With The Order: 1886 being delayed into 2015, and DriveClub still a hot mess more than a month after release, describing PlayStation 4’s exclusive lineup this holiday as “light” is rather accurate. This leaves LittleBigPlanet 3 as the sole PlayStation exclusive of fall 2014. Stewarded by Sumo Digital, the fine developers of Xbox Fitness and Nike+ Kinect Training, LittleBigPlanet 3 is just as charming as previous entries. They establish the right amount of new ideas to keep the franchise fresh, but never reach the greatness it deserves.
Sackboy returns as the main character, and is whisked away to the world of Bunkum by the mysterious Newton. Voiced by Hugh Laurie, Newton tells Sackboy that Bunkum is suffering from a lack of creativity, and tricks our hero into unleashing three monstrous creatures called Titans, capable of sucking all of the creative inspiration from the world dry. Possessing Newton, the Titans begin laying waste to Bunkum leaving Sackboy to save the land by awakening the three great heroes: Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop. The story of LittleBigPlanet 3 is rather silly and predictable, but is handled with a level of charm that keeps you glued to your controller. Bunkum is split into four different hub worlds with one serving as the game’s prologue. Each world contains several levels and challenges, and is designed with a certain hero in mind. The goal is to collect three marbles per world to awaken a hero, at which they must then confront a boss to progress further.
The most important change to the LittleBigPlanet formula are the new characters, and each are endearing with their own unique gameplay mechanics. Oddsock can run fast, scurry up walls and wall-jump. Toggle can switch between a larger, heavier version of himself and a smaller, lighter version. Swoop can take to the skies, carry objects and perform aerial dives. Each are fun in their own way, it’s just disappointing you don’t get to play as them all that often. The majority of the game has to be played as Sackboy with the other three only accessible within their unique hub world, a handful of levels, and in boss fights. It’s really saddening that the characters are underutilized as each of them are fun to play with. Sumo Digital has designed some fantastic levels around these characters, and I wish there were more. Playing as Toggle and manipulating his size to get past barriers and jumping higher adds a new layer of precision not seen before in a LittleBigPlanet game. Likewise, Oddsock adds a sense of speed as he gallops from platform to platform, and Swoop’s aerial sections require you to maneuver carefully through electrical traps. These characters freshen up the formula and add new layers of depth to the gameplay, but the game never capitalizes on them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to play as Sackboy as the handful of new gadgets keep him fresh. The Boost Boots propel him to new heights, the Blink Ball teleports him to a new part of the level and the Hair Dryer sucks and pushes items away.
This is the most challenging LittleBigPlanet game to date thanks to these new additions as you’ll need a level of precision and quick-handedness not present in past titles. With these new characters and levels, there’s also four player co-op locally and online. Levels have been designed with co-op replayability in mind as certain areas can only be accessed when joining others. Playing the four-player specific levels, requiring the use all of the unique abilities, LittleBigPlanet 3 can be one the best co-op experiences in recent history. Going solo is fun, but playing with friends is going to elevate your experience all together.
This has been a franchise capable of delivering the end-game goods, and LittleBigPlanet 3 lives up to that standard. Sumo Digital has packed tons of content into the game, so much that it can be overwhelming at first glance. Sprinkled throughout the hub worlds are mini-games and side quests to pursue, which reward you with materials, stickers and even character costumes. Outside of the adventure is the Level and Game Creator, the most satisfying feature of the franchise. With these powerful tools you can create simple LittleBigPlanet levels, or go beyond that and create your own miniature games. Aspiring creators can use Popit Puzzles to learn the ins and outs of the Creator. These puzzles instruct you on the use each creation tool, and are played like an ordinary LittleBigPlanet level. It’s an ingenious way to make learning fun, and I’m excited to see what creators can do with these powerful tools.
True to their word, Sony has delivered every player-created level from the last two LittleBigPlanet games. I traversed a recreation of the USG Ishimura from Dead Space, participated in a lightsaber duel, and even played a bit of Street Fighter. There aren’t any levels that make use of LittleBigPlanet 3’s new features just yet, but given enough time we’ll start seeing them emerge. What this ultimately amounts to is a game that never ends, as the community is vast and dedicated.
While not technically impressive like Killzone: Shadow Fall or Infamous: Second Son, LittleBigPlanet 3 is artistically appealing. Sumo Digital has nailed the art style of previous games, all while giving it a nice coat of paint. It’s also relatively stable in comparison to recent releases this season, such as Driveclub and Assassin’s Creed Unity. There were a few times when the character would fall through the world, forcing a respawn, but I never encountered anything game-breaking or detrimental to my experience. Finally, this is the first title in the franchise to be fully voiced both during cutscenes and in-game with Stephen Fry returning as the hilarious narrator and Hugh Laurie lending his vocal chords to Newton.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is an endearing and charming game that will work its way into your heart thanks to its presentation and new characters. The end-game possibilities are endless thanks to the co-op, level creator and millions of community driven stages imported from past titles, but it’s held back due to Sumo Digital’s unwillingness to fully flesh out their ideas. While Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop are solid additions, they’re underutilized in the core experience. LittleBigPlanet 3 is a good game, but stops short of being a great one.