by Matthew Thompson
I am in no way prepared to review LittleBigPlanet 3. I’ve yet to dig into Create mode or the community’s offerings, but I figured I’d drop in for some brief impressions of LBP3’s story mode.
The game kicks off very similarly to previous entries. It has a similar live action opening with cartoon flourishes narrated by Stephen Fry. You’ll be thrown into a tutorial level that will introduce you to the basics of controlling Sackboy and traversing through the various platforming and puzzle challenges that await him. Finally you’ll be whisked through what makes up LBP3’s prologue chapter where you’ll put some of these skills to the test and meet the game’s main antagonist.
This will all feel very familiar to series’ veterans, but once you hit the first proper world a number of new features will be introduced that help make this latest adventure stand out a bit from its predecessors. The game’s most notable addition is the new playable characters. Along with Sackboy, you’ll play as three other knit heroes this time around. Oddsock, a four-legged dog-esque creature, will feel better for those still bothered by the series’ original protagonist’s floaty jumps. Oddsock controls much tighter and his ability to scurry up and bound between walls opens up new level design possibilities. There is also Toggle who can swap between a tiny and hefty version of himself. This ability is utilized alongside the game’s physics system to add an extra puzzle-y layer to the run and jump bits. Finally Swoop allows you to take to the air and like its name suggests speedily swoop down between tricky traps and deadly obstacles. These characters are a great way to mix up the usual formula. The problem is you can’t just use them whenever you want. Levels are designed with specific characters in mind. Given the different challenges their levels present that makes sense, but the new fellows don’t have as many levels as I’d like and feel underutilized in the game’s story mode. They aren’t really used to their full potential in co-op together either like the original press conference demonstration of this game suggested.
Luckily Sackboy has some new tricks up his sleeve too. My favorite is a new power-up that essentially gives our little stuffed friend the ability to double jump. There’s also a helmet that lets you slide along rails (pictured below). Along with a few other power-ups and new additions to level designs (like moving from the typical three levels of depth to sixteen), these assure that Sackboy’s portions have a fresh feel to them as well.
Possibly the biggest shake-up to the Adventure mode comes in the form of its new level structure. Instead of choosing linear levels from a menu, each world beyond the prologue has a small non-linear hubworld. Here you can generally choose between multiple levels or search around for side quests or other small challenges outside of the main narrative. Aiding in the exploration of these hubs are the previously mentioned new characters and power-ups which once unlocked will allow you to discover new things within each world.
This all made for the most fun I’ve had with a story mode in the LittleBigPlanet series. Unfortunately the fun doesn’t last long as LBP3’s adventure only features three major worlds. Like I mentioned at the top, this is far from the only attraction in LittleBigPlanet. And like in the other games, co-op and collectibles add a good amount of replay value. But I still found myself disappointed with the brevity of Sackboy’s latest campaign.
The good news is that I see tons of potential for the new tools available here. A wonderful top-down level featuring a Yeti, some tweaks that allow for new movement capabilities between layers, and the new hub structure mean the possibilities for community levels are bigger than ever. Things like Mario’s recent 3D Land/World seem doable now and I look forward to seeing the kind of creations that the talented community comes up with in the next few months.