Slandering newspapers, clueless TV personalities and angry parents will often form an alliance when a video game makes the headlines and us humble gamers are criticised as being violent, braindead ‘yoofs’. All video games are violent these days and apparantly there’s a direct link and “proven” (lol) link between crime and the enjoyment of these said video games that are mass produced by Satan himself. Now if these uneducated folk were to conduct some actual research, they’ll find that video games, not all of them I must admit, are harmless to your precious cherubs and open up a magical world full of endless possibilities. These select games do nothing but expand our creative output, they sharpen our brain patterns and they can carve geniuses out of our otherwise average joes and joannes. These video games can also serve as safe and mystifying playground for under achievers and the disadvantaged and have even proven to provide a gateway for some children to experience a more vibrant and happier world than the one they currently live in. If I were to come across any of these scare mongers and computer game haters, then I would ask them to acompany me to my Playstation console and experience one of these harmless video games, to explore a world that has been created by bright sparks and sharp minds with not so much of a bullet wound in sight; and if they had a problem with that then I would kindly ask them to sack my balls!
The ever popular and hugely successful LittleBigPlanet is back and this time making full use of the Playstation 4, and with that promising the BiggestLittleBigPlanet yet! For those who skipped the PS3 & Vita consoles completely and have no idea what I’m referring to, then honestly you have greatly missed out on arguably the most charming, original and truly mind blowing game franchise within the past decade. Debuting in 2008, the series has found a special place in everyone’s heart, for not only the sheer wonder it created in its players minds, but that games still can be sweet, innocent and fun. Following on its critical acclaim we’ve seen a sequel, 2 handheld ports, an endless runner and a Mario kart inspired spin off, which believe it or not is a fantastic game and a unique take on the racing formula. LittleBigPlanet 3 is the first title in the series to not be helmed by Media Molecule, the brainboxes behind every other incarnation, so it is Sumo Digital who have stepped up to take the franchise into their hands and to be quite honest I can’t imagine the pressure that has placed upon them. Each LittleBigPlanet follows you, a tiny sackboy or sackgirl made of wool, on a quest to save your home world from being devoured by whatever evil being decides to pay a visit that day. In LittleBigPlanet 3 you begin in the peaceful planet of Bunkum, where you are shortly visited by Newton, a strange little chap voiced by the legendary Hugh Laurie, which when paired with Stephen Fry’s narration probably makes this the most British game ever made. Anyway, Newton tells you the tale of Bunkum’s 3 evil Titans that once tried to suck up all of the planet’s creativity and cover everyone in darkness and despair, that was until 3 legendary heroes saved the day, Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop, who sealed the Titans in an infamous Tea Tin Prison. Newton informs you that Nana Pud wishes to open the tea tin and enslave all of Bunkum, so you are shipped out to stop her, however upon discovering the Titans it’s actually Newton who wishes to open the tin, to use the power for himself and make Bunkum a better world for everybody. Nana Pud informs you that the only way to stop her “precious Newty” is to travel around Bunkum and awaken the 3 legendary heroes of old, so what are you waiting for, let’s meet our new friends.
Though it doesn’t sound like much to think about, adding just one new playable character into LittleBigPlanet is a massive deal, never mind 3. Before this title you’d only ever known the humble Sackboy, a hero to thousands (and an adorable Sony mascot for millions), where the moral behind the games I guess has always been “everyone can be a hero, even you”. You couldn’t get any simpler than a sackboy, he just had a plump woolly body, 2 beady eyes and a cheeky smile, so with having no need for anyone else, these new fabled characters better had be innovative otherwise avid fans may get their twine in a twist. First to join the party is Oddsock, a noble woollen stead, who uses quick speed and wall jumps to reach area’s that prove difficult for the un-agile sackboy. Next up is Toggle, a friendly, heavy giant with the ability to shrink and make himself lighter, who proves himself useful when triggering springs and cramming into tiny pathways. Finally we meet Swoop, a woolly sorcerer of the skies, who uses his strong talons to carry goods and friends to out of reach places, cheers chief! Each character is just as fun and adorable as the Sackboy you’ve come to love and it really does bring a new wonderfully fresh way to play, what is fundamentaly, a game you’ve played before twice before, so don’t worry about the hype Sumo Digital created when the game was revealed at E3, it’s very much justified.
