LittleBigPlanet PSP Review
Everyone loves LittleBigPlanet; the customizable sackboys and girls are adorable, the world is charming and full of whimsy, and you can theoretically let your imagination run wild, provided youíve got enough of it. After numerous game of the year awards, and more recently, a spiritual play-create-share little brother in the form of United Front Gamesí upcoming Mod Nation Racers, the clearest thing left to do is expand the series.
Say hello to LittleBigPlanet PSP. Media Molecule has been pretty vocal about downplaying any interest in a true sequel to LBP, as it could potentially destroy the fan-based community around which the game revolves, and I would be hard-pressed to call Sackboyís new portable iteration a sequel. LBP PSP is instead pretty much exactly what youíd expectóa LittleBigPlanet you can carry around in your pocket (at least if your pockets are deep enough to hold a PSP). Itís not a straight-up port, but you donít really get anything that new in terms of gameplay, mechanics or presentation. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Clearly, Sony Cambridge went for an ďif it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ mentality. This is fine; LBPís tendency for short levels makes the series a good fit on a portable platform. Unfortunately, the results arenít quite up to par with Media Moleculeís original. Sony Cambridge simply doesnít do enough to make their own iteration of LBP feel very unique in its own right, giving the game the feel of portable-only DLC for the PS3 version.
This is sad. The spirit of the series is all about imagination, but LBP PSP seems content to merely follow a very specific set of guidelines set by the first game. To the developerís credit, itís impressive how well they got it to perform on a less-powerful portable system. But frankly, unless Sony is simply trying to win new fans over in an attempt to sell more PS3ís, this portable LittleBigPlanet wonít hold much appeal for those that have already played through the original, not to mention the die-hards that are actively involved in LBPís robust and vibrant online community. Itís a disappointment to see something with such an emphasis on creativity follow the exact same formula as its predecessoróitís not like Sackboy needs to have a dozen new abilities or anything drastic like that, but at the very least Sony Cambridge could have done something different than have Sackboy move through a series of nationally-themed worlds. Cohesion is nice, but couldnít they have at least tried to take a new, unique approach? Maybe similarities between the two versions of the game were mandated by SonyóI donít know. But regardless, you may feel like youíve played this already.
Granted, if the game were as polished as the original was (for the most part) this probably wouldn't be much of an issue, at least if youíre comfortable with the already-established LBP game mechanic. And the game does give you a pretty complete LBP experience. Itís just one thatís shorter and more designed for pick-up-and-play gaming. Unfortunately, Sony Cambridge seems to lack some of the level-design finesse of Media Molecule. Most levels arenít really anything to write home about, and worse, often suffer from poorly laid-out objectives that require counter-intuitive (and un-emphasized) backtracking, and often may leave you wondering what you should be doing to progress. This couldíve easily been fixed with a little more game-related signage at key pointsóeven a few more arrow signs every so often would be helpful in getting you to notice some of the gameís more out-of-the-way paths mandatory for level completion. Although the core mechanics of LittleBigPlanet are relatively simple, I was often struck with a sense of wonder, or at the very least, respect for all the different ways Media Molecule was able to create any number of innovative scenariosówhether through straight-up gameplay, environmental interaction or the use of scripted events to drive a level forward. When playing LBP PSP, I didnít feel much of anything most of the time.
Unless, of course, I was getting annoyed from the various bugs in the game. LBPís mechanics were certainly not perfect, but for the most part, any problems arising out of having to switch perspective planes or, say, ending up with your sackboy or sackgirl stuck next to or between object or objects were kept to a minimum. This will happen far more often in the PSP iteration. Iím not sure if this is just a sign of the game being rushed or the developers just not paying as much attention, but when you have to go into your pop-it and self-destruct your poor little sackperson more than just a handful of times in a single playthrough, it starts to grate on your nerves. The lack of the paintenator, which extended the life of the original by quite a bit, doesnít help spice things up any, either. Also, if you happen to get the UMD version, prepare yourself for 12-15 second load times every time you want to do anything. Finally, the customization to your sackboy or girl is sadly kind of wasted since the character models are so tiny on the PSPís screenóa gripe I had with the original that couldíve been fixed by allowing you to zoom or out a little at any time.
If it seems like Iím being overly critical on Sony Cambridgeís efforts, itís only because LittleBigPlanetís pedigree seems to demand more thought and innovation. It isnít that the PSP edition of the game is bad (although the bugs are an unfortunate oversight). The game is fun enough, most of the time, if made up of content thatís a tad more forgettable than the original. The soundtrack is generally a noticeable improvement over the original, introducing an eclectic set of pop-indieish tunes to the previous gameís catalog of world music. The level editor is still pretty easy to use (your creation donít even take up that much room on a memory stick), despite the PSPís control handicap.
LBP PSP isnít a bad game by any meansólong-time residents of PS3ís LittleBigPlanet, however, might want to check their imaginative expectations at the door.