When LittleBigPlanet was released last winter, Sony appeared to have a new mascot and a champion for its fabled black box. SackBoy would go on to wow audiences and critics alike with its physics-based gameplay, eye-popping artistic presentation, catchy soundtrack, and the community that Media Molecule and gamers created together. The transition from the PS3 to Sony’s handheld device was inevitable, but many were concerned as to whether or not the PSP hardware could handle the precise physics and artistic world in LBP.
This time around, SCEE Cambridge took over as developer, but the shift in studios is barely noticeable in terms of presentation or game mechanics. You’ll do the same things in the PSP version; run, jump, swing from various objects, and pull blocks through heaps of stylish environments. The artistic presentation of LittleBigPlanet PSP is, without a doubt, the best on Sony’s handheld. Everything you loved about the PS3’s presentation is alive and well in the PSP version. From the toe-tapping hip music, the fun and quirky level designs, and the adorable SackBoy, LBP makes a near flawless transition to the PSP.
Chances are if you fell in love with LittleBigPlanet on the PS3, you are going to fall in love all over again with the PSP version. However, if you didn’t care for the inaugural outing, there isn’t much more in the PSP package to draw you into the world of Sack people. There is a slight chance that people not familiar with the PS3 version, or those who didn’t care for it all that much, will enjoy LBP on the go. After all, the more well developed games on Sony’s handheld the better, and LittleBigPlanet is definitely a welcome addition to the ever-growing PSP portfolio.
You should not think of this title as a straight PSP port. This is a fully-fledged game, complete with 30 new levels spread over seven areas, a redesigned level creator, brand new tutorials voiced by the wonderful Stephen Fry, and some new, albeit minor changes to the basic gameplay. What struck us right from the beginning was how impressive the visuals were, and how close it looks and feels to the PS3 version – next to the likes of Gran Turismo, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking offering on PSP. LittleBigPlanet sports some new background layouts, like the Australian Outback, but the look and feel of these backgrounds are perfectly aligned with the original PS3 release.
If you were frustrated trying to develop attractive and interesting levels in the PS3 version, you’ll be pleased to know that there are enough changes to the ‘create’ mode in the PSP title to make the process a whole lot easier. This, equivocally, is the most significant and rewarding tweak to the gameplay, and works to refine the “play, create, share,” philosophy of LittleBigPlanet. You have the ability to ‘play’ through the single player campaign, ‘create’ levels, and ‘share’ those levels with the world. As we touched on earlier, the most substantial changes have been applied to the ‘create’ functionality, which offer a far more lenient approach to creativity thanks to improved controls and more detailed tutorials. If you were frustrated trying to create levels in the PS3 version, you’ll definitely want to give it a chance on the PSP version. With more than one million user-created levels in the original release, we’ll likely see a ton of new content created on this handheld outing.
Once again, you play through all the levels, either the ones created by the development team, or the ones created by users, as the loveable SackBoy or SackGirl, and can kit them out in numerous outfits obtained throughout levels. Sackboy also has an assortment of emotes, performed by holding down the left trigger and pressing a directional button. However, the problem is he’s so miniscule on the PSP screen that it’s often hard to tell if he’s actually excited, or if he’s really mortified. Over time we got used to not seeing a distinct appearance in our SackBoy, and his small size didn’t really bother us.
Elsewhere, LittleBigPlanet on the PSP also brings about a new retry and checkpoint function. If you find yourself stuck in a sticky situation (and you will at first), you can bring up your action cloud and click the retry button, which brings you back to the last checkpoint. Speaking of checkpoints, we are happy to report that the change to the checkpoint and death system in the PSP version is a much appreciated change. Instead of getting a certain number of lives per checkpoint, your lives are determined by your points. This means that you won’t fail too many levels because you died, rather; you’ll have plenty of practice for the overly tricky levels. There were a few parts of the game that we had to use the ‘retry’ function several times, so in a way, we appreciate the change to the checkpoint system.
This game probably sounds like the perfect platformer, and that aspect of LittleBigPlanet is pretty accurate. What will likely draw a lot of gamers away from the PSP version is the lack of multiplayer. That’s right, the LittleBigPlanet on the PSP does not support multiplayer. Is this a deal breaker? We happen think the game is good enough on its own, but many will be turned off by knowing this isn’t a game they can play with their friends, locally or via a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can still share your levels on the Community Moon, which ends up feeling like the multiplayer portion of the game. In our time reviewing the game we were able to play some pretty interesting user-created levels. Still, we would have loved to play these levels with some friends.
We strongly urge you to try LittleBigPlanet on the PSP before crossing judgment. It’s heaps of fun to play, and the wonderfully absurd art design is an absolute joy to behold. You’ll find yourself humming along to the captivating soundtrack, and wanting more action every time you turn off your PSP. Admittedly, it may feel like SCEE Cambridge was cutting corners by leaving out multiplayer, but that shouldn’t deter one from purchasing what is still an utterly compelling platform romp and one of the best games on PSP released to date. Highly recommended.