LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-On Preview -- Mini-Games with Big PotentialBy Sinan Kubba - Posted Aug 18, 2011
After LittleBigPlanet wowed GDC 2008 with its hotchpotch presentation and vast user-generated social content, Sony realized they’d borne a platforming game that represented both the PlayStation vision and the potential of PlayStation technology. Three years and millions of worldwide sales later nothing has changed, and it’s no surprise to see Sackboy leading the Vita charge here in Cologne because LittleBigPlanet Vita is the perfect representative for the handheld’s new features.
The tech demo level that developer Double Eleven has put together for LittleBigPlanet Vita shows off almost every facet of the console and it does so with real style. The touch controls, for example, lets you move green-colored blocks around the environment. This lets you do things like move platforms around for Sackboy to climb onto, spin wheels for him to cling onto, and drag back a catapult which shoots him into the air in a little wooden vessel with a flag tail behind him spelling "LBP." Meanwhile, tilt controls help the stitched hero to scoot down a wire, slide blocks down a gradient, and so on.
It’s the back-touch controls, however, that are the most intriguing. Pushing on the back of the Vita to the corresponding spot on the front screen can push things in the environment out into the foreground, like mid-air blocks that become a bridge for Sackboy to cross. There’s a puzzle in which Sackboy has to create a path for himself out of a large square of Tetris-like blocks, pushing the ones that get in the way and then pushing those that need to go out to create a makeshift staircase.
Here at gamescom, the focus is on showing off what one Double Eleven developer tells me is the app-like nature of individual mini-games in LittleBigPlanet Vita, the kind of games that could be created by anyone using the level designer. I get to see two games which interestingly enough both used the console vertically rather than horizontally, and the first of these is a driving game.
The game, called Collision Course, is top-down with the car moving up and across the screen using the analog controls, reminiscent of many a classic 80s and 90s driving game, but this game comes with a tinge of Road Rash to gratify all us baton-loving types. The aim is to bash into as many of the little pink cars as possible and push them into walls to destroy them, all while avoiding the ever-increasing frequency of big purple cars which could destroy me. It is a simple-to-understand and fun mini-game, much like the ones showcased in LittleBigPlanet 2 on the PS3, and even with the high production of the scenery, it had only taken Double Eleven two weeks to put together.
The second game, Squid Sorter, looks like it could’ve come straight off the Apple Marketplace. In it a giant squid at the top of the screen chucks down differently colored smaller squids into a network of tunnels. The idea is to get these squid into the correspondingly colored box of the four that sit at the bottom, and this is done by manipulating the several barriers along the tunnels to steer the squid in the right direction. The only input is to touch on the barrier to either close or open them, but the game is fast-paced and appreciably challenging, much like the best apps are.
The comparison to apps is a valid one because the games like the ones Double Eleven are showing here can both be downloaded and uploaded using the Vita’s 3G technology, giving LittleBigPlanet Vita its own free marketplace-like area for players to peruse to their distraction. This is the hook with PlayStation Vita; apps without the individual charge, a realm of possibility all within one game, and with content which uses a full range of touch, tilt, and back-touch controls. It’s this kind of potential that propels LittleBigPlanet to the front of Sony’s promotion line, and based on my experience here at GamesCom, rightly so.