What Do You Mean My Sack Looks Like A Girl?
I know it's been a long time coming but you know I do have a life outside of this blog, which surprisingly takes up a teeny bit of my time. Anyway the game isLittle Big Planet, if you've never heard of it, chances are you were looking for some kind of astronomy article and not, as it were, a game review. Alas if you have read this far your probably in the right place.LBPis the second venture from the guys at Media Molecule, whom you may know from their previous titleRagdoll Kung Fu. A little known, low budget indie gem that combined the endless joy of ragdoll physics and floppy limbs, with the not really as fun repetitiveness of the fighting genre. Somehow managing to create something in which the fighting was actually enjoyable for more than about five minutes. With this achievement under their belts they decided to move on to bigger and better things, this time combining ragdoll with the platformer (clearly there fond of physics engines). The end result is what you find before you, LBP.
The real appeal however, does not lie with the gameplay itself, instead what's interesting about the game is the way it leans so heavily towards the community aspects of gaming i.e. content sharing, creativity, expression, freedom, networking, etc. Things that are usually associated with, aimed at and found amongst PC gamers. What Media Molecule have attempted to do in bringing these elements of gaming to the console world is genuinely ground breaking and warrants a great deal of acclaim. The question is, were they successful in achieving their goal?At the core of the game is a very solid, enjoyable platformer. It may be lacking in terms of difficulty, but it's debatable as to whether or not that's even a bad thing. The game sees you play as Sack Boy, who in terms of gaming icons is already up there with Mario and Lara. The "Planet" itself consists of different continents, each with it's own theme and ****of the levels and enemies. Every continent has around 3 or 4 levels plus unlockable side missions which are effectively mini games that utilize the games creative tools. This is all explained to you by what gametrailers.com called a friendly british voice, but who I instantly recognised as the legendary Stephen fry.
The game is essentially like any platformer, there is an extremely loose story leading you from location to location, and you follow blindly with an inexplicable sense of duty and self-worth. Levels are basically a series of obstacles to be traversed or overcome, whilst enemies are killed with a sonic-esque jump on the head. Alone the gameplay and story are decent, but with a bunch of friends this game really can be very fun to play.
Ever since it's announcement, there has been huge hype surroundingLittle Big Planet'slevel creator. It's goal was to simplify content creation, whilst enabling gamers to create anything they could imagine. They did this by introducing a set of fun and unique tools and materials to work with, as opposed to the pages of code and numbers real programers have to deal with. In fact the system works very well, the number of options can be very daunting at first, as you really don't know where to start. But after a load of tutorials from Mr Fry himself, which I highly recommend if you want to create anything worth while, and a play through the story levels for some inspiration, you really do begin to experiment and create truly strange things.
Already gamers have begun to create jaw droppingly complex and beautiful levels, based on all sorts of things, from toilets and gardens, to games and movies likeMirror's EdgeandDark Knight. The tools themselves are extremely user friendly, most actions are done with the 'x' button with the analog sticks and shoulder buttons only used for some rotating and resizing. And once your used to them there actually quite easy and fun to use, and although the process is time consuming (played for 4 hours just creating a level, felt like 30 mins), it really does fly by, and is worth it to see other people playing and enjoying your levels.
Presentation is clearly something that has had a lot of time and energy put into it, there is a definite personality to the games appearance. From the cardboard cut out enemies to the, felt solar system and customizable box space pod. The emphasise is on customization, fun and creativity. As a result, the game does have a very kiddy vibe, and any non-gamer would assume it belonged on the Wii; and the truth is it would feel right at home on the Wii, stylistically and thematically it is perfectly suited to Nintendo's console and target audience, but Sony would never allow it.
Don't let it's child like manner decieve you,LBPis a very grown up hardcore/casual hybrid of a game. And this is true of it in every aspect, from its mature ambitions to the genuinely great graphics. As all surfaces in the game are based on real life, house hold materials, a great deal of effort has been put into making the appear as they do in reality. The physics are second to none aswell, as constantly boasted at gaming events, they focused heavily on the physics, and it shows, they sharpened their skills onRagdoll Kung Fuand implemented them excellently here.However, under this vail of pleasant colours and shapes is a half finished online world, it should have been called 'Loosley Pulled Together Planet'. This game is plagued with network flaws, difficulties and glitches. You could accuse me of basing this just on my connection, but go on any forum, read any other review, you will see I am not alone. Now several updates have been released in attempts to rectify these setbacks, but it is still far too difficult to connect to other players, share content, even find other content, anything. This was Sony's big chance to prove to us they were as internet savvy as microsoft, and the sad truth is, it has not worked. Yes I can join my friends games, but try and join a random one in quick play, and you'll be lucky if it even loads the level with you alone in it.
On the content side of things, the system has held up reasonably well. Except that there are hundreds of levels being created and published, and there is only ever about 20 on offer to quick play every time. Until recent updates, the search functions rely solely on 'tags'. These are in game labels you give to a level once you've finished it. Yes you've always been able to rate and comment on levels, but they seemed to be irrelevant in the networking process. One positive is that the game makes it very easy to get lost in different peoples planets. By this I mean you only have to find one player to see there levels, played levels, favourite levels, who made those levels, who made their favourite levels, who made their favourite level makers's favourite level, and so on. This slightly made up for the limited search functions, but the game has now been updated to include highest rated, most played and newest categories as well as others, plus you can now enter any text to search exactly what you want.
This game really exposes how far behind sony are in terms of having a fully integrated online service. "Sure I can surf the net, but I can't find my gaming friends." Yes the v2.40 update took a huge leap in catching up with Xbox Live, but right now PSN just doesn't compare, especially since the NXE has rejuvenated Microsofts console, and made it even more of a streamlined online gaming experience. It's all well and good to have a console that doesn't brake down, but you there's more to it than reliability. What would you rather have, a ferrari that might brake down, or a Honda that won't.
The game has some almost crippling flaws, but still manages to provide and an extremely fun and quite ground breaking gaming experience. If you have friends over a lot, the online problems may not pose as much trouble and in that case this is a purchase, otherwise I suggest renting it before you hand over your cash.
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