Monday, 13 October 2008

Adventures in a LittleBigPlanet

by Rabbie Macintosh

I recently found myself fortunate enough to obtain a beta key for the upcoming PS3 game LittleBig Planet, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of the games out there that doesn't just hand you a gun and say "That way".

In it's most basic sense, the game is about the adventure of your character, or Sackboy/girl in the world of LittleBigPlanet - a mirror of the earth, created from the dreams and collective creative energy of all humanity. They have painted a very fluffy, plushy, soft feel to this world, and the impact is an immediate sense of endearment - it helps that your character is also immensely cute.

Speaking of the characters, they should be investigated further. You are introduced to your Sack-person (Stop snickering, you at the back.) from the outset, and you know right away that this is a game that is really something very different. Buttons on your control pad, which would in normal games be associated with weapons changes, firing guns, and other wholesome activities, are suddenly revealed to allow you to take control of your characters arms. Whilst this may not seem particularly special, once you play with it for a few minutes, you wonder how you coped without this ever before. When you are in multiplayer, you can point to important things, anywhere in the level, simply by holding down a button and moving one of the analogue sticks. Another fantastic and fun feature (I may be using that statement a lot on this post.) is the ability to control the emotional state of your Avatar. You can make him happy, sad, scared, or angry - there are 3 degrees of each emotion and they change your characters facial expression and hand gestures - another little work of genius. As a final note, if you're online and you have a headset on and working, your character will attempt to lip-sync with what you are saying. Brilliant!

So, once you've gotten to grips with your character, you are then presented with your first levels of the game. These are all standard platformy game fare. They are great fun, well thought out, and serve as a perfect introduction to the game mechanics, and limitations of the world. After a few of these, you get given some of the basic tools of the game, and then informed that you are allowed to create content for this world. Levels of your own can be built, saved, published and shared with the whole world. Whatever you are capable of creating can be given to the sum total of content in the LittleBigPlanet sphere.

My first adventure out into this sphere, as an explorer but not a creator, yielded some very interesting results. Some people had made rocket powered cars, roller coaster rides, obstacle courses, pirate ship adventures, zeppelins. It had everything. My curiosity piqued by these seemingly amazing feats of creation practically forced me to pick up the level creator.

I was never very good with level creators. There seemed to be an awful lot of x,y,z co-ordinates and texture selection. When I went through the first tutorial on LittleBigPlanet, I was introduced to the world creation toolset in what I could only describe as an informal and friendly manner. More like "Hey, thanks for coming, here's something that's quite cool." instead of "Look at the power that can be summoned from our mighty toolset! Fear our ability, bow down before us!" Straight away, I found that it was actually quite easy to create simple objects, and lay these out in the manner for a level of platformy based fun.

Before I knew it, I was being introduced to some of the more dynamic aspects of creation. moving parts, pistons, pulleys, rods, switches, buttons. But, at no point was it overwhelming. Stephen Fry was always available for a quick tutorial on the various devices (he provides all the narrative for the game, in a very similar manner to his work in Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.) and how they can be applied to the world. In a short while, I was familiar with this toolset, and it was down to me on what I could create on the blank canvas of world in front of me.

So, I made a cannon, that fires explosives, with a movable turret. A friend of mine was over at the weekend, and he made a tank. We then made a catapult that was very good at hurling little sack-people very large distances. We then added a fire-pit for them to land in, because we're nice people. I actually found myself questioning why I was doing this. Given all the possibilities to create things that are good and fun and nice, I instead opted to make things that went boom, in one way or another.

The obvious answer was that it was fun. Fun, to create these things, with good intentions of making them devices in some sort of grand level which could be published and gifted to the world to enjoy. Only, the level never got built, and the cannon got bigger.

Before I was able to perfect the catapult, or to actually build the little world for all my wonderful toys to go in, the beta ended. So, I now find myself in a position where I will actually purchase a game, not only to play, or create, but to atone - for bringing tools of destruction to a fluffy universe.

To summarise this game would take far more than I have written above. It has the ability to present whatever you can imagine to the rest of the world, as you would like it to be presented. It is always going to have new content, which will be free to play, generated by people, and usually lots of fun.

I believe that this game can, and will sell PS3's on its merits. Kids will love it because it's cute and fluffy - anyone with an imagination will love it because of the vast and simple toolset, which allows you to run riot with the world.

You have to decide what you bring to the universe of LittleBigPlanet however, and that could be both it's greatest achievement, and it's biggest flaw.

There's more in that than most people think.

It allows us see inside our own hearts.




A little man in a LittleBigPlanet

1 comment:

Bibliolatrist said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this one - great post.