A Binge Gamer Re-Review: LittleBigPlanet
I remember first hearing about LittleBigPlanet. Initially I didn’t think much of it, but as I saw more and more of the game, I admittedly got a bit giddy:
“Man, that’s a freakin’ sweet physics engine!”
“Ooo! Wait a sec, so I get to MAKE MY OWN GAME?!?!”
“Oh, man! An original, next-gen, 2.5D platformer? It’s about damn time!”
And so on.
I was enticed by the title and—for some strange reason—Sackboy’s eerie, Tim Burton-esque cuteness. In other words, I was lured to the hype of LittleBigPlanet like a pack of rabid PS3 fanboys to a negative remark about their beloved Killzone 2.
I also remember hearing about the game’s recall, pushing the release date back a week. Of course, a few vendors flipped Sony the bird and sold the game anyway. So that night I set out on a quest to find me a copy that slipped through the cracks, despite already having a pre-order at Gamestop. I eventually found one—for $100. But maintaining some common sense, I waited and got a copy that Saturday.
The first time I played LBP, I was greeted with a boatload of installation and load times. Still, the gameplay was fun, and the interactive environment was a blast to explore. I loved it—for about two weeks. Then I stopped playing it.
Due to the broken online play, the frustration of certain levels, and a straight-up lack of interest, LBP lost my love. It was good, but I wasn’t as drawn to it as I’d hoped. And up until I decided to write this article, LBP hasn’t touched my PS3 aside from my desire to keep the patches up-to-date.
The hype behind LBP has pretty much tapered off since then, contrary to claims it would be the PS3’s Mario with Sackboy as the new PlayStation mascot. All I’ve heard lately is how some unlockables and custom levels were erased due to some bug, and how the game swept the AIAS Awards (which is actually kind of cool).
Oh, there are also plans for a PSP release, but let’s save that for another day.
I initially gave it a good review , but now that it’s had some time to sink in—and now that Media Molecule and the population of gamers who still support LBP have had about four months to work with the title—it’s only fair to give it another go and see if time has favored it.
Then - The gameplay was damn fun the first time around. LBP was challenging with responsive controls and offered a lot to explore and toy around with. It’s a next-gen platformer, so I got what I wanted. Plus the stage with the Skulldozer chase was fantastic. I must have played it about 50 times.
Still, some levels could be frustrating. Too often I would find myself climbing to the top of some obstacle course only to plummet to the bottom just to do it all again. At first, it was no big deal, but for some reason—as it happened more and more—the game began to aggravate me. Many will argue that perhaps I shouldn’t blame the game for my sucking and should man up. Typically I’d agree, but I’m seldom frustrated by a game, so this was kind of a big deal for me.
However, it was Sackboy’s cutesy antics, his customization options, and his willingness to leap into pits of fire for my entertainment that impressed me most. Lunging and climbing through each stage was like a scavenger hunt, and I loved being able to collect the hundreds of stickers, decorations, and costume additions.
Now - It’s still the same game, and it’s still fun.
However, I finally did come to understand what frustrates me about the game. It’s all that jumping.
True to any 2D platformer, there are a lot of jumps—which is fine. The problem is this: if you’re too close to the bottom of a ledge, you’ll never make it unless you take a step back first. Also, I often found myself getting stuck under blocks and items, needlessly slowing my progress through the level when all I wanted to do was make it to the end.
Don’t get me wrong, the play control is great and responds well. It’s easy to learn, and it’s easy to apply. But in a way, playing LBP feels like walking through a swamp with mud-filled shoes, and that’s just gross.
New Features and Stuff
Then - As mentioned, the amount of customization LBP offers is simply awesome. Every stage brings some new bundle of things to toy around with, so I never thought the game was lacking in replay value.
Now - It’s probably best to just make a list of all the new stuff I found this time around:
- The LittleBigStore - a place to buy all the costumes and trinkets available for download, conveniently placed in-game
- New music? - is it just me, or does a new tune play when looking at your profile, the news, and your friends list? Even if I’m wrong, it’s still catchy as all hell, much like the rest of the soundtrack.
