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Review

Review: LittleBigPlanet PSP

Sackboy goes portable, and it's all rather yummy.

Cutting no corners, Sony Cambridge have managed to cram almost everything that made LittleBigPlanet such a loveable, charming game on the PlayStation 3 onto the PlayStation Portable.  Visual polygon shifting limitations are one thing when porting in this direction, but the supremely talented developers have not only managed to overcome the PSP’s notably weaker graphical prowess but have also retained the wonderful sense of character that the PS3 version had, the same level of audio and, for the most part, and most importantly, the notion of Play, Create, Share.

Really, this is stunning stuff.  Sure, Sackboy now only has two planes to move in and out of rather than three and the lower pixel resolution means you won’t get quite the same feeling that everything’s built from natural materials but apart from the surprising (and disappointing) lack of multiplayer, this is basically LittleBigPlanet 2, only on a handheld rather than a console.  It’s a new story, with brand new levels, there’re new objects and clothing, new music, re-done voiceovers (again with Stephen Fry) and even a few new features of its own.

It’s hard not to be impressed, then.

There’s no smarmy quip here, no hidden negative – LittleBigPlanet PSP is great.  From the very off, the production values are through the roof and the rotating menu structure, which gradually reveals itself as you progress through the story so as not to overwhelm, is smart and sophisticated. The story, which forms much of the single player experience, is just as good as the PS3 version with levels loosely based on locations around the globe and doesn’t shy in ramping up the difficulty level as you make your way through Australia, China, Egypt and so on.

If you’ve played LittleBigPlanet on the PS3, you’ll know exactly what to expect here – on screen principal characters deliver tasks to Sackboy, the cute, customisable pile of cloth, and you’re left to bound around increasingly convoluted levels trying to find the goal.  Along the way are countless hazards, loads of secret areas,  masses of bonus bubbles and piles of collectables, which include stickers, items of clothing and, crucially, various building materials for when the game’s wonderful Create mode presents itself to you a couple of levels in.

So, apart from a stupid issue with jumping vertically near an object, which normally results in Sackboy only leaping half as high, the platforming’s actually rather brilliant.  Capturing the essence of its big brother almost perfectly, LittleBigPlanet PSP’s single player story mode is great fun to play through, and repeated play is essential if you want to collect absolutely everything the game has to offer.  It’s a shame it’s a solitary experience, though, because the PS3 version really came alive with friends, but it’s single player only so there’s no point dwelling on it.

Where the game really shines is in the Create mode.  Echoing the PlayStation 3 version would have appeared to be an unsurmountable challenge, but Sony Cambridge’s grasp of the PSP technology has meant that the portable version offers almost exactly the same level of user-created freedom as last year’s title, and in some cases there’s even more bits and bats to use when building your level.  Some elements are a little confusing at first (the basic building blocks are tricky to size, for one) but the essentials are the same: if you can imagine it, you can create it.

From slabs of wood to complex mechanical machines with pistons, wires and switches, we’re hopeful that the community will be responsible for some incredible level designs.  Sadly, at the time of going to press the online portion of our review code was disabled, so we’ve no idea what’s already out there (and we couldn’t upload any of our own creations) but it appears that community levels are stored locally once downloaded on the PSP, as opposed to having to connect live to the servers each and every time you wanted to play an amateur level.

It’s all rather splendid, if I’m honest. I’d be happy enough to recommend the game if it only shipped with the Play portion, but the comprehensive level designer really is the icing on the cake and Sony have clearly pushed the boat out with what’s just as important a PSP game as anything from the publisher, and that includes Gran Turismo, Motorstorm and Loco Roco.  In the absence of a true sequel for the PS3 version, LittleBigPlanet PSP deserves to be a massive success and will hopefully help shift a few PSPs in the process.  Great stuff.

Pros:

  • It’s LittleBigPlanet, in your hand.
  • Looks great, controls well enough.
  • The Create mode is stunning given the host platform.
  • You can make Sackboy look like the Prince of Persia.  Or Crocodile Dundee.  Or…

Cons:

  • There’s no multiplayer.
  • Some of the later levels needed a tiny bit more playtesting to smooth out the bugs.
  • Load times can grate a little, even off the memory stick.

This time last year the PSP was starved of decent, AAA games.  Twelve months later and the situation is very different indeed, and with LittleBigPlanet the portable PlayStation has changed from something that played Everybody’s Golf into an absolute must-have games console.  Tremendous fun, with literally endless potential if the online community picks up on the game – sure, there’s a few bugs with the bigger, more complicated levels and it’s a shame you can’t play locally with a mate, but this is brilliant stuff, and essential for fans of the genre. 9/10

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