After staring in three LittleBigPlanet games, not to mention making appearances in both ModNation Racers and 3D Dot Game Heroes, it’s no surprise that many would consider Sackboy to be the PlayStation mascot. Knowing of our fabric hero’s charms (and our collective inability to resist them), Sony will be releasing LittleBigPlanet Vita to the masses later this year. Judging by our recent hands-on time with the game, it’s definitely worth looking forward to.
Much like its predecessors, LittleBigPlanet Vita is divided into three sections: Story Mode, Create Mode and Community Levels. Story Mode is similar to that of LittleBigPlanet 2, with an emphasis on narrated cutscenes and a story about an evil entity who has diabolical plans. Our demo was restricted to the game’s first “world,” which largely functions as a tutorial. However, the presentation still shows promise.
LittleBigPlanet Vita may be a portable title, but it’s every bit as expansive as its bretheren on PlayStation 3. Sackboy controls just as he has in previous games – ‘X’ to jump, ‘square’ to open the Popit, etc. Fans of the series will feel right at home playing on the Vita, though players who have taken issue with the “floaty” controls of past titles will have the same problem here. Nevertheless, the level design in LBP Vita is just as imaginative as past titles, and the graphics – while obviously not as pretty as those in LittleBigPlanet 2 – shine on the Vita’s OLED screen.
Developers Double Eleven and Traiser Studios have made some changes to the series’ formula, most notably in the form of touch controls. The Vita, remember, contains both a touchscreen and a rear touch pad, and it’s to be expected that a first/second-party title would make use of all the hardware’s features.
Thankfully, the touch controls themselves are responsive, and it helps that Traiser has implemented an on-screen icon to show players the positions of their fingers on the Vita’s rear touch pad. Despite this, there are times when the touch controls can break the flow of gameplay, most notably when players have to use the rear touch pad to “push” platforms out of a wall. Touch controls can have their place if they are implemented correctly (think Unit 13), but forcing gamers to stop playing because they have to fiddle with the rear touch pad just isn’t fun.
When the touch controls are implemented intelligently, they work wonderfully. Such is the case with The Tapling, the only one of LittleBigPlanet Vita’s mini-games available in our demo. The Tapling has players tapping the touch screen to move their character, avoiding obstacles and freeing imprisoned creatures while working toward the level’s goal. The mini-game is challenging, but never because touch controls hamper the experience. In fact, The Tapling is perhaps the part of the demo I actually enjoyed the most, because unlike some of the game’s story sections, the touch controls are a natural part of gameplay.
When it comes to Create Mode, the touch controls do wonders to improve the experience. Players can pull and pinch the screen to zoom in and out, and can use their fingers to “paint” objects into the environment. However, when it comes down to it, precise actions still require the use of buttons — which is likely why touch controls can be avoided, for the most part. The only time I felt like they got in the way was when trying to highlight an object at the bottom of the screen (if a player’s finger slips off the screen, the highlighting process stops).
Being limited to just to the first few story levels, we were only able to experience a fraction of what Create Mode has to offer. That said, what’s there is very deep, and the creation options themselves can appear overwhelming at first (fortunately, tutorials are once again there for help). Players have plenty of choices to make when deciding what objects to put in their levels, to say nothing of exactly what type of level (co-op, versus or cutscene) they want to make. Furthermore, each object has its own properties that can be changed. For example, if a player wants to include water in a level, they can change the wave height, the color and the murkiness of that water.
Once players finish their masterpiece (or in my case, total dud), they can upload the level to be played by the community. The Community section of the game functions similarly to LittleBigPlanet 2, offering multiple search parameters (name, staff picks, etc) and other options such as “Dive In,” which acts as a quick-join feature. We were unable to truly test every aspect of Community Mode, but as with the rest of LittleBigPlanet Vita, what was there looked promising
As it stands now, LittleBigPlanet Vita isn’t a watered down version of the console titles, but a truly full-fledged LBP game. We’ll have to wait until September to find out if the story mode is on par with previous efforts, but from what we’ve played, this a title Vita owners will want to keep an eye on.
LittleBigPlanet Vita releases September 25th, 2012, for the PlayStation Vita.
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