LittleBigPlanet PS Vita review: A nearly perfect LittleWorld

LittleBigPlanet Vita reviewLittleBigPlanet has always had a single glaring problem: Its tools are locked behind a game controller. Whether it was the first game’s cumbersome interface, the refinement from the PSP entry, or the significantly rethought PS Move-enabled rendition in LittleBigPlanet 2, Media Molecule’s games have always been limited in their reach as tools for game creation. For a game about transcending boundaries—between video game players and designers especially—the walls of technology have always disturbingly confined it. Though it isn’t perfect, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is the closest the series has come to overcoming its problem, thanks in no small part to the PS Vita itself.

Taking over for Media Molecule this time out is Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven. It’s Double Eleven’s very first project since opening in 2009, and the game is a hell of a debut. It handled the nuts and bolts coding of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, and the studio did a yeoman’s job. Everything in the game works. The physicality of running, jumping and swinging feels particularly nice. The series has a reputation for feeling a little squishy thanks to its physics (read: Everything in the world has mass). Even things like pushing around objects in levels using the Vita’s touch screen feels just right and natural rather than tacked on.

LittleBigPlanet Vita

The interface is a significant victory, though. All those menus hiding the stickers, blocks, costumes, and other goodies used to build levels and games in LittleBigPlanet are now easy to access and manipulate via the Vita’s touch screen. Want to make a rolling forest with big and little hills? Don’t worry about the imprecision of analog sticks. Just pinch and spread your fingers on the screen to size the world, spin it, and place it where you choose. Want a picture of your dog as the sun in your forest? Just tap the camera icon in your menu, snap a shot of Bonesy, and place him in the sky. No need to worry about hooking up a PlayStation Eye for such things.

It cannot be overstated how ease of use has transformed LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. There’s little else more boring than judging a game by its “mechanics,” but in the case of LittleBigPlanet those tools are the game. Previous games were versatile as palettes for players, but they have never offered anything so accessible and easy to automatically understand. Now all you need to create a great LittleBigPlanet level is a keen creative mind, not a willingness to penetrate its cumbersome utilities.

The quality of Double Eleven’s technical achievements doesn’t overshadow Tarsier’s artistic direction. LBP PSV’s campaign is a substantial meal that entertains at the same time as demonstrating just what you can build if you so choose. It’s a pretty swell little story too, one that embraces the themes of brave creativity at the heart of LBP. The Sackboy or Sackgirl you craft in your image is on a mission to end The Puppeteer’s reign of terror across the land. He used to be one of the greatest entertainers in the world, but he became disillusioned after getting booed by his audience. Now he’s an embittered overlord of the Hollows, creepy faceless inversions of Sackboy that are pulling the world apart. Creating anything is a tender act that leaves you vulnerable. LBP PSV says that the only real danger is giving up if people don’t like what you’ve made.

LittleBigPlanet PSVita Sackboy receives careful guidance from the residents of the lands he visits like the circus ringleader of La Marionetta or Marianne Noisette of the Land of Odd, and each land is beautiful and strange in its own right. The junk store aesthetic of Media Molecule’s originals is still present, but LBP PSV also has a lot of the surreal blood from Tarsier’s unfinished The City of Metronome running through its veins. That sense of style elevates the game above being just a portable LittleBigPlanet 2. When coupled with those smooth interface tools, it becomes almost perfect.

Conclusion

Media Molecule conceived its signature series as a work that shattered barriers, dissolving the wall standing between audience and creator. It would be a full game all on its own that people could swing and jump through together as well as a brimming toolbox with which you could create all new games of your own. The LittleBigPlanet has never been the utopia it could be though. It can’t ever be. Until LittleBigPlanet somehow lets you make a game that looks, sounds, and plays like whatever you can imagine, it won’t be the perfectly populist tools it was sold as. It can only be the best version of itself. Tarsier and Double Eleven’s game is awfully close to what Media Molecule was promising when it debuted the first game back at GDC in 2007. Now all the series needs is some people to buy PS Vitas to play it.

Score: 9 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the PS Vita with a copy provided by Sony)

Music

From Jay Rock to Saba, these are the 50 best albums of 2018

We've spent the year listening to new albums, digging deep, and culling our master list into 50 favorites. From blockbuster releases to hidden gems, these are the best albums of 2018.
Cars

Land Rover’s upcoming high-tech Defender will leave last-gen model in the dust

Land Rover is giving the Defender a full reboot. The original SUV was a rugged machine built to go anywhere. Its replacement will tick those boxes, too, but it will add a dose of technology and luxury.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Gaming

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Gaming

‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.
Gaming

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.
Gaming

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.
Gaming

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.
Gaming

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.
Gaming

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.
Deals

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.
Gaming

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ update 7.10 brings a rotating selection of modes big and small

The latest update for Fortnite introduces 14 Days of Fortnite, an event that brings back large and small battle royale modes as well as brand new ones to enjoy during the holiday season.
Gaming

New Xbox consoles are reportedly code-named ‘Anaconda’ and ‘Lockhart’

Microsoft's next-generation Xbox plans reportedly consist of two separate consoles. One, called "Lockhart," is a more affordable machine, while "Anaconda" is designed with more horsepower.