Return to the Imagisphere in LittleBIGPlanet PSVita

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by TRACY-MARK GORGAS / Special contributor to NWCN.com

NWCN.com

Posted on September 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 11:48 PM

Sackboy is back and he's going handheld again.  LitteBIGPlanet PS Vita (LBP PSVita) is the newest chapter in the series.  How well does "Play, Create, Share" work on Sony's new handheld system?  Follow along below and try to imagine Stephen Fry reading this review.

Story

The planet Carnivalia has lost its joy.  Colonel Flounder, the former ringmaster of Carnivalia, stops you from entering, explaining that the Puppeteer has taken over Carnivalia.  When people enter, the Puppeteer turns them into creatures called "The Hollows."  The good news is Colonel Flounder believes that you can help him take back Carnivalia.

Your quest takes you across five sections of Carnivalia packed with adventure.  Each section has its own caretaker.  In addition to Colonel Flounder you will meet, Marianne Noisette in the Land of Odd, Sean Brawn in Jackpot City, The Unbelievable Otis in Coaster Valley, and Mrs. Sunshine in the Spooky Mansion.
 
Controls and Gameplay

If you have played LittleBIGPlanet before you know that describing the gameplay is near impossible.  For the story the gameplay is mostly platformer style, but as with the others in the series expect anything.  One side level is a "whack-a-mole" style, while another is a variation on Tetris; there is even an air hockey level.  While it's still early, there are some community levels.  There are a couple gems, but mostly right now it's a lot of unfinished ideas.  If players take to the PS Vita version of LittleBIGPlanet like they have for the PlayStation 3 then we shall see some awesome levels.  If the side and community levels weren't enough, there is also a section called The Arcade.  Here are quick mini-levels that play like popular arcade and app games.

The controls are similar to the PlayStation 3 version with the big addition of "Touch."  Back at PAX Prime 2011 we got a sneak peek at this with just blocks that could be pushed in on the front touchscreen and pushed out on the rear touch screen.  Now there is much more.  You can slingshot Sackboy off spring loaded blocks, move certain blocks into better position, spin wheels and much more.  Most of the touch sensitive parts are clearly marked, blue for front touch, green for rear touch.  Even so there are hidden bits that are touch sensitive, like a record you can "scratch."  These hidden bits are extras and never keep you from finishing a level.  The good thing about the new touch controls is that it doesn't seem to be a forced gameplay element.  While some of Vita’s launch titles the touch controls felt tacked on.  Here they fit in and feel natural.  In some instances the touch controls are, well, touchy.  For example there is a wheel on one level that Sackboy has to hang onto while you spin the wheel with touch.  The wheel has to spin with a bit of speed so Sackboy will have enough momentum when he lets go to fly to the next platform.  My first few attempts either didn't spin the wheel, didn’t spin it fast enough, or made it go backwards.  Eventually I got it, but it took a careful, deliberate movement on my part.

The “Create” section allows you to mix the traditional controls or touch controls depending on which tools you feel comfortable with.

Graphics and Sound

No matter how many times I play LittleBIGPlanet I am floored at how realistic the graphics look.  LBP PSVita is no exception.  The graphics are on par with the PlayStation 3 version.  Certainly LBP PSVita is taking full advantage of the Vita's power.

All the sound effects that you have come to know and love from the console version are here in their full glory.  New music in LBP PSVita keeps the feel and mood of the original.  Once again the man who could read a phone book and keep everyone interested, Stephen Fry, is the narrator guiding you though everything.

Overall

LittleBIGPlanet has, over the last few years, become a powerhouse of a series on the PlayStation 3.  Its first foray into handhelds on the PlayStation Portable was met with mixed reviews.  Part of that could be blamed on the PSP itself.  With LittleBIGPlanet PSVita any previous problems or complaints are gone.  With the exception of the new touch controls, it feels like I'm playing the console version.  LittleBIGPlanet creator, Media Molecule, surprisingly did not develop this version.  LittleBIGPlanet PSVita was co-developed by Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios, and XDev Europe.  In their hands they seemed to have captured the spirit and fun that Media Molecule had with the first LittleBIGPlanet.

So far the only problem I’ve found is the finicky touch controls for certain parts.  While slightly annoying, it is workable and rare.  Most touch parts work just fine.

The LittleBIGPlanet series is the standard bearer for Sony's "Play, Create, Share" line of games and LittleBIGPlanet PSVita lives up to that standard.  I give LittleBIGPlanet PS Vita a 4.5 out of 5.
 
LittleBIGPlanet PSVita is rated E for Everyone for Mild Cartoon Violence by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

For more information see the LittleBIGPlanet PSVita web site.

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