killzoned's LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3) review

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When Littlebiplanet was announced, some people thought Baah, Children's game or maybe it's another one of those Nintendo Wii Rip offs. Littlebigplanet was thought to be a extremley pointless and shallow game, no one would have the guts to mention Littlebigplanet to Xbox Fanboys and expect to come out of the Forum alive. Let's face it Littlebigplanet was a laughingstock underpinning its announcement. Well rest assured Littlebigplanet even hearts the maturity side of gamers and is more of a unique game than so called gimmicky. Very few games like Littlebigplanet deliver however Littlebigplanet does deliver.

Well, what most of you might ask is, what is Littlebigplanet? It's hard to describe what Littlebigplanet exactly is except that it's just fun, fun, fun. One aspect that makes Littlebigplanet so fun is easily the intricate level design, no level is rushed and while there is limited space, there is a huge array of volume to mess around with and what the creators have done is cram everything possible into this space, nothing feels bland nor does anything feel the urge to be improved. The levels stand exactly what Littlebigplanet is for, imagination and thought. This also inspires you to create your own levels, there are seven acts. Each of which contain varied environments, for the first act "The Gardens" is all peaceful and greenery while a contrast to the third act "The Wedding" to a creepy and spooky environment. Although there is disappointment to be found, unfortunately like most level inspired games, Littlebigplanet has some level inconsistencies, for example the fourth act "Boom Town" is alot harder than the fifth act "Metropolis". Despite this, on the most part the difficulties are rightly tuned and paced.

Littlebigplanet also features mini-games whereby for each act you complete you'll receive three mini-games. Some are favoured over others but you'll definitely want to try out each one at least once because each one is so well crafted and made. Some are just plain fun while others may seem highly addictive based on the way you score. They are nice subtle touches which help Littlebigplanet become even more the compelling.

An extra which really enhances your replay value are Prize Bubbles-They can range from Creatures to Stickers. Whatever it may be, you're going to want to at least get a satisfactory amount because if you're going to make levels you're going to need them. Prize Bubbles aren't especially hard to get, you're going to get about 50% of Prize Bubbles without especially looking for them (I for one got 65% without especially looking for any). Some Prize Bubbles however can only be reached with certain areas only accessed by players of two to four. You can play this locally with your friends or jump in to a online party with some random users. Furthermore when you create levels you can create your own Prize Bubbles with your own creations in them.

Surprisingly Littlebigplanet has a story, which the game slowly develops and without revealing too much, there are a few side stories of simple fetch quests with a rewarding feeling of accomplishment because of the extensibility of travelling to complete the long yet entertaining fetch quest. As you progress through the acts, darker forces will try to take over Littlebigplanet, inevitably you as Sackboy must challange and defeat these "Dark Forces". At the end of the later acts, you have measly challenging boss fights which are quite quick and underwhelming but the sheer tactics and trickery just make them plain fun.

One of the most iconic things about Littlebigplanet is Sackboy himself, you part with him at every jump and leap you take. From top to bottom Sackboy is just an ordinary cuddly toy, as you progress through Littlebigplanet, costumes will be found to dress him up from which to suit your personality or the latest fashion statement (well not quite). But rather than treasure to be found Prize Bubbles, costumes will usually appear at a missions start or end, although one or two may be hidden. But Littlebigplanet does well in keeping you accessible with costumes and challenged with Prize Bubbles.

The game play revolves around three layers in the 2.5-D view. Switching layers is as easy as when you pick up the controller. For example if you're on the third layer and there's a bridge to cross on the second layer, you'll need to move down on the analogue to get to the second layer. Easy stuff right? Well, sometimes Littlebigplanet can make changing layer to layer unresponsive. This is very rare but it can get a bit pickly when you do get to this stage. But for the main part, Littlebigplanet remains hassle and problem free.

The controls cheme is actually quite interesting as well. Using the D-Pad you can share his emotions whether you don't have a mic or just want to say hello through Sackboy. By holding down L2 and R2 you can make Sackboy rave to something or just wave to greet someone. Or if you are cheeky and mischief you can slap someone by combining the analogue with L2 and R2 triggers. Bizarrely L1 highlights all the other friends or users playing with you in random names like "Best Buddy" or "Secret Crush". R1 is used to cling onto grabbable objects. Other basic buttons-X is to jump (obviously). Square is used to bring up your pop-up which gives you access to changing your costumes in mid-game, you can splat stickers randomly or you can be more civilized and use them for their purpose by sticking them on triggers to open doors. You can also insert mechanics into your custom-made levels using your pop-up. Circle is used to open speech bubbles from in-game characters and triangle does the opposite of closing them.

Each and every single player level, mini-game and online user created level has a leaderboard at the end. How do you score? Scattered across levels are mini purple balls which you just have to run into and they'll give you 100 points, so yes while you're playing co-operatively, you'll also want some competition through collecting score bubbles. Some mini-games have the same priniciple whereby the longer you survive, the more points you get. There'll also be some races to be found, especially in the single player levels where each layer will compromise of a kart and while it's a four player game and there are only three layers, four layers would seem a bit too much. It keeps the game play friendly and frantic at the same time.

