Hear ye, hear ye, Sackfolk young and old, big and small, short and tall! Today is the day you have all been waiting for! Yes, it is time for the release of LittleBigPlanet 3, starring your favorite sack-chum, Sackboy, and a veritable who’s who in a whole new world to play, create, and share in, called Bunkum. We’ve got our review ready for you, and for good measure it’s bursting at the seams with all the screenshots you can eat. If you could eat screenshots. Which you shouldn’t. Unless they’re printed on a cake.
You may be eagerly awaiting the download and installation of the latest entry of this much-loved franchise as you read this. But wait — this entry wasn’t developed by series creator Media Molecule, but rather by Sumo Digital, who created the LBP2 Cross-Controller functionality on the PS3 for use with the PS Vita. Is this cause for concern? Sure, Media Molecule were consultants, but what does that really mean?
What’s the Big Idea?
Evidently, it meant that Media Molecule knew how to pass the torch competently. From the first time you load the game and hear the excellent narrative work of Stephen Fry, to the satisfying sound effect that plays when you press square to load up your Popit menu, LittleBigPlanet 3 looks, acts, and somehow even smells like a proper LittleBigPlanet sequel. LBP3 is presented in 1080p on the PS4, unlike the PS3 version which is rendered at 720p. The frame rate remained smooth throughout the entire campaign and online levels, even while playing local multiplayer with three players.
Jumping, a constant sore spot for platforming aficionados in the first two entries, has been subtly tweaked. Sackboy now jumps noticeably more tightly, and now most of your mistakes are yours and yours alone. It’s not nearly as “floaty” as before; as hard as this game’s jumping is to define properly. A well-designed level can deftly transition you between layers without any intervention on your part, and controls have never been slicker.
Several new tools are introduced here: This includes the Pumpinator, which sucks and blows air to manipulate the world around you, the Blink Ball hat which can teleport you to specially designated grids, the Hook Hat, a rail-riding contraption, the Boost Boots, which are basically jetpacks on your feet, and one final powerup which you don’t even unlock until much later in the game.
Meet Your New Friends
One of the biggest changes to LBP3 is, of course, the inclusion of three brand-new characters. First up: Oddsock. He’s an almost dog-like sack creature, and has some serious hop. His levels have the tightest jumping of the whole game. He’s a little shorter than Sackboy, and so can fit through a few smaller areas, though not to the same capability as our next new character, Toggle.
Toggle starts off as a rather large sackperson, but a quick press of the L1 button enables him to instantly transform into a miniscule version of himself who is lighter, a whole lot faster, and dare we say, cuter. Toggle’s levels consist of puzzles where you have to use the small Toggle to squeeze under an obstacle, then use big Toggle to perform actions such as breaking glass panes, holding down springs until turning into small Toggle to propel yourself and others into the air, and more. These levels become pretty challenging as you have to decide when to toggle on the fly and with some pretty exacting precision.
Finally, our newest addition is Swoop. He’s a bird sack creature. As with most birds, he can fly. You simply hold X to flap your wings, and can also press R1 to live up to your namesake. You swoop down at a much higher speed, and must treat your movement like that of a glider. It’s a different take on the way LittleBigPlanet levels are crafted, though the main campaign feels like it doesn’t utilize this character enough. What is on offer is, like the rest of this game, wonderfully entertaining.
See If You Can Do Better
The campaign serves as an entrée to the main course that is the community levels, much like it did in LBP1 and 2. Expect to finish the core story levels within a handful of hours. Some of the campaign levels felt more tuned to single-player, with the camera seemingly confused at which player to focus on (here’s a hint – it should be the one who’s closest to the goal!), but overall it provides for slap-tastic good times, featuring some of the best platforming seen in the series to date, outside of community levels. It’s challenging, but not overly so, and most levels can be completed with only a few deaths the first time around. Some boss battles are pretty challenging as well, but after a few failures you’ll get the hang of them.
If you’re a creator, there are some new tools for you to play with, such as the logic broadcaster, which should make for easier replication of any complicated logic you can throw at the game, as well as a neat interactive broadcast chip that enables real-time interactivity for viewers of your stream. A huge improvement is in the levels themselves – they now support up to 16 layers, plus the thin layer! Suffice to say, this opens up a ton of new and exciting opportunities for creators. The only thing I ever made was a skatepark, and it was pretty basic by LBP1 and 2 standards, so I am curious what I could craft if given enough time, and of course I eagerly await to see what insane creations the community dreams up.
A Somewhat Bitter Taste…
Unfortunately, it seems that launching a game as complex as this is no simple feat, especially when a developer transition was in order. At launch, LittleBigPlanet 3 suffers from a few rather large bugs. First, and most painfully, is the Popit menu. Every time we brought it up, the game froze for at least five seconds, reliably so. It would also freeze, though for a little less time, once you selected the stickers section of the menu. The game also freezes upon exiting the menu. This happened with existing profiles that had already played LittleBigPlanet 1 and/or 2, as well as completely new PSN profiles created specifically to test this bug out. It’s incredibly annoying, and frankly, unacceptable for a game that relies so heavily on this menu. We reached out to Sony, who advised us that other reviewers have not seen these issues. That is fine, and we are not ones to doubt them, but it is what we experienced – we feel obliged to report on these issues. If the situation changes, we will update this review to reflect that. Your mileage may vary, of course, and many players may never experience this debilitating issue.
It’s been almost four long years since the last home console LittleBigPlanet release. Like a fine wine, LBP3 has aged rather well, though it has picked up a few odd notes along the way. It performs exactly like its predecessor, only improved upon. The key word here is addition. You have additional layers to levels – now 16 plus the thin layer! The three additional characters have unique aspects that you cannot really replicate with merely Sackboy and a tool. Sackboy himself did receive new tools, though; an impressive seven, each introducing fresh new ideas that enhance existing levels. But with some zero-day bugs that painfully bring the experience down for some users, some caution must be given to anyone who isn’t aware of them, and we hope that Sony can narrow down this issue within an acceptable timeframe. Still, this is a planet worth exploring!
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.