moving that elevator with your finger, and flicking it upwards to launch Sackboy to unseen heights where secrets await. Touch and tilt, once a cause for hesitation, blend so well with traditional button-based platforming that I'm always eagerly awaiting their next appearance. And, with a few rare exceptions, the responsiveness of each left me totally satisfied. Because these mechanics work exactly how I expect them to, I'm free to enjoy the fun they provide. It's liberating, and a revolution for PlayStation gaming.

The same newfound enjoyment extends to Creation mode, the bread and butter of any LittleBigPlanet game. Here, touch controls are used to streamline the level editing process. You can lay down stickers and objects by tapping anywhere on the screen, use your finger to quickly swipe and scroll through the Pop-It menu, and even draw freeform shapes in your world out of creation materials. If you find that you don't agree with certain touch mechanics, don't use them: touch can ... (continued on next page) ----

Kyle Prahl is a PSU senior editor and a Communications student at the University of Minnesota. If you care about PlayStation or the life of a pale Midwesterner, you should follow him on Twitter.
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