LBP For Hardcore Gamers

LittleBigPlanet, the cute platformer and the PS3 poster-child has been on the shelves for a little while now and many of us have been playing through the story mode and getting to grips with the create side of things. Obviously there are a few minor problems with the game but there are dedicated posts for me to whine in here, here and here rather than this one.

Following Glennpfc’s excellent feature on whether LittleBigPlanet can be the PS3s first mainstream game, I’ve decided to put forward an alternative view point:

LittleBigPlanet is almost exclusively for hardcore gamers!

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Glennpfc’s feature talks about Sackboy as a potential system shifter, something capable of reaching out beyond the traditional PS3 user demographic and appealing to the mass market strongly enough to entice people to buy the PS3 over its rivals, and whilst I agree the potential is there for Sackboy to just that I don’t believe it will be in this edition of LBP that will see people ditching their Wiis, 360s (& PS2s) to come and buy a PS3.  Why?  I’ll tell you.

Play.

Playing through the story mode is great, the imagination and creativity of the content is amazing, the way the game gently eases you in is very well done. The slightly spongy controls don’t matter as there is nothing too dangerous around, and the occasional slip up with the z-axis isn’t ever fatal, at first. In fact I believe the (very slight) lack of precision on the jump controls actually help first time gamers, as Sackboy hangs in the air that bit longer than maybe experienced gamers are used to.

So far so good for the mass market? Yes, but (and its a big but) once the early levels are are out of the way and you progress to the different curators and the difficulty level is ramped up, there aren’t many children or girlfriends that will be able to get through the 3rd zone and beyond, or even the 2nd zone for that matter. There are hazards and dangers everywhere, and Sackboy’s floating jumps cause a few more problems than they did in the early levels as most jumps require a bit of precision.

I don’t mean to place to much emphasis on the controls because they aren’t really that much of an issue, it’s just that for complete gaming beginners beyond The Gardens, is I believe way too hard.  Once the novelty of Sackboy’s cuteness has worn off and you’ve heard all the amazing Stephen Fry has to say, I think that most casual gamers will be finished with LBP in play mode, not with Sackboy, but with LBP.

Create.

Now we all know that LBP isn’t really for playing, but for creating, and playing other’s creations.  This is where the game really isn’t open to beginners. First off creating a masterpiece takes time and a lot of planning, so going down the masterpiece route is only going to appeal to those who are willing to commit to the game, in terms of ability as well as dedication to think out a level (that has nothing even remotely to do with anyone else’s IP).

But more than that, think what you know as a gamer think of the knowledge you have built up over years of playing video games, for example when I see a platform moving up and down which my character has landed on and another platform moving away from it horizontally I know to jump on the platform as quickly as possible or to stand and wait for it’s return before jumping on it.  Think of a time when there are a couple of enemies on the screen in any game, in a platform game I know that most enemies follow a predetermined path and repeat them selves, so I wait and see what pattern it follows before attacking it, but in a 3rd or 1st person game if you see an enemy I know it’s best to take the MoFo’s out as quickly as possible.

How do I know about platforms, pits, firetraps, patterns, enemies etc.? It’s down to years and years of gaming, I just know these things, I know what to expect and therefore what I must do to get between the 2 platforms or tackle the enemy. Does my Mum or Dad know these things, or my 5 year old or even my Grandad? No they don’t, and without this knowledge they are never going to create a masterpiece level in LBP

What about creating a simple level?  Well I don’t think the game is that accessible on a simple level either.  Lets take creating a very simple level, from the start you have to jump over a smallish obstacle, run up a slope, jump and grab a bit of sponge and swing over a fire to the finish line. How many people’s Mums, Dad, kids or Grandparents could do that? The techniques involved are simple, well to the games designers, myself and most probably everyone who reads TSA.

But to a non gamer they are practically impossible. What do I have to do? The Popit menu? Which button is that again… Now which option do I press? Tools? Which one is that? And then they quit the Popit menu and everything they’ve just done falls on to the floor (which occasionally still happens to me) and this carries on an on until you rip the controller out of their hands and beat them to death with it.

Share.

After unsuccessfully trying to get a family member to Create anything, you show them that you can download any level someone else has created. With apparently 84,000 levels so far, something for everyone? Unfortunately not, with the levels being split 50:50 both utter crap & gaming genius.

Personally, as a gamer I can see merit in them all, there is an amazing amount of fun to be had in collecting a million points (for a Trophy) or being catapulted into oblivion on a flying skateboard, and some of the levels are so cunning, devious and twisted they have been created by gaming gods who know all about levers, switches, moving platforms, enemies and other things that make a game great, but for a first time gamer there is less to see here than in the main game.  And most of those won’t care about the majority of the first page’s levels being all about Trophies.

So LittleBigPlanet has been put on a pedestal for us all to worship, the second coming which will save us all and help the PS3 see off the 360 and gain business from the Wii?  I don’t think so, as far as the Wii is concerned anyway.  Look at Mario Kart fWii, it contains fun characters, elements of competition, a wireless controller slotted into a plastic steering wheel, This truly is a game for 5 year olds, grandparents and the whole family, why? Well what gaming skills are needed? None really you just turn the wheel the direction you want to go in.

One of the most ground-breaking advancements in gaming technology has appeared in some of EA’s sports game on the Wii, take Fifa ’09 All Play.  Basically if you are playing a two player game between yourself (experienced gamer) and your five year old daughter, you set the game so that you control all the normal football stuff with your team, but the other players team you can set it to a more limited level of control for example all the players are computer controlled and the novice player just has to press pass or shoot occasionally, and everything is handled for them.

This means, you the gamer with years of gaming experience can play a competitive match with a first time player and even though you are a thousand times better than them, the gaming experience brings you together in a competitive tight game. This is accessible gaming, and thats why they call it All Play.

This little feature of mine isn’t meant to be negative about LBP at all, in fact I whole heartedly believe TSA’s 10/10 unmissable score is correct and I urge every PS3 owner to go out and buy it. It is great, and really is unmissable the potential is huge and it’s great fun doing it, well done MM & Sony. I believe Sackboy’s likeability transcends the game, he could make an appearance anywhere and it would draw a smile. Sackboy is hopefully here to stay (exclusively) and I’d love to see him in as many places as possible, even different types of game.

But as far as LBP’s appeal to reach out to a whole new demographic for the PS3, I can’t see it because once the first week is out of the way, LBP is an unmissable game for gamers, but offers very little to the absolute beginner, other than a smile on their face at Sackboy’s antics.

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