Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: LittleBigPlanet (PSP)

I find LittleBigPlanet fascinating. Not so much for the reasons pretty much everybody else fell in love with it for (Make your own levels! It’s so cute! Innovative to the nth degree!), but moreso because it’s pretty much the only game that I’ve ever played that is unhateable. Sure, some people will love it more so than others, and some will think that it’s not nearly as great as everybody says it is (I’m more in this category than the former). But nobody I can possibly think of would ever say that they actually hate this game. A person might hate their own lack of creativity or patience to create their very own bitchin’ environment. But hate the game itself? Never! I find that totally inconceivable.

A big reason for this is because LittleBigPlanet will MAKE you love it. Through its quirky level design, its catchy music, and its ability to allow you to customize the game to your liking, LBP just has too much going for it to actually be hated upon. For anybody who’s ever played it before on the PS3, they’ll tell you that the game’s strongest suit is in its undeniable freedom, but it’s that same freedom that makes me unable to fall head over heels for it. You see, for someone like me, I don’t WANT to make levels, which is arguably this game’s selling point—the ability to create something new on your own. Sure, you don’t HAVE to make levels if you don’t want to, as the story mode is highly expansive (And you’ll want to play through it if you want to create more elaborate levels as new items can be unlocked in it), but that’s the thing. “Sackboy,” your highly customizable protagonist, has no personality whatsoever. You can make him tremble, you can make him do the running man, and you can make him explode if you ever get stuck in a tight spot, but as an overall character, Sackboy is pretty much rendered charmless, and that’s a problem for me. I need a compelling character to go hopping and bopping with, as the actual narrative itself, like all platformers, is paper thin in this game. In other words, I wanted Mario and they gave me Aero the Acrobat.

LBP purists will surely say, “Hey, what’s the big deal, jerk, who cares? It’s the levels that matter.” But for somebody who doesn’t feel like manipulating shapes and plastering stickers all over the place to create their very own Shangri-La, that IS a big deal, as the storyline is way too weak to stand on its own. In that way, if you leave the level design feature out, LBP is actually a little on the boring side, and it’s an experience that will make you feel like you’ve wasted your time and money if you’re looking for a true blue platformer and nothing more.

But let’s be real here, people. If you’re going to pick up LBP for the PSP, then you can only be one of two people. You’re either A), a fan who’s been building levels and uploading them on the PS3 for well over a year now, or B) somebody who’s never played the game before because they didn’t have a PS3 but is highly interested in doing so on the go, and if you’re either of those people, then you definitely can’t go wrong here as LBP certainly delivers.

Spending only a couple of hours with the tutorial, I was able to piece together a pretty simple landscape in just a short matter of time. It wasn’t the greatest landscape in the world (It was pretty much just pieced together with things that could electrocute you—I called it, “You’re Screwed, So Don’t Even Bother”) but it was a landscape nonetheless, and it didn’t make me sweat all that much gluing it together and whatnot. This leads me to believe that if you’re willing to put in the time, then the customization is intuitive enough that you’ll be able to start piecing together shapes and environments in no time at all. Seriously, it’s really that easy.

But while my level wasn’t set to be winning any awards anytime soon, I found a whole plethora of different environments uploaded online by the general community. Many of these levels were terrible, mind you (So, so many races), but some of them were really creative and exciting (Especially one called “Ninja Warrior,” based off the Japanese obstacle cours show). So if you’re worried that the game won’t be advanced or even easy enough to make the level of your choice, don’t be, as they give you enough tools and accessories to make levels however you feel like, giving you the ability to make them as simple or as complex as you want them to be.

Again, though, as much as every review on the planet will tell you that LBP is for anybody with an imagination, I’ll tell you that that’s not entirely true. Will you like it if you don’t feel like building levels? Sure, because as I said earlier, there’s just too much going on here not to at least like it a little bit. Seriously, as far as the whole community and bringing people together thing goes, there’s no other game like it. But if you’re the type of person who feels like they work hard enough already in the real world and don’t feel like playing God and making their own levels, then LBP is just simply not for you. In other words, if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to see the game as the potentially creative fountain of awesomeness that it truly is, then take away one star from my review. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of gamer who wants to put in the time to craft the PERFECT level and want to upload it for all the world to see, then add one point to my score. As it stands for me though, I’m in that middle category—liking it a great deal, but not loving it whole-heartedly.

Players: 1 Player
Platform(s): PSP
Developer: SCE Cambridge Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
ESRB: Everyone

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