When the PlayStation Vita was revealed, LittleBigPlanet was there. When we got our hands the device for the first time, LittleBigPlanet was there. When the system launched… LittleBigPlanet was missing, but that oversight will be rectified this month with the retail (and digital) release of LBP Vita, seemingly fulfilling the promise of everyone’s touchscreen dreams.
I know I appear to be making light of LBP and how much it means to the PlayStation brand in this day and age, but LBPV (because I’m not going to type all the whole damn title out every time) has a lot riding on it. It’s the high-profile Play, Create, Share title that Sound Shapes could never be; it’s the ultimate test of the Vita’s touch-screen capability and network features; it’s one of the key pieces of software the Vita has to combat the 3DS this holiday season.
Can it fulfill these promises and more or are our imaginations better spent elsewhere?
From the outset, players will be thrust into the campaign’s spotty narrative that’s heavy on interesting new additions to the series and light on… anything worth contemplating. Sackboy is charged with rescuing imagination land or wherever all these arts and crafts levels take place. Something about a puppet master and a carnival? Obviously, it won’t mean much in the long run, but don’t lead into LBPV head first or you’ll get hurt.
Instead, I recommend playing LBPV while you’re in a good mood. There’s no room for cynicism among the new touch-screen tools and minigames. Early on players will get ahold of a touch-guided projectile that clears enemies and toxic pink goo. Immediately following that, Sackboy will gain the ability to fly through levels with a pair of butterfly wings, but you’ll have to steer him around with the rear touch pad.
These gameplay twists aren’t as deep as you might like, but LBP has always been about surface level joy and a distinct lack of challenge. LBP has also always been about creating and sharing levels and that’s where this entry in the series truly shines.
Sharing levels is just as easy as it’s always been and navigating the universe of community concoctions is brainlessly simple. I found myself losing sleep over the user-generated content, and not because I was worried.
Even weeks before release, there are tons and tons of masterworks to play and rate. The queue works as it did in LBP2 and ratings help separate the wheat from the chaff. But, really, I can’t waste any more of this review on the campaign or community, because the Vita’s true advancement of LBP‘s tested and proven formula is in the touchscreen and what it does for the way you create levels.
Yes, you can still use the analog sticks and buttons, but you have a hyper-touch-enabled device in your hands. If you’re not touching it all the time then… I have something wrong with me.
Pinching objects makes them smaller and vice versa. Tapping on objects allows you to switch back and forth between elements of your level. Every menu icon, down to the pop-it in gameplay is touchable; which enables even more of the big blue ocean LBP seemed suited for from the start.
To try this out, I thrust the Dualshock controller in my girlfriend’s hands and started her in LBP2‘s level editor. She gave up in seconds. I tried the Move controller immediately afterward and it didn’t last much longer. The novelty of a colored bulb at the end of a stick wore on her as quickly as it did on the entire gaming industry.
But when I put the PlayStation Vita in her hands and explained that every tutorial she played through on the PS3 was (mostly) applicable to this version, except with iPhone-simplicity, she tore off on a level creating frenzy. The only thing she or I could complain about was the way our TV dwarfed the Vita’s handheld screen.
I’ve long professed my hatred for creating my own levels. I just don’t like it. I wasn’t sure I was the right person for this review, but Sound Shapes and its Vita-touch-enabled level creator turned me around. When LBPV came in, I happily picked it up and started creating.
While LBP2 allowed players to expand their imaginations into the genres and mechanics the NES was known for, LBPV turns anyone into an iOS and Android developer. Some of the developer-created minigames mimic touch versions of Super Conductor, Bust-A-Move, or Whack-a-Sack.
The best part? None of these will cost you an easily regrettable 99 cents. Users will crank out tons and tons of the games, further fulfilling the promise of LBP and the imagination.
You know if you’re the audience for LBP or not, but when it all comes together, LBPV is a must-own for Vita owners. If you’re an accomplished creator on the PS3, you need to buy a Vita right away and watch five hours of Dualshock-restrictive work turn into fleet fingers flying across the front and rear touch panels. Even the pop-it is 10 times as fun when you can quickly make your choices with your thumb while running through a community-made level.
LBP has always been the light-hearted, family friendly center of PlayStation, but the Vita version proves what you’ve already learned from eating spaghetti with your hands or finger painting on the walls: touch is fun.