Little Big Planet 3 / 17th of December 2014
Looking back over the Metacritic scores for the first two Little Big Planet games is not a particularly pleasant experience, these two media darlings garnered coveted scores of ninety-five and ninety-one respectively, and yet, in all honesty, neither of which moved me in any way. Whilst they were fine concepts, the execution was always a bit inconsistent and generally lacklustre to me, from Stephen Fry’s pretentious waffling to the horrible physics and poorly executed platform gameplay. Now, however, series creator Media Molecule have passed on the reigns to Sumo Digital, whilst offering their assistance in the background, this may seem to be a rather unlikely move given the stature of the series as a flagship title for Sony, yet the result of this rather bold move, you may be delighted to know, is actually the best Little Big Planet game yet…
Now, what can users expect to find in this latest iteration? A whole host of new features and characters actually, including a dog-like creature named Oddsock, a four legged character that can wall jump and offers increased movement speed over series stalwart, Sackboy. Then there’s Swoop, a bird based design that can fly freely across levels picking up light objects, and Toggle, a character that comes in both Big and Small variations, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Small Toggle can access diminutive areas, move at an increased pace and even run on water, whereas his larger variation wields vastly more strength, not to mention weight. With all of these new additions, you would probably that they would make Sackboy somewhat redundant, but he has been blessed with a new climbing ability that enables him to mount vines, so he hasn’t been completely neglected. Sort of.
Naturally, LBP 3 features an improved graphics engine and runs in a native 1080p resolution on PS4, though perhaps more importantly, from a gameplay perspective, there have been a vast range of new creation tools-around seventy in total-and power-ups added to the already established formula. Some power-ups bestow additional abilities upon characters; the Popit Power-up-displayed as a wrench-gives the player access to whatever create capabilities that the original creator bestowed upon it, the Hook Hat allows characters to ride on bendy rails and Boost Boosts allow players to double-jump. There are yet more power-ups available to players, and in a first for the series, Little Big Planet 3 also includes a Power-Up Creator to enable players to create their own.
Naturally though, not everything is quite as rosy as this, for one, the number of worlds available in the game is now half that of the original LBP, with just four on offer here. In another first for the series, Little Big Planet 3 now features a fully voice-acted campaign experience, whilst earlier games in the series only offered this on cut-scenes, LBP 3 squeezes in the acting talents of Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tara Strong, Nolan North and many more into a more prominent, and often irritating whole. Though, it must be said that Laurie is in form, and is the real highlight in this regard, frequently performing his dialogue with a gusto heretofore unseen in the series.
As part of the campaign, which is considerably more expansive than those of prior iterations, there is also a new problem, by comparison to the other characters, Sackboy, feels far too boring and mundane now, yet the game sees fit to force the player to control him, limiting both where and when the new creations can actually be utilised. To combat this, Sumo Digital have blessed him with a variety of gadgets designed to inject a bit more fun and imagination into his stages, still, a bit more freedom is required here, despite some fantastic pieces of level design being employed to accommodate the characters obvious limitations. If only we could say the same about the game’s rather generic boss battles.
In terms of its visuals, however, Little Big Planet 3 features some real moments of beauty, from searchlights that sweep across areas, forcing Sackboy to stay hidden, or the delightful, 1950’s styled diner-Little Big Planet 3, at times, can be a very attractive game, but it is still far from perfect. An update is sorely needed to correct some of the flaws here, with screen tearing and frame rate drops being an all too familiar sight, but the technical flaws don’t stop there, sadly. The game is also plagued by issues regarding respawns, on more than one occasion I was forced to restart a level, losing all of my progress, either by respawing in the wrong position on a boss battle or when the game simply refused to allow me to respawn at all.
Such issues, particularly due to their prominence, are a real let down, given that the game as a whole shows a significant improvement over its predecessors, sure the overly light physics might still be present but there are wholesale improvements to the campaign, it packs superior visuals and an excellent, perfectly fitting score. The Popit Puzzles niftily provide a superb entry point in learning the ropes, allowing gamers to quickly master the basics of creative side of the experience, and the multiplayer modes are all, as one would expect, still highly enjoyable romps. I can have no doubts about proclaiming Little Big Planet 3 to be the best entry in the series, yet it still falls just short of the mark thanks to the technical issues that prevent Sumo’s effort from being the great game that it truly deserves to be.