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Review

LittleBigPlanet 3 Review

Run, jump, climb, leap, shrink, fly, play.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that LittleBigPlanet 3 would play it safe, with Sumo Digital at the helm instead of the series’ creators at Media Molecule, but in many ways this is the most adventurous game in the series since the first hit the PlayStation 3 in 2008. The biggest and most noticeable difference isn’t actually a single addition, but rather three… and a half.

Yes, Sackboy’s got a bunch of new friends, the speedy dog named Oddsock, the bird called Swoop and the big and jolly Toggle – the half being the slightly less jolly miniature version of Toggle. Combined, they offer up tons of new options for level creators to play with, thanks to their greatly altered style of movement.

Oddsock bounds through the world, able to jump off walls and slide down them, even. Toggle is heavier and slower than the rest, but at the tap of a shoulder button can switch to a smaller form to fit through tiny gaps, and suddenly weighs so little that you can run on water. Swoop, to put it quite plainly, can fly.

Suddenly, it makes Sackboy’s running and jumping seem rather ordinary. Sumo have seen fit to give you a whole host of new power-ups and abilities to play with. Firstly, Sackboy can now clamber up certain walls, but within the new Sack Pocket you’ll find things like the Pumpinator for blowing things about, or the Hook Hat which lets you latch on to bendy rails that can take in and out of layers with consummate ease.

LBP3-RIL3

To accomodate all of these new characters and toys, the game’s story quite necessarily takes on a new form. Rather than the very linear adventure with unlockable offshoots, your quest to save the little world of Bunkum sees you travelling to and exploring three main hub world, with a mixture of story levels and side challenges for you to hunt out and discover as you play.

Each of the hubs focusses on your attempts to find the marbles and restore one the three heroes of Bunkum – Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop – but there’s also a lot more incentive to go back and explore. As you unlock the new power-ups, you’ll be able to reach new places in previous areas, and it’s a delight to see the hubs again while playing with their respective new characters.

Yet it does feel like there’s something missing from the story as a consequence of this. Once you get past the obligatory introductory levels, the main story really isn’t all that long compared to previous games, and the side levels don’t quite make up the numbers either. It’s also a little disappointing that almost as soon as you unlock a character, you’re off to the next area to find the next character and are suddenly back to playing as Sackboy. With single player the focus, it also fails to explore the potential for mixing the characters in co-op.

Then there’s the sadness I feel that that Hugh Laurie voices the character of Newton, but never interacts with the omniscient voice of Stephen Fry. There’s only a handful of Creator Curators in the world this time – such as the wonderfully named Marlon Random – but they’re brought their voices out from the cutscenes and into the levels, which alongside the improvements to the graphics, really make this feel like a step up in quality.

LBP3-RIL4

The story is really more of a whistle stop tour of all of the new whizz-bang features in the game, that are being made available to the dedicated and talented community. Beyond the characters and gadgets, the game world can now extend into the background for 16 layers and shuffling the action between them is made much easier thanks to slides, layer launchers, Velociporters and more. Making space for all the extra level geometry is the ability to banish the dreaded thermometer, though this puts the tools to bypass potential RAM limits by loading new level areas from the hard drive in your hands.

Then there’s tools so that you too can create your own hub worlds and fully formed adventures, the object physics tweaker, the Broadcast Microchip, and you can even create your own power-ups with the Blaster Handle and attached microchips. With so many new tools, it’s more daunting and confusing than ever for newcomers to try and learn their way around, so Sumo have added the 14 levels of Popit Puzzles, to first give you a grounding or refresher in some of the basics of using the Popit, thanks to the play and create merging Popit Powerup which will actually let you create your own Popit Puzzles.

They are, of course, accompanied by streaming tutorial videos that go into much greater depth on each tool within the game – also viewable using a Vita, phone or tablet as a second screen. By default though, you’re limited to a still very powerful subset of tools within the game, which locks off some of the more advanced logic from LBP2 and the more expansive parts from LBP3. These measures help a little, but it’s still going to be a hugely daunting task to create a level you feel is worth sharing.

