Reviews

‘LittleBigPlanet 3’ Review

LittleBigPlanet Screen 6

Platforms PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment Developer Sumo Digital

Genre Role-playing Game Platform Played PlayStation 4

LittleBigPlanet 3 is the first console installment of the franchise without developer Media Molecule at the helm. Instead, development studio Sumo Digital takes the reins to bring Sackboy and a wide array of new playable characters to PlayStation 4 for the first time.

The new additional playable characters handle amazingly well. Each new character offers a unique mechanic to explore – Toggle can switch between small and big variations for some excellent puzzle solving moments, Swoop can carry items and swiftly glide around obstacles, and Oddsock provides a fast paced gameplay experience. Each character is adorable in their own right and each character brings a fresh approach to the world of LittleBigPlanet.

The excellence of these new characters makes me wonder why they are so underutilised. Each character has one designated level they are able to play once unlocked and small sections within hub locations, but most of the time players will take control of Sackboy. There is also no option to use these characters in Sackboy levels, since they usually include climbable materials that only he is able to utilise. In the end it was easy to forget I had unlocked these new characters, until they randomly appeared in Adventure Mode cut scenes.

LittleBigPlanet Screen 4

LittleBigPlanet 3’s Adventure Mode introduces us to the new world of Bunkum, and the 1080p visuals of the PlayStation 4 make it look spectacular. Levels within Adventure Mode have an array of unique themes, ranging from a 50’s style diner to a vintage monster movie level. Bunkum was previously terrorised by three Titans, before the ancient heroes of Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop were able to seal them away and save the day. Newton, originally introduced as a friendly character, uses Sackboy in order to release the Titans to steal creativity for himself. Newton’s intentions were pure at heart, but when the Titans take over his body, Sackboy is forced to unlock the ancient heroes and stop Newton in his tracks.

Sumo Digital has made an effort to emphasise story, which includes fully voiced cut scenes. The new focus on story works well and when compared to previous entries in the series, LittleBigPlanet 3 is easily the most memorable narrative. Newton himself is also a memorable villain thanks to the excellent voice work of Hugh Laurie and even Stephen Fry returns to provide his usual strange but witty rants. Though they are now fully voiced, most side characters are regrettably forgettable; Newton is the only character that stands out throughout the ten hour Adventure Mode.

LittleBigPlanet veterans will notice a drastic change to how missions are unlocked. Instead of simply finishing each level and finding hidden items to unlock mini-games, every mission is now located within hub world locations. This new mechanic brought back memories of Super Mario 64, with levels strewn throughout the hub that need to be discovered before they can be accessed from the planet view. Each hub world also contains Collectabells, these gold bells can be collected and taken to Zom Zom’s Shop in exchange for a variety of adorable outfits. Collecting these items is not essential, but the adorable outfits provide an extra incentive to hunt them down.

LittleBigPlanet 3 Screen 8

Adventure Mode itself offers the usual addictive collection of stickers and items throughout each level, but there were many problems when playing multiplayer. A lot of the Adventure Mode levels feel like they have been created around solo play and are not optimised for cooperative play.

For example, there are many levels that have horrible respawn locations. Whenever a character dies they will respawn as soon as a new respawn point appears on screen. The problem with this system is that there are over half a dozen levels with respawn locations too close together or even previous points in view when progressing forward. This meant there were many levels where we encountered respawn loops, which caused the camera to struggle to determine which character to follow, causing many a death. There were a few levels that we found impossible to complete cooperatively. Despite playing each LittleBigPlanet installment with friends, this was the first encounter with such issues. It really is a shame, because when LittleBigPlanet 3 works well and level design allows for flawless cooperative play, it can offer a tremendous amount of fun; it’s unfortunate that these moments are usually far apart.

LittleBigPlanet 3 also suffers because it relegates too many actions to the same button. R1 controls Sackboy’s climbing, ability to grab other players, and the ability to utilise any power-up that you have equipped. This created a great deal of frustration because there were many times where Sackboy would not climb because he was firing his equipped power-up, or where Swoop would not glide because the controls decided to grab onto another player. These missteps often resulted in death. With so many buttons on the DualShock 4, the decision to assign so many actions to one button left me bewildered.

LittleBigPlanet 3 Screen 3

Unfortunately there were also many technical glitches encountered throughout LittleBigPlanet 3. These included getting stuck inside pieces of the environment, falling through the map, random deaths, and many problems with the new Sackpocket tool. The Sackpocket was designed to allow each power-up to be easily accessed while exploring, but it frequently failed to respond when switching power-ups. Power-up would also randomly be unequipped when coop partners used them at the same time when in close proximity to one another. In addition to that, the tools themselves would also not respond if our characters were too close. For example, the new Hook Hat would not allow both characters to grind a rail at the same time if the two characters were too close together – instead dropping one to their death. These are weird issues that truly made cooperative play a struggle, which is disappointing when LittleBigPlanet has always revolved around cooperative play with friends.

Aside from the issues with the new tools, many of the new additions are great fun. Boost Boots add an entire new element to levels, Blink Ball is fun and interesting, and the new Velociporters include a new Portal-like aspect to puzzle solving as you try to juggle your momentum to make it too hard to reach locations. With such a unique assortment of new tools, it was frustrating that playing with a friend seemed to make the game less fun than playing alone.

LittleBigPlanet 3’s creation suite is bigger and better than ever. Not only does it include previous franchise features such as the ability to create levels with save points, quests and more, but it also introduces a range of new options. Players can now create levels using 16 layers to add further depth to their creations, though this may seem overwhelming switching layers is simple and smooth. Players can also create their own power-ups using the new Blaster Handle, as well as controllable weather effects and the ability to create trailers for your own levels. Sumo Digital has built on the already impressive amount of tools to bolster the overall package. Factor in that every level ever created in previous LittleBigPlanet titles is available in LittleBigPlanet 3 and you have over 9 million levels and the potential for even more impressive levels going forward.

LittleBigPlanet 3 Screen 7

Though all these new options may seem overwhelming, LittleBigPlanet 3 contains an insane amount of video tutorials that aim to help those wanting to create understand the aspects of creation mode. Getting the most out of creation mode will take time and dedication, but those who truly invest will have the ability to make some magical creations.

LittleBigPlanet 3 also introduces Popit Puzzle Academy to further help players get a grip on the basic fundamentals of creation. These levels are much slower than the platforming aspects of Adventure Mode, but they act as a strong learning tool. Completing these levels forced me to interact with the world, editing variables and working with the creation tool set in order to progress. This is an excellent way to teach those who may have assumed creation mode was over their head, while also producing a unique contrast to Adventure Mode.

verdict

LittleBigPlanet 3 is an ambitious installment in the franchise. It’s easy to see Sumo Digital understand the charming thematic of the series and have hoped to build on that with the inclusion of interesting characters, while also bolstering what was already an impressive creation tool set. However LittleBigPlanet 3 lacks the polish of previous entries in the series and cooperative gameplay feels like it wasn’t given the attention it deserves, with Adventure Mode causing many frustrations with other players.

LittleBigPlanet 3’s ambition is appreciated, but the lack of overall polish and problematic cooperative gameplay are not.

The Good

  • Popit Puzzle Academy
  • Best story in the series
  • Impressive creation tool set gets bigger and better
  • New characters offer new gameplay elements…

The Bad

  • …But are sadly underutilised
  • Problematic cooperative gameplay
  • Technical issues

The Score: 7.5


Jamie Briggs manages Analog Addiction and you can like them on Facebook, follow his daily life on Twitter @JamieAA, and his videos on YouTube.

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