LittleBigPlanet PS Vita review – PlayStation’s cuddliest scales down wonderfully
Since February, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to get properly touchy-feely with PlayStation’s cutest mascot. But is sackboy the perfect fit for Vita, or is he coming apart at the seams without the deft touch of original developer Media Molecule? Put it this way: as soon as Stephen Fry’s velvety, dulcet tones welcome you back to the Imagisphere, this feels like a homecoming.
You’re on the new planet of Carnivalia, which is being terrorised by a puppeteer gone rogue after being booed by a crowd of children (like going to the corner shop, just with fewer Lynx-smothered hoodies). He and his army of blank-faced ‘Hollows’ are determined to suck the joy from the world, the rotters. It’s up to you to chuck a spanner or two in the works as you gambol through a succession of endearingly quirky worlds with a bunch of new pals – including French coquette Marianne Noisette (get it?) and meathead TV wannabe Sean Brawn. Visually it’s an immediately identifiable part of the LBP universe, and – unsurprisingly, given Vita’s graphical heft – it looks great.
It plays nice, too. Vita’s various control schemes are all given due nods, whether you’re using the gyroscope to tilt your way through a Sonic-esque race against time in a sackboy-sized hamster ball or caressing the rear touchpad to carefully manoeuvre through a spooky labyrinth. Best of all is using the touch controls to move items out your way. Blue items can be dragged around the touchscreen or poked backwards, and green ones can be tapped from behind to bring them forwards. It quickly becomes a natural, intuitive part of the gameplay, without ever feeling gimmicky.
The sole niggle is that the touch controls occasionally feel unresponsive, especially during extended rear touchpad sections. I sometimes found myself jabbing at the screen, then dying because the response lagged in comparison to my input. Still, generous checkpointing means you’re never forced to repeat giant chunks of gameplay.
In short, then, the story levels are a joy to run, jump and swing through – especially grap-hooking through the futuristic, neon-lit pseudo-Vegas of Jackpot City. Extra meat is added by side levels, including playing whack-a-mole with sackboy. Ouch.
But it wouldn’t be LBP without an extensive level-creation mode – and this definitely delivers. There’s a whole host of Fry-voiced tutorials, and a plentitude of tools that let you place objects, hazards (get over there, noxious gas cloud!), bounce pads, checkpoints and the like.
Dragging and pinching with the touchscreen adds a welcome tactile feel to proceedings, and you can even use Vita’s camera to snap pictures of the assorted gubbins around you and pop them into your levels. Having the means to make your ideas a reality – before they take flight from your brain – wherever you are is an incredibly appealing prospect, and it’s fully realised here.
Could this be the killer app that Vita’s been crying out for? It’s a slice of gleefully inventive oddness that’s certainly sated our appetite for sackboy on handheld – and it’s very nearly perfect.