Media Molecule's labour of love has overwhelmed us ever since the first game, and since it's never quite let go in the intervening years since, it felt like we'd seen all the series had to offer. Yet with all of this in mind I still found it hard to stop playing Little Big Planet Vita.
Bringing the innovative and creative series onto the innovative handheld was surely a no-brainer, and must have been one of the first games Sony thought of for the hardware. And it comes as no major surprise that you're quickly introduced to levels where you have to use both the touchscreen and the rear touchpad in order to move blocks, open passages and send your Sackboy flying through the air.
Almost as smooth is the option of snapping photos with the built-in camera and using the pictures for textures throughout the game. If you plan on going online, this quickly means you'll have to endure some fairly perverted uses of this feature, but for everyone who uses this with a least a modest slice of morality, it's a great addition.
The developer for the PS Vita transition isn't Media Molecule, and often this kind of farmed out game results in something that can't quite live up to the original games, but that is not the case here. Tarsier Studios, who previously worked on the PSN Rag Doll Kung Fu and content for Little Big Planet 1 & 2, and Double Eleven, a new studio started by former Rockstar folks, have worked well together to create the title.
There is obvious talent behind the development. At first I was happy to see the quality was on par with previous versions, I was forced to concede after a few worlds that this is the most entertaining collection I have so far experienced in a Little Big Planet title.
The main story of the first two games on Playstation 3 often felt more like examples of what the incredible tools were capable of than well thought out and polished levels, and in this regard the Vita game is an improvement.
The levels are still composed of a bunch of different ideas that all come together in a platform game, but when you're asked to take part in races, guide missiles, chuck huge objects, and play Indiana Jones, it is obvious that more of an event has been made of proceedings to make sure everything fits together.
The story of the puppeteer, who once was booed off stage and who has since vowed to steal all that's fun and entertaining for the world, and the many quirky characters you come across is also an improvement on previous storylines in the series.
The game mechanics have also been polished, even if Sackboy still isn't as precise in his movements as Mario - a criticism that has followed the series since its conception. The developers have constructed a system that eliminates much of the annoyances in previous titles, such as when you were shifting between the three layers of depth each level consists of. It sound more complicated than it is, but you're aided by the game so you better know when to jump into or out of the background. Overall, this allows for a much improved platforming experience, and it's hard to imagine future chapters of the console game not matching this design.
While it's fun to use the touchpad for moving platforms, activating buttons and the like, it isn't until you start copying and pasting in this digital world that it really becomes apparent how much this ability to touch the game world means. It's far more intuitive to place your objects on screen by simply using a finger, and then manipulate it, enlarge it, rotate it, and copy it with simple digit movements.
The precision may be a little off from time to time, but the possibilities for those who take the time to properly explore the system are infinite. Something that the bonus levels included by the developers illustrate.
It should still be mentioned that not everyone will be able to just sit down and create whatever they want. The creation tool still requires some practise before your creations are up to par, and the tutorials that come with the game could definitely been more thorough when it comes to explaining the more complex tools at your disposal.
Little Big Planet Vita does everything you would expect it to, and it does so with what is perhaps the best level design ever seen in the series, and the well thought out implementation of the unique possibilities afforded by the PS Vita.
The innovation, however, only extends as far as to things we are already familiar with, and doesn't really venture into anything new, which is disappointing. If the Vita version had offered something entirely new on top of what's here, then it would truly have been something out of the ordinary. Instead, we're left with a rock solid piece of entertainment for your portable console.
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