- Survival Challenge levels - which were meh. The levels I played were featured levels created by players. While well designed, I grew bored after the first go. There was nothing really there to draw me back in for a second play.
- Loads of new costumes - but is this really that big of a deal?
Then - The user content around the time of launch was pretty much hit or miss. Some levels were fantastic (two that stand out in my mind are the Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Indiana Jones stages). Other levels, however, kind of sucked. The load times for user made levels were always very unpleasant.
Now - The load times are still very unpleasant. I guess that’s the price you pay for free content. The first level I tried (UNOFFICIAL SACKBOY COSTUMES (free stickers)—I’m a sucker for free stuff) took at least five more than ten minutes to boot up NEVER BOOTED UP! I mean, come on. Do I really have all day to wait around just so I can enjoy a level that will take me three minutes to play through?
So I tried Quickplay instead. Quickplay doesn’t lie, and I was connected right away. But the level I played was so frustrating and dark that I got mad, cursed a lot, and quit.
Then - The best damn part of the game, LBP was so much better with a friend. This was my icing on what I saw as a very pretty cake.
Now - While this still holds true, the online play wouldn’t even connect while playing with two players on the same console.
More importantly, we quickly found ourselves bored with the game. Though it is better with a friend, it’s still the same game, and it still has all the same faults, like the laggy online play.
Then - The god-awful lagging I keep talking about. This is all I remember about LBP’s online play. It was stressful, choppy, and as much as I wanted it to work, it didn’t. Plus, communication is impossible without a headset.
Now - Still lags, even with only one other player. Though my PS3 is routed through a wireless connection, I pay for the fastest internet available, and at the time, was the only person using the connection. Other games never give me problems, so I’m really not sure what the issue is. I know LBP has a lot of information to load up, but you’d think that since it’s a game built around user content, it’d work a bit more smoothly.
Getting connected with other players just isn’t worth the wait.
Then - Originally, when LBP first came out, I noticed tons of load times, especially upon booting the game. The load time before the load screen had to take at least a minute (maybe more, I never timed it), and times between levels were pretty shabby too. Sometimes it felt like I spent more time waiting for the game to load than actually playing it.
Now - Upon booting the game I was greeted with the latest update (v1.09) which took about seven minutes to download and install. Not too bad if you ask me. As for the initial load, it seemed much faster than I remember it. Between loading the game and connecting to the network, it took less than a minute. Excellent. It seems to me that load times within the game itself while disconnected from network play are fantastic.
Then - While good and fun, it just had too many flaws to keep me absorbed. The gameplay was often tedious, and the lag was just too much to bear at times. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good time while it lasted, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be the “never-ending” game experience Media Molecule was hoping for unless they can get their act together.
Of course, I had originally given it high marks. It wasn’t until a week or so later I realized my folly.
Now - Coming back for a second round, I’ll admit I had a good time. While the online play still seems to be a bit malfunctional, the single player and multiplayer modes are great. It’s a fun game, there’s no denying that.
Still, is it worth dropping $60 to own it? Eh, probably not. I’m glad I own it, but if you’re thinking of investing in LBP, I’d recommend renting it for at least a week just to be certain. I don’t consider it a must-buy, and while it’s not one of the greatest PS3 titles available, it’s certainly one of the better (read: few) exclusives and is worth a shot if you have the extra cash (or if curiosity is nipping at your wallet).
If anything, I kind of see this as becoming a cult-classic. Though it will never live up to the hype surrounding its release, it’s still a refreshing title that’s worth playing, even with those ridiculously long load times for the online levels. Plus it’s purdy.
Unfortunately for Sackboy, it looks like LBP will be hitting my shelf again and collecting dust for yet another four months—perhaps more. Oh, well. :: plays Street Fighter IV ::