The PSP version of Little Big Planet captures the essence that made the original such a refreshingly unique title.
The PlayStation 3 version of Little Big Planet was a superb title because it offered the simple, yet quite impressive premise known as Play, Create and Share. In 2009, one year later after the original Little Big Planet had come out, a PSP version was released and fortunately, the latter incorporates all the major features that made the original such a refreshingly unique title.
At its core, Little Big Planet is a side-scrolling platformer in which you control Sackboy, the charmingly charismatic main protagonist. Basically, you run from right to left or vice versa (depending on the level layout,) you jump to avoid a series of hazards, which include pits, electrified floors, lava and more, and finally you can grab certain items in order to activate more complex mechanisms. For example, certain chains allow you to reach higher places, levers can be pulled to open doors and so on. Overall, controls are pretty slick and intuitive, making the game quite easy to pick up, but even when things get complicated, Little Big Planet has a frequent checkpoint system that prevents further frustrations. Something that quickly stands out about the gameplay is that this version has two planes instead of three, making Little Big Planet much simpler, but not necessarily easier. Switching planes is useful to collect items, discover the right path or simply to interact with the environment in a different way.
Not only are you able to control the movement of your character, but you may also customize Sackboy in myriad different ways. The main protagonist has hundreds of different items he can wear for purely cosmetic purposes like sunglasses, costumes, shoes, pants, etc. The fact that this character is so customizable makes him even more likeable and adorable. Additionally, you can modify Sackboy’s facial expressions and make him sad, angry, happy or scared. By pressing and holding the R button and selecting one of the four directional buttons you can also make him gesticulate. Although this detail is really well-accomplished, it isn’t nearly as complex as the moves you could perform in the PlayStation 3 version where you could control Sackboy’s hips and arms. Nevertheless, the fact that this basic functionality is present in a portable adaptation of a technically superior version is just amazing.
Moreover, level design is clever and most environments are meticulously crafted. This can be appreciated in Little Big Planet’s main campaign which is divided into seven different locations that are inspired on real-world places. Overall, there are more than 30 story levels included and even though some of them share a common theme, they are distinctive and easily recognizable. In them, you’ll fight dragons, surf, participate in a soccer match, lead a flamboyant parade and so on and so forth. The story levels feel a little bit short and you can actually finish them in just a few hours, but fortunately, most of them are highly replayable because they feature many hidden secrets. There’s a sheer abundance of collectible items and these include extra costumes, stickers and songs that are really useful to either customize the main character or create your own level.
Little Big planet gives you the possibility of either creating your own level or to download someone else’s. Creating a level isn’t really complex, but you do have to take many things into account before doing so, for example, each type of material you use to construct has its own property. Glass is slippery, metal is the heaviest material, wood can’t be grabbed and so on, these are all important details that should be taken into account especially when trying to create something very specific. If you are like me though, and find the powerful creation tools way too intimidating and overwhelming you could always log online and download some user created levels from the game’s official server.
It’s great to know that even after years of its original release both the developer and the community are actively supporting the social aspect of this game. Downloading user created levels extends Little Big Planet’s value considerably given that you know what you’re looking for. At first, it was very difficult for me to find some of the most popular levels, but eventually, I was able to do it effortlessly. The basic search engine the game uses allows you to filter the results according to multiple parameters and it doesn’t take that long to find the desired level. Once you have selected a level, downloading it is just a matter of seconds and playing it is just as easy.
Although Little Big Planet has some great qualities the game isn’t without its faults: first of all, the main story mode is extremely short and if you don’t have access to an internet connection you won’t be able to download extra levels and consequently, you’ll be stuck playing the story levels over and over again. Moreover, the game’s most important omission is probably the lack of a proper multiplayer mode. Playing cooperatively with at least one other person would have been a great addition to the portable version, but for some reason, this is not possible. Finally, loading times are quite long and this is a shame because you’re constantly moving through menus as most levels are quite short.
From a graphical perspective, Little Big Planet looks great on the PSP. You can identify materials just by looking at them, which is a nice little detail. In addition, Sackboy is highly customizable and his physical appearance and emotions makes him extremely charming and charismatic. All the story levels are pretty unique as they have at least one detail that makes them different to the rest. Soundwise, you’ll listen to some cheerful songs and even though you’ll only remember one or two tracks after beating the game, they serve their purpose well enough. The same English narrator from the original Little Big Planet helps you on the main tutorial and does an exceptional job at explaining the game’s basics.
In the end, Little Big Planet is an amazing game which has been given a great amount of tender loving care. It has electrifying level design, impressive gameplay, a delicately crafted story mode, intuitive controls, some powerful editing tools and an active community which offers thousands of free levels. Even when the game does have some issues like the lack of a proper multiplayer mode, a short story campaign and long loading times, this is still an eminently satisfying and immensely engrossing platformer that no PSP owner should miss.
Editor’s Note: The review was based on the 2.05 version of the game.