With new friends comes new toys and your sackboys and sackgirls are certainly packing them in this latest installment. Rather than equipping yourself with gadgets when they were relevant in a specific level, a handy ‘pocket’ has been kindly stitched into our hugable heroes which lets you unlock helpful devices and use them whenever you please. In the past LittleBigPlanet titles, a grappling hook was about as high tech as you could get, well prepare to soil yourself when you see all the cool stuff you get to play with this time round. In spreading out these new groovy gadgets throughout the game and not making them accesible from the start, the entire single player experience has been given an extra life and actually makes it worth playing again; revisiting levels with your newly unlocked toys will open up previously unaccesible areas. Speaking of the single player campaign, the level layout has been spruced up and returned to a somewhat familiar format, opposed to just sticking to the otherwise linear level path. Instead of having no freedom in how you play each chapter, you are now welcomed into a kind of ‘Crash Bandicoot Warp Room’, where scattered around each area you’ll find a number of doors with a level behind each one, and it’s your choice as to what order you complete each one in. There’s also a number of difficult side puzzles and challenges, which instead of being accessed from the chapter screen like the good ole days, now have to be found and completed to win rare and special outfits and decorations; again this adds tremendous value to the game as I happily spent at least an hour trying to complete just one of them. It all isn’t fun and games however as there are a great number of gameplay issues I’ve found whilst playing, most of them have been fairly harmless, however a couple of them do take something away from your experience and leave an annoying after taste. On more than on occasion I saw my sackboy fall through the terrain and become stuck
As always you are encouraged to play the game with local or online friends as almost every level has areas which are exclusive to 2 or more players, and completing such tasks will result in gaining exclusive items for you to include in your own levels. I thankfully have the pleasure of having a fiancee who shows a small degree of interest in LittleBigPlanet (and Tekken believe it or not), so I was able to play through the entire game with a comrade by my side, which was more difficult than I originally thought. Now before you jump to conclusions I’m not talking about each other’s ability to play the game, but rather how well each level reacted to having 2 players running around in them. Though it is multiplayer friendly, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe some of the levels I was playing didn’t comfortably accomodate a second player, whether it was a fast paced level area which would only allow the camera to follow the lead player, or a boss fight which seemed too claustrophobic and chaotic for a second player to not become distracted. The biggest annoyance I found whilst playing with another player was the automatic unequipping of your gadgets, which would cause you to fall to your death, many many times. Every gadget requires you to press L1 to use it, which unfortunately is also the grab button, so if all of you were having to jump towards an obstacle and hoping to activate your gadget, if you’re too close to each other you will instead unequip your toy and latch onto your other players and more often than not killing them in the same breath. In levels which required you to race against time, you’ll struggle to keep a distance from each other, which ultimately makes said level a greatly frustrating and unenjoyable play as you watch your poor little woollen sod perish again and again. Visually the game is gorgeous and if you’ve played any of the previous games in the franchise then why did you ever doubt it’s striking design. Driven by the power of the PS4, each material you stumble upon is in incredible detail almost to the point where it fools your eyes into believing it’s the real deal. Aside from the few glitches and texturing issues I’ve come across (which have more or less been resolved from it’s most recent patch) and the annoying difficulties when playing with a friend or loved one, LittleBigPlanet 3 brings a pretty solid and terrific tale of heroism and polyester that offers a lot of replay value that eggs you on to do better each time you play.
Not to sound like an obnoxious arse, but I am a damn creative guy. I was always a beast with LEGO when I was a kid, I’m an award winning radio producer and I’m now breaking into the world of children’s literature, but geez I’m crap at making my own levels in LittleBigPlanet, and nothing has made me more sure of that quite like this third installment of the series. Not only do I lack the creative flair to slave away for hours, days, or weeks creating my own playground, but honestly I lack the motivation to do so, I mean why should I when everyone else will make the levels for me? Well if you think like me then you’ll be greatly missing out as now is the best and easiest time to pick. If you’ve never created your own levels before, or if you’re new to the franchise, then before you dive right into your empty space of endless possibility, you’ll want to graduate from Popit Academy first. Serving as a unique playable tutorial, Popit Academy guides you through your entire popit menu and demonstrates how you can use tools and materials in your own levels. Each term of the academy offers a different level of building ability, and graduating from it completley will give you everything you need to know about building your own dream levels to publish and share with the world. It’s perhaps not essential to complete the entire course but finishing at least the first term is crucial to understand the logistics and basic skills you can apply to your personal space. The Popit Academy in all honesty does feel rather repetitive and as much as it tries to remain fun, it can grain on your patience a little, as despite the gratitude I have for this mode to be added to the game, it is quite long-winded and boring, especially if you wish to see it through to the end. It does pay off immensely however as never before as the level of creativity been so great and the highest rated user created levels are truly mind blowing. The improved ‘Dynamic Thermometer’ means you can now create up to 16 layers to build upon, meaning you can go as into the background, or as close up to the screen as you want, making it a magnificent achievement and a spectacle to behold for avid LBP fans who want to cram as much as they can in their levels. With new tools and gadgets at your disposal, you can equip your players with whatever you like with the all new ‘Blaster Handle’, and you can amaze and danger them with what ever you like with over 250 new create tools, hazards and decorations. If you can stick with the Popit Academy than you’ll find yourself building intricate and glorious 16 layered playgrounds in no time, but of course giving you hundreds more options and tools to include does make this game more scary to approach, and for a casual fan like me it doesn’t feel worth the hassle.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is a remarkable game and a definite and obvious purchase for anyone who has enjoyed the franchise in the past, and for those who have yet to experience the charm of the series will find this an easy entry point to a world that has touched so many people’s hearts. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the best LittleBigPlanet game to date but it’s certainly the biggest and the most inovative. The addition of new and equally as adorable protagonists gives the game a vast amount of intrigue which certainly pays off, however with a sometimes awkward multiplayer experience, players may prefer to enjoy the game on their own oppossed to with friends. The level creator has never been this huge and the possibilities really are endless as to where enthusiasts can go with their planets, yet without finishing the often boring Popit Academy you will be overwhelmed with what you can use and lost within its LittleBigJargon. It’s an impressive feat for Sumo Digital to achieve, but you can’t help but feel it’s a little unfinished and rushed as it doesn’t look, play or feel nearly as polished as it could have been perhaps with Media Molecule at the helm. With its distracting glitches yet wonderful visuals, it’s a game that should have had “Close, but no cigar” as its tagline. Innovation has clearly been the focus for LittleBigPlanet 3 and it’s noticeable that this has been achieved in every category, but is this as good as the series can be? No, but it’s a woolly good effort.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.