Sackboy is back, and he’s been busy. Well, Sumo Digital has been busy, but you get what I mean. The first outing for the series on the PS4 brings it with some new gameplay features and chums for our little woolly friend. Almost three years on from LittleBigPlanet 2, has enough changed and improved to make this third console outing a worthy purchase? In one word… Yes.
Game: LittleBigPlanet 3
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
(review code provided)
Okay, I’m going to start with a confession. I didn’t really enjoy LittleBigPlanet 2. While I had some fun with it, I found it to be disjointed. Sure, it still followed the “play, create and share” motto, but with very little of the play part standing out. I’m all for the create and share aspects, but if there’s very little actual game to play then what’s the point? It’s great then that with LittleBigPlanet 3 Sumo Digital has listened to feedback and produced an entertaining story mode to back up everything else.
Focused on a new world called Bunkum, LittleBigPlanet 3’s story begins with Sackboy being led astray and unleashing three ancient Titans upon the Imagisphere. With creativity and imagination at risk, it’s up to the woolly hero to step up and save the day. It’s a cute and charming set-up that sees you go hop in and out of four unique areas. And that’s where the biggest change to LittleBigPlanet 3 comes into play. Unlike previous iterations, the story mode has a proper structure to it. The levels flow nicely, with the narrative driving things along at a steady pace. There’s a purpose to proceedings now, something that was never really present in previous games. You feel like you’re progressing and not just going through levels just for the sake of it. The Organisertron is great evidence of this change, allowing you to keep track of objectives/missions with a quick press of a few buttons. It’s a simple little addition in the grand scheme of things, but makes the world of difference when you’re actually playing.
Each of the four areas in the story mode is essentially a hub, featuring levels that progress the adventure and others that you unlock by meeting characters. For instance, an early one tasks you with building a car to race with, bringing the create aspect into the story. It’s a nice little touch, and is present elsewhere in the game too (more on that later). Think of them as side missions to the game’s main levels that move the story forward, a welcome addition. They not only provide LittleBigPlanet with much needed substance, but quality too. As for the main story levels, they are just wonderful. The level design is pure genius, making each one a pure joy to play. It helps that the platforming mechanics have been tweaked, allowing for more precise jumping, grabbing and aiming. You’ll go from floating around a level in space to another that sees you traversing an old school diner complete with appropriate music (I’m a sucker for Mr Sandman). It’s brilliant, with each level looking and sounding great. Sure, it’s not the best game to show off the PS4’s power, but either way LittleBigPlanet and Sackboy have never looked better.
The pace at which the game throws new mechanics and gadgets at you is great too. You never feel overwhelmed; it all comes at you logically and sensibly. As you’d expect, the basic jumping, running and grabbing mechanics remain, only to be complimented by gadgets like the Pumpinator and a helmet that allows you to attach to rails (it has a proper name). There’s even a gadget that takes some inspiration from Portal, allowing you to cleverly move through panels. A new addition, the Sackpocket houses all these gadgets (once you have access to them), allowing you to easily switch as you play. Then you have the level based stuff such as the velocity blocks, making for some ingenious moments in levels as you figure out what to do to progress. Writing about it now, it’s actually making me want to turn my PS4 and play some more. It’s just amazing how all these elements come together without feeling contrived or tacked on. And that’s not the end of it either.
You’d think Sumo Digital would’ve been content with all of the above, but far from it. LittleBigPlanet 3 sees Sackboy joined by three new playable characters, and each one makes a positive impact. You have OddSock, Toggle (two forms) and Swoop. Their inclusion is tied into the story, actually adding to its charm. Not that LittleBigPlanet has ever been found wanting in that department, charm is its thing. Back to the characters though, each one has unique abilities that help you access certain areas and are essential to complete certain levels. Oddsock’s thing is agility, Toggle is all about strength and Swoop is adept at… Well, swooping. My personal favourite is OddSock, loving his speed, agility and general cuteness (yes, I’m soppy like that). The only downside to the addition of these characters is the fact that it takes away from playing with Sackboy. You know, the star of the show. It’s weird, but as each new woolly thing was introduced I found myself less and less inclined to play with Sackboy (or Cloth Kid as he’s referred to by a certain someone). Still, it doesn’t really detract from the game, but I thought it was worth mentioning nonetheless.
One area where these new characters really shine is in co-op, a staple of the LittleBigPlanet series since its inception. Playing with friends or other people is still as fun as ever, resulting in some hilarious mayhem. In fact, even when you go to start up a story level (if other people are playing) you’ll be given the option of joining others, pushing the co-op part of the game to the forefront. Also, there are certain areas in levels that require two players to be accessed, so if you’re a completionist then you’ll need to grab a buddy or join a random to do your thing. Obviously, you can jump into created levels with other people too. It’s still a massive part of LittleBigPlanet 3, and that’s more than evident in the Popit Puzzle Academy. Bringing the play and create together, here your guided through the game’s creation tools in a mini-campaign. Much like the story mode, its inclusion is pure genius. It actually makes you wonder why Media Molecule didn’t do something similar before. Like me, if you’re “scared” of what the create aspect of the game has to offer, this is the place to go to learn. You’ll get to grips with the new tools (there are plenty of them) and integration of the DualShock 4’s touch pad. The latter was by far my favourite addition. I found using the touch pad to manipulate objects not only really cool, but super handy too.
The creation aspect of the LittleBigPlanet 3 is just insane. It’s bigger and better than ever. You can literally create entire adventures and stories of your own if you want to. The tools Sumo Digital has put into the game have the potential to be extremely powerful in the right hands. You now have control over layers, rails and even weather, opening up endless possibilities. The only real limit is your mind and creativity. If you can think then you can more than likely do it in LittleBigPlanet 3. I can’t wait to see what the community comes up. Hopefully we’ll see more creations and levels like the now famous Dead Space one. Oh and by the way, you can access all the created content from previous games. That’s over 9 million user generated levels. 9 million. Wow. Hell, you can even create trailers to promote your levels now. It’s a PS4 exclusive feature, but if you’re reading this I imagine you have one those already.
Whether you want to just play or create, there’s literally something for everyone in LittleBigPlanet 3. It’s easier to get into both side of the game, that’s for sure, but not everyone will want to do both. If you’re like me, the create part of the game will hold little interest and it will mainly be about the play. And if that is the case, there’s still not really enough of the play part. Story wise, what’s there is great, but after you’re done with it (around 8-10 hours) it’s a case of searching/waiting for content or creating it yourself. It’s not a huge negative (hence the score below), not at all, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re looking to pick up the game.
Not content with just delivering a genuinely entertaining and well-structured story mode, LittleBigPlanet 3 improves on almost every single aspect of its predecessor. New gadgets, creation tools and playable characters make this outing feel fresh, breathing new life into a formula that was becoming stale. There’s something for everyone here, with your own imagination being the only limit. Oozing charm and jam packed with fun, LittleBigPlanet 3 is pure platforming goodness.