Review: LittleBigPlanet 3

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Over the past few years LittleBigPlanet and Sackboy have become household names among the PlayStation brands, but does Sumo Digital’s first take on the franchise hold up to its predecessors? Sackboy and his friends enter both the old and current generation with this next chapter in the LittleBigPlanet franchise.

BANNER_LITTLEBIGPLANET3_0001_STORYLittleBigPlanet up to this point has never been a plot-heavy franchise. The games always contained a light and simple story that showcased its style and gameplay mechanics in a fun and imaginative way, but LittleBigPlanet 3 adds a little more to the mix by adding a more expansive plot with full-voiced NPC’s during cutscenes and gameplay.

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LittleBigPlanet 3’s story initiates as Sackboy (who remains unvoiced) is exploring Craftworld and gets sucked into a portal to another dimension. In this dimension Sackboy discovers the world of Bunkum, in which he is tasked to help and save it from having all of its creativity stolen. During this journey he meets numerous characters, including Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop, who each have talents of their own and aid Sackboy during his journey throughout Bunkum, albeit in limited amounts, which is a little disappointing considering their abilities are very fun to use.

The story’s main antagonist is Newton (voiced by Hugh Laurie), a citizen of Bunkum who wishes to help his home world with the aid of Sackboy. Due to an unforeseen twist Newton’s allegiance is turned and Sackboy and the gang have to stop his nefarious plans before Bunkum’s creativity is completely rid of. The story isn’t particularly expansive or groundbreaking, but it’s perfect in the sense of tone and structure. The story perfectly showcases the warm and creative world of LittleBigPlanet, and this is reflected in both the writing, the stages and the characters themselves. One of the first doubts I had about LittleBigPlanet 3 was the fact that MediaMolecule wasn’t around for the story itself at least, but Sumo Digital has created a title that fits right in with the previous titles, in tone, writing and style. LittleBigPlanet’s world is all kinds of weird and unique, and the writing truly reflects this in a great way.

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From sequences akin to what you’d expect from the franchise, to surreal 50’s movie-sets and Eastern-European/Christmas themed levels, the story takes us through enough variety in a story that will take most players about 5-6 hours to finish, with a few additional hours that can be spent should players wish to collect all bonus items/objectives. Whilst the game will mostly be spent in creative mode and user-created levels, the story is definitely worth playing through at least once, and doesn’t act as filler material.

PRESENTATIONLittleBigPlanet has never been a true powerhouse when it comes to the graphics department, but it’s always been quite a nice looking franchise due to its cuddly art direction and textures, which seem to pop in different ways depending on the level/environment design. At first glance the game doesn’t seem to differ all that much from LittleBigPlanet 2, but in general the game does seem to look a lot more polished. (Once again noting, this applies to the PlayStation®4 version, as we haven’t reviewed its last generation counterpart.) In general textures have been improved, and models do look a tad bit more detailed than what we’ve seen from the franchise in the past. Sackboy in particular looks vastly improved, and it’s truly a nice sight to see the details of the fabric and zipper on this greatly-designed character.

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Geometry isn’t always perfectly modelled throughout the game, but in general this does seem to flow well with the arts and crafts artstyle that the franchise is based on, with cardboard, foam and similar objects forming the main base of most objects. The detail in textures as noted earlier has been heavily improved, and materials and characters pop even more thanks to these improvements, which affects both the creative mode and gameplay in general, because as good as the game might look, it’s also important that what you can do with it looks good as well. The lighting engine seems to have benefitted from the new hardware as well, and this is actually a nice improvement for the gameplay as well as it gives you a lot more of options when it comes to designing your own levels. LittleBigPlanet 3 doesn’t push the PlayStation®4’s hardware in any way, but it’s a nice looking game none the less.

The game is presented in 1080p, and runs at a frame rate of 30 frames per second. The latter was applied due to the fact that the game can share its levels with the PlayStation®3 version of the game, and this limitation erases the possibility of differences in gameplay throughout both versions. I’ll get back on this matter in the gameplay section due to its application.

GAMEPLAYLittleBigPlanet has never been a simple platformer, and this is due to the endless possibilities that the game hands players, or should I say creators in this instance. At its core LittleBigPlanet 3 plays like you’d expect a platformer to, albeit the controls are a lot floatier than most new players will be accustomed to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a tad bit annoying during platforming at first, and for returning players it should pretty much be routine. The game is filled with several existing and new mechanics, which are used throughout the story, and each of them available to players to use in their own creations.

=SCREEN_;BP3_0004_Layer 6Players have control over four characters: Sackboy, Toggle, Oddsock and Swoop. Toggle, Oddsock and Swoop as stated earlier are newcomers to the franchise, and each of them has a unique ability that add some nice new mechanics to the game. However, the downside is the fact that the characters aren’t used that much during the story mode at all. All 3 new characters are given introduction levels, a boss and then maybe a few more moments, but their levels are seemingly limited compared to the amount of time we spend as Sackboy. Of course you can use the characters as much as you want in creative mode, but for players who choose to stick to the story it might be disappointing that we don’t get to spend more time with these characters than we end up doing in the end.

This doesn’t change the fact that LittleBigPlanet 3 is a well-designed platformer, that does occasionally suffer from some technical issues, including freezes that either push you back to the system menu or freeze the system altogether. The perks of spending a longer period of time with a game and reviewing it late is the fact that you can spend more time analyzing these technical issues, and some of the bigger issues were patched out since release, but players might still experience some issues throughout the game. These issues are pretty random though, and it’s possible some players may experience more problems than others. The other thing here is the fact that the game has been limited to 30 frames per second. This was done in order to make user-created content cross-compatible between the PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®4 versions of the game. This was a pretty good move in the sense that it creates a bigger selection of available content for players, but it also limits the fidelity of the game itself. I’m not saying that the game definitely should’ve been displayed at 60 frames per second on this system though, as the framerate isn’t completely stable as is, which is more of a technical problem rather than the technological limits of the hardware. The results don’t make the game unplayable, but it doesn’t always help the floaty controls when you combine scenarios.

Of course we’ll end off discussing the most important aspect of the game: creative mode, which is arguably the heart and soul of the franchise. As charming as it is to go through the great story mode, creating your own adventures is just as, if not more satisfying. The level editor has been expanded even more in this iteration, with one of the biggest changes being the fact that the player/creator now has 21 levels of depth available to create levels, rather than the simple 3-level design that the franchise has retained up to this point. The result is a bit jarring at first, but after  playing around with the tools for a short while I already saw a whole world of possibilities that opened up thanks to the larger three-dimensional space.

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The game has also greatly expanded its creative arsenals, and players are presented with even more tools to create their own levels/mini-games. Returning creators will without a doubt have a much easier time to design their creations, but newcomers will most likely be a bit intimidated by the more sophisticated tools that the game provides. The learning curve isn’t extremely steep, but it’s definitely a long road to master all the tools, which can be a put off-putting for some considering the fact that it might be frustrating to coherently create your vision with the editor.

If you should wish to player creations rather than create your own, LittleBigPlanet 3 has you covered with a constantly-growing library that covers creations from all three LittleBigPlanet games. Not only does the game provide cross-compatibility with past titles, but all dlc from the previous games is available within the game, should you have purchased it of course. All unowned DLC is available through the in-game store, and the library is constantly growing with both original and licensed dlc.

NOTE: LittleBigPlanet 3 levels are not playable in LittleBigPlanet 1&2 on PlayStation®3. LittleBigPlanet 1&2 user created content is available in LittleBigPlanet 3 on PlayStation®4. User created content in LittleBigPlanet 3 is available on both PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®4.

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