User-Generated Content Ahead
There’s something so unique and fun about Littlebigplanet. First of all, it’s the sort of game that you can get into without even trying, from the very first moment you lay eyes on your little Sackboy. The graphics are realistic, but still maintain the cute-ness that you would come to expect from a great first party "E" rated title.
As a whole, the game works on so many levels. First, you have the Sackboy, which is an achievement all its own in terms of taking a generic character and making him into an icon for the PS3. There is a high level of customization involved in the creation of your Sackboy (or Sackgirl) – everything from the eyes to the mouth to the clothes on his back are all your decision. Essentially, the Sackboy customization is what I’d hoped for with the Wii avatars – something indescribably cute that I can feel happy playing with. To that end, your Sackboy is capable of expressing himself with Fable-esque expressions, and if you have a second player, you are more than welcome to greet them with a hug.
But the Sackboy element is only a part of the game, what I would even go so far as to call a small part. The real elegance of LittleBigPlanet lies in its innate ability to turn anyone into a game developer. The game includes a "story mode" that really serves to teach you the principles of playing as the Sackboy and to also get your imagination going for the sorts of levels you can design in the custom-level mode.
The user-generated level editor is sheer genius. It has been a long while since an in-game design tool has gotten me this excited for the possibilities it holds. You continue playing as your Sackboy in the level creation mode, but instead of platforming – you edit levels using a "pop-it" menu, or an elaborate menu that’s easy to use. In this way, you edit the level in a WYSIWYG way (What you see is what you get) – and this is the hardest part of the game to explain.
The real fun of the level creation comes together with a buddy helping you to build your levels – as the work gets done in half the time with half the effort. The best way I can explain why creating your own levels is fun is to give you an anecdote from my experience with the game itself.
I had my brother help me create a level where we wanted to ride a rocket-powered car down a ramp into a jump and around a loop. After just playing around with the pop-it menu for about an hour or so, we finally managed to get the car working appropriately enough to get us from one side of the level to the other. When we finally completed the car, it was such a feeling of accomplishment that I haven’t felt from a game in a long time. The time then came to test out our little rocket-mobile and it took off way too fast (apparently setting the rocket meter to full isn’t a good idea). The car careened down the course and finally hit the jump ramp, but missed our intended looping point, instead, crashing into the loop ramp, exploding every piece of the car but the rocket, which was attached directly to the seats in the car. My brother and I held our Sackboys onto the seats for dear life as the rocket continued burning out into loops in mid-air. We laughed about the experience for a good week afterward.
And that’s what Littlebigplanet is in a nutshell – fun. Whether you’re just playing around with the level creators, playing someone else’s levels or working through the story mode, it’s hard to find so much fun elsewhere. Playing through the beta before I got the final product, I once wasted 6 hours trying to perfect a level I was building without even noticing the time pass – that is a sign that not only did I get my money’s worth, I got so much more out of the experience.