Little Big Planet 3
I mentioned on Monday that I recently started having access to a PlayStation 4. Along with sucking at Bloodborne, I’ve been able to use it to play Little Big Planet 3 with my roommate. The game actually came out at the end of last year, but I never really heard much about it, or indeed, even knew they made a third one until this week. I love the previous two games’ take on puzzle platforming, so I was super excited to jump into it. Everything I have done in the game has been co-op with my roommate, so keep that in mind if you have had a different experience in solo play.
I think the design concept for LPB as a series is brilliant. They always hit the same high notes of beautiful artwork, great music, and extremely detailed environments. Frankly, the level of detail is almost terrifying, were I to put myself in shoes of the designers. There’s thousands of different objects, costumes, and stickers, all spread out over the course of the game and used to give different levels cohesive themes, and it never starts to feel cluttered. It sort of reminds me of Katamari Damacy in this regard, except you platform over all the stuff instead of rolling it up.
Even more impressive, every object is given an appropriate weight, size, and texture. I actually think this might be the most important point, because each one feels spot on. If you come across a book, for instance, the pages will be detailed to look like paper and turn if blown in the wind. Fuzzy cloth walls have differentiated threads and are climbable, and wood blocks tend to have visible and well-shaded wood grain. It all feels palpably solid and real, which is a daunting task for video games.
Each of these assets can be put to practical use by the players; by gathering collectables in levels they gain access to these objects and can make their own levels to be shared online. There’s so much amazing player-made content for these games, it would take years to play it all. Some people don’t even play the game, they just want to make and share stages. The level creation doesn’t really appeal to me, but it fits with the level of creativity and gives the game even more freedom and charm.
The content that really appeals to me is the gameplay. The platforming is solid and well-controlled, and every level follows the platforming rule of introducing new concepts. Moving boxes, riding wind currents, climbing vines and fences to escape rising water, most of these are things you’ve seen before, but Little Big Planet always makes them enjoyable. If you fail a challenge or die for whatever reason, you can be back in the game within seconds, and playing with a partner lets you work together or race each other for a high score on any given level.
Everything I’ve said so far can be applied to all three games in the series. They all evoke the same look and feel, and don’t mistake that for a bad thing. LBP 2 and 3 both add plenty of new mechanics as well. Since 3 is the focus of this post, let’s go with what I thought about it, specifically. The addition of 3 new non-sackboy characters is very interesting, and all of them are fun and present different challenges in their own way. My favorite is the dog, who can run fast and wall-jump. The levels designed for him often feel similar to Sonic the Hedgehog in terms of smooth speed platforming. I had the most fun with these.
The game also adds usable handheld items, which range from fun and useful like the hoverboots, to annoying and inconvenient, like the handheld vacuum. Each item brings its own set of puzzles with it, giving certain levels a very distinct look and feel. There’s a level where you infiltrate a mobster casino by using a ball that lets you teleport, and I really enjoyed that. I will say that since the “use held item” button and the grab button are the same, I have missed plenty of jumps by firing my item instead of grabbing the rope. The upside of this is that you won’t always be grabbing your co-op partners, or at least not as much.
Little Big Planet 3 also differs from the previous ones by adding a lot more plot. I’m against this personally, I think the game is already carried by design and gameplay, so much so that the plot had better be both very well-written and enjoyable and also not take up too much time. Sadly, LBP3 fails to deliver on both fronts, as there is entirely too much talking for a platformer, and the plot really feels forced and unenjoyable. The villain wants to steal all the creativity from the world and you much journey to go awaken the 3 lost heroes. Got it. Does anyone really think the players want to spend time talking when there’s beautiful, well-designed platforming levels to be explored? The loading screens are already so painfully long that I have time to make a sandwich and still get back in time to comment on their length to my roommate. Also, the game does something that I associate with Sonic ’06, which is give us a long load screen, play a cutscene, and then give us another long load screen. This hits me pretty hard in some of my most hated failures of video games. I love a good plot, and this one needed more work and less words, in my opinion.
The game has also been surprisingly glitchy for a triple A title, and it seems like most of these problems should have been worked out in playtesting. I often can’t get my character to be on the right layer of fore or background, and as a result, I fall through the walls. I’ve fallen through the floor at a couple random areas and ended up on an endless background beach, and I’ve gotten stuck in death pits that refused to kill me, necessitating a use of the suicide button. I’ve even been able to stand on plenty of foreground objects that are clearly not intended for use as platform. In short, the game seems to be confused by my existence as second player. These things don’t ruin they game, but they aren’t good, either.
I won’t say that LBP3 is a bad game, on the contrary, the fun and charm are constant, and the time wasted by cutscenes, loading screens, and glitches is far outweighed by the time spent in glorious puzzle-platforming. I really like the game, and the series in general always impresses me. However, I think you would be better off with LBP 1 or 2. As far as I can remember, those games were better overall, and I’m fairly certain that isn’t nostalgia talking. Thanks for reading.
EDIT: After I posted this, we tried to play Little Big Planet 3 more and found our save file to be corrupted. No idea what happened, but it’s looking like we lost all our progress. Cool.