Not content with playing, creating and sharing in his own traditional genre conquering physics based platforming adventure, Sackboy seems to be everywhere these days, proving that his is a charm and quirkiness that would be wasted if left exclusive to the PS3’s purist LittleBigPlanet platforming paradigm. With a starring role in PlayStation brand brawler PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale and putting his foot on the throttle of his own racing game in LittleBigPlanet Karting before the year is out, you would be forgiven for thinking that LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Double Eleven and Tarsier Studios were going to do something completely different with Sackboy and his creative toolkit on Sony’s new handheld. Crucially, the teams responsible for LittleBigPlanet Vita haven’t deviated too far away from the core impetus and creative energy that made LittleBigPlanet so original and endearing to begin with. Striking a cord with established LBP creators and those who want something more from their Vita, LBP Vita is arguably the best game Sackboy has ever attached himself to and further proof that Sony’s Vita is a handheld powerhouse.
The best way of describing LBP on Vita is to think of it as something of a compendium of what Sackboy has achieved in his oft celebrated play, create and share forum to date, now with a little extra goodness only possible on Vita. This version of LBP ticks all the relevant creative boxes, complimenting the established charm and ingenuity of the LittleBigPlanet console games without ever diluting the experience because of its new found handheld status. This is important, not least because this is literally the biggest LittleBigPlanet game to date. What Double Eleven and Tarsier have done to perfection here is that they have recreated the sense that LBP Vita isn’t their game, it’s our game, a gamers game and a universe that we ultimately shape, alter, amend, fashion, revise and modify in ways that only we can control and maintain. LBP Vita’s strongest value is its ability to make each and every one of us feel like we are contributing to the greater LBP universe and reaching out to this creative world with open arms. All of this and it’s on a handheld. This could well be a new benchmark for handheld games in terms of depth, replay-ability and creativity.
While the game retains its defining play, create and share creative momentum, the addition of Vita’s touch controls does bring a completely new interactive layer to the game. The touch screen, rear track pad and camera usage are integrated to perfection. Nothing about this feels tagged on. It’s stylised, it’s organic and it’s actually kind of addictive. From flicking switches, pulling springs back, to pushing blocks forward with the rear track pad, the balance is perfect and completely unobtrusive to the traditional platforming mechanics long since synonymous with the series. The new control system is contextualised wonderfully and never feels overcooked or out of proportion. It makes sense and its execution is impeccable. This new interactive layer drags you into the experience in a way not yet expressed in the console versions of LBP, especially when it comes to creating.
Creating, though accessible and quite easy to get to grips with, can be intimidating, especially when you see the kind of incredible creations that some of the best and brightest LBP community members have been churning out over the last four odd years. The new touch screen controls go some way to alleviating this intimidation. Allowing you to shape objects, choose placements and pinch and stretch your original world feels more natural and more rewarding now. Most of LBP 2’s edit and create elements transfer over to Vita, with the handheld adding the option to use the in-built camera to create original real world items, photos and stickers to slap into your creations. It works pretty well and definitely adds another cool and original notch to the package.
Of course, LBP comes with a single player story mode, with Sackboy doing his darndest to rid Carnivalia of an evil puppeteer with any number of memorable and fantastic satellite LBP characters by Sackboy’s side. The story is great and can be at times as hilarious as it is surprisingly heart-warming. It’s definitely worth going through story mode, especially since it grants you more items and tools to play with. It also grants you access to the wonderfully addictive Arcade games, most of which will give any paid iOS game out there a real run of its money. LBP Vita seemingly knows no limits. All of this and you haven’t even uploaded or downloaded any of the thousands and thousands of creations available on the greater LBP community cloud.
What does LBP Vita do wrong then? In truth, not much. There’s certainly a few teething issues online as it is and some of the platforming and the physics can be a tad frustrating, especially when Sackboy just won’t do what he’s told to do, but in the greater scheme of things, this doesn’t matter. LBP Vita is not as revolutionary as LBP 2, but there’s a lot to be said for the relevance of refinement over revolution. LBP Vita is the best LBP game yet and stands as one of Vita’s best to boot. If you’ve got a Vita, you have to buy this. It’s handheld perfection.
TGL SCORE 10/10
Format: PlayStation Vita
Developer: Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios, Sony XDev Europe
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now