The resolution textures aren't actually bad at all suffice to say it's the best you're going to get for a 2-D game. No creature or objects have any bad resolution textures or jagged edges. The lighting and shadowing work pretty well on the story levels and you can even mess around with the lighting and shadowing on your own custom made levels! There are a few physics like when you jump on a bomb and make it explode, but that's as far as you're going to get with that.

Littlebigplanet doesn't feature any main protagonist voice acting and the in-game characters might murmur their lines with their speech bubbles but the main and only voice caster throughout Littlebigplanet is Stephen Fry and what a good pick he was! He really sets the tone and immerses you with the game. His speech is always correctly placed and timed, emotive and persuasive in what he says. He is your company throughout Litltebigplanet. There are ten soundtracks at most, all of which are copyrighted and while not original they are perfect for the Littlebigplanet theme, each tune has a distinctive mood for whatever level your creating. The only downside to this, is that ten tunes isn't a huge amount to toy around with on your own levels, but to be fair Littlebigplanet must have gone through alot of copyrighting just to get those ten tracks.

Littlebigplanet features both, four player local and online co-op play where you play the single player or multi player. Littlebigplanet also allows a mix of local and online players in one party, for you could have you, one local friend and two online friends playing together in the same level. There is some noticeable lag in online levels, sometimes terrible depending on the host's connection. What's worse, is that depending on the user created levels lighting and physical effects, there'll be lots of frame rate slow-downs and stutters as I played a Killzone 2 user created level, it was awful and unplayable. However these levels can have far reduced slow-downs if you have as few players playing as possible.

The camera angle is kind of awkward where your whole party is on the same screen and if one strays to far apart they'll die and respawn on the next checkpoint. While this may seem frustrating at first as everything is on the same screen, I think it makes the experience seem all the more enriching as the games purpose is to play with friends where if you are going in as a "lone wolf" on split-screen it's not going to be as fun. So while the camera angle is hard to get by, you have to give in, that it's more satisfying combining the whole screen into one rather than playing individually on split-screen.

Littlebigplanet's main ambition is to create levels. There are many tutorials to pass upon which can't be re-visited if you forget one, so you'll need to go through them at a steady rate and completely understand them before finishing each one. Making levels is relatively easy but making them can be time consuming. You can save your levels as drafts and them come back to them if need be, but what makes the custom levels so good is the fact that they are relatively easy to make but challenging to master and it really depends on what you want, a measly entertaining level with an hour spent or a intricate and unique level with a few hours spent.

Once finished, you can publish your level online but beware if you do, you can't re-edit your online version however you're allowed to continuously edit your offline one where if you're the host of an online party, it's possible to play your edited level but players who aren't in your party will be playing the older one which is online with possible flaws. This is a shame as an updating possibility would've been nice. Users are also limited to how many levels they can create, but the limit is huge. You have a Moon which stores all your custom made levels, which a capacity of around 30-40 levels. But not many players will find enough time to create so many so it's not really a worry.

There's also 1,000,000 user created levels. Half are garbage and rushed levels, a quarter are entertaining and levels with effort where as the best are the most rare but brilliant levels. But what separates these levels from each other? Couldn't you spend hours trying to find one brilliant one? No, because Littlebigplanet features a clever search criteria whereby you can search by hearted (most favourite levels), highest rated, newest and even by a search engine if you want a particular franchise level of some sort. When you've finished playing levels you're asked to rate them and if you want to, comment and tag on them to help the user in the future. You can heart them where you can flick back to your profile and see all your favourite levels so you don't have to search for them again. You can even go on your friend's lists and see their favourite levels or created levels. Furthermore levels also have descriptions on them to help you understand what the level is all about.

Is this wasn't enough, on a semi-regular basis, updates on the Playstation Store include extra costumes, half of which are free and others which are either £0.79 or £1.59. Some costumes from franchises which are bundled cost £4.79 for four costumes priced at £1.59. Of course the basic plant costumes are free but then you get to Kratos at £1.59. But it's not just purchaseable costumes as you can buy sticker packs of particular franchises like God of War and Killzone to decorate your custom made levels! Better still, you have extra levels, only one pack has been introduced so far with four Metal Gear Solid 4 levels featuring hidden Prize Bubbles to be found in these four levels at £4.80. All this content is great and it just shows the dedication of the developers.

+ 725,000 online user made levels (since April 2009).
+ Creator kit allows you to make your own levels.
+ Easy "pick up and play" gameplay.
+ Excellent copyrighted soundtracks and narrator of Stephen Fry.
+ Four player local/online multiplayer.
+ Online can last until the world ends.
+ Tens and tens of dedicated PS Store DLC.

- Changing layers can sometimes seem unresponsive.
- Created levels come up to how much free time you have.
- Inconsistent difficulty pacing between acts.
- Weak host connection can result in laggy gameplay.
 If this doesn't help to you describe what Littlebigplanet basically is, then it is simply put; one of the most enjoyable friendly like party experiences exclusive to the Playstation 3. Littlebigplanet is so many things, accessible. charming, stylish, surreal and the list goes on. Littlebigplanet brings side scrolling platformers back in style in a new fresh innovative way that no gamer should miss out on. 

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