Developer: SCE Studios Cambridge/Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
12MB Memory Stick Duo game save
Infrastructure - Level transfer only
Ad-Hoc - 1 player only
Rumours about LittleBigPlanet for the PSP emerged before the PS3 game even hit stores, so the PlayStation fan base was quite about the upcoming physics-based 2D platformer in portable form as it made perfect sense. Sony was looking to improve the often overlooked and underappreciated handheld software line-up. The cool platformer became a portable reality in this NovemberSo how does LittleBigPlanet on the PSP fare? Read on to find out.
If you were to judge LittleBigPlanet purely from a technical perspective, it is absolutely stunning. The graphics look just about identical to the PS3, with all the moving parts to accompany the construction paper and cardboard look. Though the PSP obviously doesn’t have the same graphical capabilities of the PS3, the portable version of the game still looks fantastic. The environments are beautifully designed, and you can still customize Sackboy, or Sackgirl, by using the pop-up menu whenever you want, which is one of my favourite options to tinker with.
The level creator is the real stand-out feature of the game because it feels like everything that was included in the PS3 version successfully made it over to the PSP as well. There are some marked improvements like being able to classify an object as dynamic or static. Created levels can be uploaded to the PlayStation Network for the rest of the LittleBigPlanet users out there to sort through, play, and rate. I think it shows how hard the development crew has worked to recreate what worked and looked so good on the more powerful PS3 cousin. The game still retains the same type of vibrant scope on the PSP as the PS3. The games technical achievement shows that the PSP still has some tricks up its sleeve after all these years, even if it’s not in high definition.
Technically speaking, when you look deeper at the game a few issues do pop-up here and there. For instance, the framerate does tend to dip in some areas. You’ll also notice the obviously scaled down environments along with the huge loading times. A prime example of the scaling down is with the size of Sackboy. Because the character appears so small on the PSP, it is sometimes hard to see what Sackboy is wearing, or what accessories he’s got but overall it’s nothing to get too upset about.
Regardless of the issues though the game is amazing to look at and I would have to say that the PSP hardware is being quite taxed with graphics this nice.
On The LittleBigPlanet audio front, Stephen Fry reprises his role as the whimsical narrator and the music for each of the levels fits with the theme to a tee. His soothing and suave British accent is perfect for the game’s style. In terms of the music, most of the tracks remind me of the PS3 game, though the songs here aren’t quite as memorable as those in the original game. There are however more than a few tracks which are very good and warrant more than one listen. Overall the music is very upbeat and fun throughout. As with any PSP game the sound is enhanced greatly if you use headphones as stereo effects are clean and clearly separated within each channel.
For those of you unfamiliar with the original LittleBigPlanet released on the PS3, it is a physics-based platformer where you control an adorable character known as Sackboy, or Sackgirl if you choose. He is basically a stuffed plush toy who is cute as the dickens. You jump, grab, pull, swing, and push your way through the game’s levels. The game is designed in such a way that there's nothing else out there quite like it, except of course the PS3 version. The PSP version features 30 brand new story levels, based in seven unique settings. Like the PS3 game, each level is filled with composite characters asking you to do things for them while you navigate your way through each level's various puzzles and hazards.
The biggest gripe I have with the game is the floaty control. I have never liked the PSP’s little analog nub as it feels way too imprecise. Sackboy seems to float when you move and jump which makes precise control sometimes difficult. To be fair I think the controls for LittleBigPlanet still haven't really caught up with the concept of having three different planes to shift between. The PS3 version wasn't perfect, and the PSP version attempts to fix those problems but runs into the wall of having a less than optimal control setting thanks in part to the over compensation in the analog nub. There are spots throughout the game where it is extra tricky because the control does not work as well as you hope.
Although the control has some issues, I think the as a whole the game shines. Once you get past using the PSP’s analog nub, playing LittleBigPlanet on the PSP feels almost identical to playing on the PS3. The analog stick is used to move, the X button makes Sackboy jump, and the right trigger allows your sack person to grab any grabbable material. The biggest change is that Sackboy is only able to move back and forth between two planes instead of three. This actually doesn’t affect the gameplay that much and the classic platform gaming experience begins to show.
Like many PSP games, LittleBigPlanet does suffer from long load times, especially as soon as you turn the game on; it can sometimes take several minutes before you can even get into a level. The game runs minimally better off the PSP Go’s hardrive, but not really any different.
PS3 veterans of the game will notice the exclusion of being able to play with other friends in this portable version. In fact the game is devoid of any online gameplay with others. It is too bad because this was a highly addictive and big part of LittleBigPlanet PS3’s online gameplay. The fun interactions are gone, which can at times affect the game design because some multiplayer puzzles had to be taken out in order to make the levels and secrets accessible for only a single player. The community of level makers will also likely be affected since the focus is only on one player rather as opposed to a level for more. The game feels a bit incomplete without this mode, but it still is fun nonetheless. And of course you can still create maps to upload for other gamers to download and try. So the creativity part is still here, with much less interactivity.
Obviously, at this point in the game’s life the online community is not nearly as established as the PS3 version of the game, but the framework is there, and if some of the clever designers from the PS3 give the PSP version a shot there is going to be plenty of longevity with the off-the-wall user creations. On the flipside though there is obviously going to be loads of rubbish put out into the virtual world, but if the PS3 version has taught us anything, it is that some people will create amazing things. It is too early to tell if this is going to happen here, but assuming the same types of people flock to the PSP game, you should be able to play through a steady stream of user-made masterpieces for some time to come.
Happily the checkpoint system used in the PS3 has been tweaked in the PSP version. The original was based on a “how many lives you have” system. You would get a certain number of attempts to get past a tricky section, after which you would be returned to the start of the level instead of a conveniently placed waypoint. In the PSP game the lives system has been replaced by endless restarts, with a return to the last checkpoint causing you to lose some points. This makes the tricky sections of the game, which there are plenty, far less of a chore than they could have been. It will also prevent players from experiencing high levels of frustration in the long run.
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