LBP3-RIL5

If you do share a level, you’ll be dropping it into a sea of 9 million other levels, thanks to the backwards compatibility – a big reason why Sackboy’s jump is still as floaty as before, though it does feel a little better on the DualShock 4. The interface for browsing levels has been overhauled, and helping you to stand out from the crowd, you can now attach a 30 second video to your level using ShareFactory and footage from the Share button – this is one of the very few features exclusive to the PS4.

Disappointingly, opening and navigating the Popit can often cause the game to noticeably drop a frame or two, which quickly becomes rather annoying when creating a level. It’s accentuated even further when playing online co-op, where picking up any sticker for the first time or if either of us opened up the Popit, there would be a major lag spike that could often get us killed. With the game out today in the US, and no mention of this in the day one patch notes, hopefully this can be fixed for next week’s EU release, and I should note that re-playing a level without stickers saw no lag spikes.

What’s Good:

  • Sackboy’s new friends and new power ups.
  • The story structure really encourages you to go back and explore.
  • Popit Puzzles are a great creation tutorial.
  • Vast array of new creation tools and possibilities.
  • Full backwards compatibility to all the community levels and DLC.

What’s Bad:

  • Frame skips and lag for sticker pick ups and opening the Popit, especially when playing online co-op.
  • Story feels short and doesn’t really explore the new characters too well.
  • Creating levels is still a daunting prospect.

LittleBigPlanet 3 is a quite major step forward for the series. The story might not explore all of the potential, but briefly shines a light on what the new possibilities might be for those making their own levels. The wide array of new tools, the removal of limitations and addition of new characters and power-ups will all serve to empower the community to reach new heights.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4

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8 Comments
  1. Lyts1985
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    Nice review, but I can’t help but feel “done” with LBP now. LBP2 felt like it could’ve been an add-on to the first to me. Also, I’ve next to no interest in creating levels so the story is the only draw for me and to read that it seems short and doesn’t even fully explore the new characters’ potential is a disappointing turn-off.

    I’ll be sitting this one out… Good review though :-)

    Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 07:30.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Same here, after playing LBP1, 2 and LBP Vita, I can’t take anymore, even with the addition of Sackboys’ friends. With the backlog of games I have, there’s no room for the 4th addition of a series that doesn’t really grab me – in the sense that there’s no real/engaging story, and it’s essentially just a platformer. Am sure people will still enjoy it, and I will miss the creative side. But on the plus side, I won’t have to play the lagging MP or Ace any frustrating levels! :)

      Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 09:23.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Playing with Blair, the only lag we had was when collecting new stickers and opening the popit. Whether it’s faster internet connections than 2011 or the PS4’s added grunt, the rest of the time was pretty much spot on and lag free.

        Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 10:56.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        That’s good to hear, although seeing as it’s not 12 vs 12 MP, should there really be any lag at all?

        There’s a chance I may still pick this up, although it’ll be for my son, not me ;)

        Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 11:03.
  2. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    “Backwards compatible” Little Big Planet and runs on PS4 means this is a 10/10 game for me!

    Time to drop hint after hint ahead of Christmas.

    The amount of tools and the possibilities the characters add mean that the new levels produced by the community are going to be insane. The ‘story’ mode was only ever the introduction…

    Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 08:24.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Same here. We’ve spent a small fortune on costumes for the little bugger, let alone loving the games so far. I’m a bit disappointed with the story lacking somewhat but I’m sure it’ll be lovely. Perhaps I’ll just wait a bit until picking it up. It’ll also give the community time to create something wonderful too. We’re hoping to get a PS4 at Christmas so will look to the New Year when prices feel a bit more palatable.

      Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 11:20.
  3. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Lovely stuff, finally going to have access to all those LBP levels on PS4!

    Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 11:26.
  4. Osyrhia
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    I never really cared for the story, just preferred to create and hang out with people. Just hope the game doesn’t crash too much or gets abandoned.

    Comment posted on 18/11/2014 at 18:12.
LittleBigPlanet 3
  • Developer:Sumo Digital
  • Publisher:SCE
  • Platforms:PS4, PS3
  • Release Date:28/11/14
16 hours ago
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