Wednesday, December 16, 2009

LittleBigPlanet PSP Review

Okay, so this review is a month late, but I've been really busy lately and I didn't want another case like I had with the PS3 version of LittleBigPlanet, where I really hyped the game with news and previews, and I really really liked the game after buying it, but never actually got around to writing a proper review for it. So, I hope this makes up for lost times, as I will be discussing the PS3 version in comparison to this new PSP version. And yes, this is surprisingly new VFH's first PSP review...

Like the original PS3 version of LittleBigPlanet, there's a story mode that basically gives you a bunch of levels inspired by real world locales. So you'll have your Australian outback levels, mystical Asian levels, Scandinavia, Hollywood, etc. Unlike the PS3 game though, the story doesn't get all strangely dark at the end, no kidnapping and imagination destroying sub-plots. Instead LBP PSP's story involves you getting the world's Creator Curators together for a big carnival... so, oddly enough the game's final levels are much easier than you would expect, where as the PS3 game would destroy you in its final moments.

This is where the game really shines, as one would hope. For someone that played (and still kind of does) the heck out of the PS3 version, I was honestly stunned how the gameplay was replicated onto Sony's much less powerful portable system. Of course, there are differences, the main and probably most detracting cut is the removal of any sort of multiplayer. If you're someone like myself that still doesn't own a second controller for your PS3, then this may not feel so terrible (although I used to frequently play with strangers online). But if you're used to playing with a group of friends, sadly, you won't be able to do that on the go, or in the car. However, there are some online capabilities, such as transferring levels between PSPs, and downloading user created levels online. Which, unlike the PS3 version, you can now save user created levels to your Memory Stick (or HDD for PSPgo users) and play them without being online, which is actually pretty awesome.

But I can't just sit here and gripe about there not being multiplayer, I still have to talk about why this game is fantastic. As I said, it plays just like the PS3 game, but scaled down for technical reasons. The first thing that confused me was how LBP PSP only have 2 fields of depth to the levels, where as the PS3 original had 3; I got used to it eventually, but it kind of dumbs down the puzzle creativity and level design. Also, there are some control tweaks, since the PSP lacks the second analog stick, and motion controls, SackPeople can't express themselves as freely, instead each emotion has a series of 4 taunts that can be activated by holding L and pressing the D-pad. Otherwise, gameplay is just like the original, which is great.

Now, the main aspect of LittleBigPlanet is level creation and customization. In terms of changing your SackPerson, it's pretty much the same when in a level, but outside of levels there's no longer a Pod, so you must go into a demo level of sort, just to change clothes, which is kind of annoying. Creation tools for the levels however, are almost exactly like the PS3 version. And being that the PS3 game has since gotten tons of updates, I was happy to see that some of that games more recent updates carried into the PSP game, things like infinite start points (actually, the PSP game doesn't even have the 3-life start points), and refined mechanics are all found here.

Some things that bothered me though was using the materials during level creation. In the PS3 game you could essentially draw endlessly with the analog stick, getting all the right curves and lengths. But the PSP game limits your material directions to a grid, and forces you to only use so much of certain materials; so if you want a big curve, now you need to use the corner editor, which sucks. And in the first few weeks of having the game, there wasn't much online activity, but like the PS3 game I just think it was having slow start.

Like the gameplay, I was really surprised and pleased to see just how well the PS3 game transferred onto the PSP's much less powerful hardware. Levels look almost as detailed, the sense of depth from the game's backgrounds are still there, all the various materials and items still have a sense of varied textures, it's really quite impressive. I mean, while there are noticable differences (screenshots will point that out much better), in motion I sometimes can take for granted that I'm playing a PSP game, because it honestly just feels like I am playing my PS3 on a tiny screen, and I can't say I've felt that with any other PSP game before.

A lot of LittleBigPlanet PSP's sound effects transfer over from the PS3 original, in fact... I think pretty much all of the sound effects in the game came from the first game, I can't say anything really struck me as new other than some of the Creator Curator voices. What doesn't carry over from the PS3 game however is the soundtrack, which while there are some missed tracks (I miss you, Go Team!), it makes sense that the soundtrack is different, as the game visits places unseen in the PS3 game, and such the music must also arrive from other worldly locations. So, there are new tracks to like, and new tracks to hate, but otherwise it all works. Also, Stephen Fry is back as the narrator, which I was really glad to hear, and so should you.

Final Thoughts
There's no denying it, if you loved LittleBigPlanet on the PS3, then you should definitely get the PSP version. It may not have all the latest gadgets and downloadable content (yet? the manual mentions "Purchased Levels" but there's nothing available yet) that has come to the PS3 game, but SCE Studio Cambridge has done a damn fine job of replicating Media Molecules PS3 classic onto the much less powerful PSP, and everyone really needs to play this game to appreciate that. Not many PSP games release at the full $40 anymore, but if anything is worth laying that kind of money down, it's this game.

Overall Score: 9/10

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