Some Thoughts on LittleBigPlanet

Angry Sackboy

So I finished LittleBigPlanet yesterday. Yes, yes, finishing the story mode is only a part of it, but I think we’ve got a while to go before the community levels are even close to the standard of Media Molecule’s later stages, so I’m working on the assumption that I’ve seen the best that the game has to offer for now.

When I dabbled with the beta I complained about the floaty and imprecise controls, and in fact they did end up getting me killed more times than I’d have liked. But despite that, I still came away with a very positive impression of the story mode. The level design is often exemplary, full of secrets and with some incredibly creative use of the same tools that anyone can use. It’s been a while since I played a good old-fashioned platform game and when I was in the zone with this one it was a wonderful game. The fact that everything in the single-player was made with essentially the same tools that ship with the game shows what potential is in there, and I’ll certainly be revisiting the game down the line.

Now admittedly these are early thoughts, based on about five hours spent working on my themed level – more on that when I’ve got something presentable – but I’ve been disappointed by certain limitations of the toolset. There are clearly more functions than can comfortably fit on a controller, and as such it felt clumsy a lot of the time. Just go a few menus deep and see how often the function of the right stick changes as you move from menu to menu – if you’re modifying something and want to rotate the camera for a better look you have to quit out of the PopIt completely, then make sure you’re in hover mode, which is the one situation in which the right stick can control the camera.

I could come up with a laundry list of arbitrary limitations that I ran into in my brief time: you can’t rotate objects around the vertical axis and can only rotate the camera in a narrow arc, so there’s no way to get a better angle on a three-dimensional object when you want to work inside it; there’s no way to paint an object all one colour without using large stickers to cover every flat surface, which leads to fighting with the limited camera movement when trying to colour all the angles; there’s no way to mix your own colours that I can see, so you’re limited to what the game gives you; I had issues getting creatures to respond how I wanted them to as well. For a game that was all about accessibility, it seems to make things much harder than they ought to be.

I still plan to go back and try to make something approaching my original vision, but I’m quickly realising that with so much else to play at the moment – I currently have Dead Space, Fable II, Fallout 3, and Yakuza 2 either nowhere near finished or still in the wrapping, and Gears 2 is out next week – I’m not going to have the time to learn all the quirks. Media Molecule is showing good support with two patches before it’s even out, so hopefully feedback will be taken on board.

So, Media Molecule, let’s have some more single-player content. One or two impressive community creations aside, that was where I had the most fun.

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