LittleBigPlanet Portable Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Nov 17, 2009

If you weren't a fan of Media Molecule's brilliant platforming/do-it-yourself level-building game, LittleBigPlanet, there is nothing in the new PlayStation Portable version that will change your mind. That's actually a testament to just how fantastic a job the team at SCE Studios Cambridge have done bringing the adorable adventure game to Sony's handheld console.

The Pros
  • Varied and wildly inventive challenges
  • Fully featured level editor
  • Stylish and vibrant design
  • More accessible than PS3 version
The Cons
  • Jumping still a bit floaty
  • Some environmental bugs
  • No multiplayer

Let’s just get something out of the way up front: if you weren’t a fan of Media Molecule’s brilliant platforming/do-it-yourself level-building game, LittleBigPlanet, there is nothing in the new PlayStation Portable version that will change your mind. Strange as it may sound, the statement is actually a testament to just how fantastic a job the team at SCE Studios Cambridge have done bringing the adorable adventure game to Sony’s handheld console. And, if you missed out on the PS3 game, the portable version is much more accessible, and serves as a great introduction to the franchise.

LittleBigPlanet Portable Review

Make It to the Carnival on Time

The basic premise of LBP Portable is that several of the world’s Creator Curators have refused to attend the grand Carnival of Creation. The curators are basically the owners of particular areas of the world, each one representing a different real-world country/region (Australia, China, India, Egypt, Switzerland, Hollywood, South America). In order to persuade the curators to participate in the carnival, it is up to your Sackboy/Sackgirl to help them solve some personal crisis (i.e. drive away a dragon, help a sultan recover his magical lamp, rescue a Swiss clockmakers kids, star as a stuntman in a series of big-budget summer blockbusters, etc.). Once you have solved all of the curators’ problems, then the carnival can proceed as planned.

Similar to the PS3 version, the story-based/themed objectives and levels are expertly crafted and each one features a unique style and varied gameplay. You’ll fly magic carpets, ride a rocket-propelled camel across pits of fire, battle King Kong atop a skyscraper, and much more. There is a wide variety of transportation that you’ll have access too as well, from a parachute to a motorcycle to a dogsled. Best of all, you can then use those contraptions, and most everything you come across in the game, in your own levels when you decide to jump into the level editor.

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Same Old Sackboy

The gameplay has seen very few, if any, changes from the console version. If you thought the platforming was floaty, you’ll most likely feel the same way this time around. Things are made a bit simpler due to the game only containing two depth planes as opposed to the console game’s three. This feature alleviates some of the frustration that came when trying to jump to specific platforms positioned at staggered depths. You’ll still find yourself getting stuck in the background every now and then, but the game does a solid job of keeping you on the right plane.

The controls transfer well to the PSP, with the thumbstick used for movement, the X button used to jump, and the right shoulder button to grab objects. When combined with the D-pad, the left shoulder button controls celebration moves. The four directions on the d-pad control Sackboy’s mood (happy, sad, scared, angry), and each one has four different celebrations (dancing, backflips, boxing, crying, jumping jacks, etc.). These actions have no effect on the gameplay, but it adds a certain amount of charm and extra adorability to the game.

LittleBigPlanet Portable Review

A Loose Stitch Here. A Loose Stitch There.

On the downside, dragging objects can be a bit clunky sometimes, and there were several points where my Sackboy became stuck in the environment, and I had to pop him and return to the last checkpoint. Also, being too close to an object you’re trying to jump over will sometimes cause you to just get off the ground, which can be especially frustrating if you’re trying to make a timed jump over a deadly pit of spikes or fire. However, for as much swinging, jumping, running and grabbing you’ll be doing, the game runs and plays mostly without issue.

Obviously, the game doesn’t have the visual pizzazz and polish of the PS3 version, but there is nothing shabby about the game’s graphics either. The colors are vibrant, the worlds are inventive and complex, and the fact that you can decorate the environments and your little Sackperson however you see fit never ceases to amaze. Like the visuals, the physics have seen some minor cutbacks as well, but they have very little impact on the game’s overall enjoyment.

Build. Share. Play. (On the Go!)

If LBP Portable only came with its pre-made, story-based levels, it would still be an impressive title. But the fact that it also includes the same level editor from the PS3 version, and you can share/play levels via the PlayStation Network, is a mighty impressive feat. The editor features all of the tools, materials, objects, stickers, music, highly detailed backgrounds and mechanisms you need to make the LBP levels of your dreams. And, even though the editor can be a bit awkward at times, and definitely takes some getting used to (especially if you’re familiar with the console version), it’s still an incredibly robust tool that can potentially extend the life of the game indefinitely.

While the game doesn’t support online multiplayer, it does let you download and upload levels via PSN like the PS3 version. It isn’t clear just yet how much pay-to-play DLC Sony will be releasing for the game, but there will be downloadable levels made available for the game in the near future. As for online multiplayer, the only thing Sony is saying at this point is that it would be possible, but nothing official has been discussed yet.

Still A LittleNoBrainer

Like I said earlier, if you are a fan of LittleBigPlanet, the PSP version should delight and satisfy in many of the same ways the PS3 version did. If you are new to the franchise, then the PSP game is a fantastic introduction. It’s an elegantly crafted, artistically vibrant and wonderfully inventive adventure that has endless replayability thanks to the hefty level editor and ability to share and download new levels via PSN. There are a few frustrating control issues, and it’s far less challenging than the PS3 version, but overall, LittleBigPlanet is every bit as deserving of your time as its console cousin.