Review: Play, Create, Share on the go!
For those of us who couldn't help but have a huge crush on a little fellow named Sackboy back in 2008, I have good news: now you can carry him anywhere you want, thanks to LittleBigPlanet for the PSP. SCE Cambridge Studio worked with the makers of the original LBP, Media Molecule, to transfer the essence of the game into a portable version. It's got everything you know and love from the original LittleBigPlanet ? fun platforming levels, puzzles, an incredible soundtrack, and tons of new costumes and stickers. Unfortunately, it also brought with it all of the frustration ? the moments where the controls are annoying enough to merit cuss words, the ?realistic? Sackboy physics that sometimes send you careening in directions you definitely didn't intend, and the sharp contrast between levels so hard you're gnashing your teeth ? and levels so easy you wonder if the developers have any idea who their target audience truly is.
As with the original, that LBP charm permeates every aspect of the game. The obligatory introductory scene is nothing fans aren't already completely familiar with ? the concept that dreams and ideas all travel up above our planet and form a place seemingly made of this pure magic. Technically, I guess I'd say it's really made up of prize bubbles, stickers, and total cute. The construction of the game is similar to the first one, though this time, the creator curators have not been kidnapped, but each one is linked together in asking you to find something for them from the next one. You have to find the genie in the lamp in one; a prince asks you for help clearing his name in another; and in my favorite level, Tinseltown, you're suddenly starring in a crazy science fiction movie and, when you're done filming, you're at the awards show, still saving the day.
The levels bring with them a laundry list of issues. There's no real cohesion here, not like there was in the first game. There's no overarching unity tying the whole story together. Each level is practically standalone ? the weak bridges between the stories barely hold up. Initially, I had fun with the game in a pleasant sort of way ? I felt the ideas behind the controls really lent themselves to the PSP, and I was glad to have another fresh adventure with Sackboy that didn't involve me scouring the PlayStation Network for something that wasn't ?Free Prize Bubbles!? or ?Get Free Costumes Here!? But after the first few, the game started to seem tedious, and I found myself just wanting it to be over. Tinseltown was the first time I felt like I was really back to enjoying myself, but even then, the difficulty level was frustratingly sporadic. The final level is a complete joke, and may just be the developers offering you some mindless gameplay after previous aggravations, but I felt shock ? albeit mingled with relief ? when the credits started rolling.
The graphics themselves are the same as the original, only now in a pint-sized version. The game is, as it always has been, cute and fun. You no longer have your ?pod? in the same traditional sense as the first game ? there's no way to cover it in stickers, or play with the PlayStation controller. One major (and unfortunate) change is that there is no zoom-in when you want to change costumes. This was always fun in the PS3 version ? you get some new costumes, open up your menu, and it zooms in on you as you play dress-up with all of your fun new stuff. But here, you're flying blind, squinting at the screen and wondering what it was you just picked up in that microscopic bubble anyway ? are those the boots? Is that the shirt? Added in is a helpful feature that shows you where you got the items, but you have to keep the cursor on it for a few moments to activate it, which felt like an annoying waste of time.
One additional comment on the gameplay is that the developers definitely borrowed some of their level-building mechanics from a few of the better user-created levels on the PSN. One of my favorite users, YAMAME3, seemed to be the inspiration for more than a few new mechanics, though I can't be certain that was where SCE Cambridge got those ideas. (For anyone who is interested, the level I'm referring to is "Distress in Ocean," by far the best user-created level I've ever played.)
No LBP review would be complete without commenting on the music. The soundtrack is perfect, and while there are few that can rival the original, this one does a good job of living up to a junior version of the game. One song especially, "The Good Life" by the band The Week That Was, was so lovely I ended up looking it up online the next day. A+ to the developers for keeping that aspect spot on. My main question, as with the original, is: will they ever release an actual soundtrack? The first LBP never had a formal soundtrack, although they did release a score entitled Little BIG Music: Musical Oddities From And Inspired By Little Big Planet by The Daniel Pemberton TV Orchestra, who did some of the original music in the game. But where's the soundtrack that includes the first game's other terrific songs, including Cafe Tacuba's "Volver a Comenzar," Jim Noir's "My Patch," or the theme song, the Go! Team's "Get it Together," which Microsoft controversially used in an Xbox Live commercial? One can only hope that someday, both LBP and LBP PSP will have soundtracks, but until then, at least there are places on the Internet where the song lists can be found.