TL;DR- Amidst the chaotic holiday season of releases, LittleBigPlanet 3, this time with Sumo Digital at the helm as developer, manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its refreshing take on the puzzle platformer, expansive level creator, and more charm in its little sack pinky than ever before. The three additional heroes woven into Sackboy’s adventure through Bunkum introduce endless possibilities for dynamic gameplay and creative puzzle making in the famed create mode, but go unfortunately underutilized. Aside from a few spawning issues—which will hopefully be patched by the time you get your hands on it—LittleBigPlanet 3 is a seamless experience from beginning to end with unique challenges along the way.
I’m once again sprinting and hopping to my knitted heart’s content when a light bulb named Newton interrupts the introductory tutorial and whisks me away to Bunkum, another planet in the Little Big Universe. He reveals that long before the Negativitron was causing problems, three massively mean titans invaded the inspiration filled world of Bunkum and unleashed terror. Luckily, three heroes showed up in the nick of time to trap the titans forever– or so they thought. After unwittingly lending a hand in an evil plot to release the monsters once more, your little sack person must find a way to revive the ancient heroes to restore balance to Bunkum.
Being one of the chief criticisms of the series in the past, it’s nice to see the plot given a bit more gravity. It unfolds organically and introduces the player to new move sets in a non-intrusive way. Tutorials that are provided for both the adventure and level making modes are easy to understand and skippable, which was a relief whenever I had to start over. Also, voice acting, which was previously limited to only cut scenes, has been extended to Sackboy’s trek across Bunkum in story mode. Joining series veteran Stephen Fry (narrator), are the wonderful talents of Hugh Laurie (Dr. House), Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Tara Strong (Rikku, Harley Quinn), and a couple of familiar voices from past LBP titles. Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the villain Newton in particular is a delightful contrast to Fry’s narrator, which makes a lot of sense considering the fact that the pair are real life chums.
Over the course of the story, you’re given several tools including: the pumpinator, which blows and sucks air to move blocks; the blink ball, which allows you to teleport to otherwise unreachable locations; the hook hat, which enables sack boy to travel by wire; and last but not least, boost boots, which propel our protagonist to new heights. Although I found each power up enjoyable, it was the hook hat journey through the locomotive level that had me hooked (heh). The fluidity and timing of this level kept me thinking on my feet– or rather, off my feet since I spent the majority of the time suspended on a wire– and was just plain fun. The boost boots, on the other hand, were a little bit tougher to get the hang of. Blasting off was simple enough, but once boost bubbles were added, getting the timing wrong meant falling all the way back to the bottom. There was a bit of a learning curve, but after a while, things gradually became a bit easier.
Since I was able to easily switch between power ups at the touch of a button, thanks to the handy new Sackpocket, I found myself heading back to previous levels to not only to beat my own score and collect every last item, but to see what mysteries I could unlock in previously off limits areas of the map. Obtaining collectibles and unlocking secrets isn’t the only reason I happily made several trips, however, because the levels– this time located in three separate hub worlds– themselves were as creative as ever. One of my favorites was set in a 50’s themed diner located in a world navigated by creator curator Marlon Random (I think the reference is clear here). Despite liking it quite a bit, I did run into a game breaking respawn glitch in this level, which luckily Sony has already promised to remedy with the day one patch. There are also several unlockable challenge modes, some of which put your creative skills to the test. In one such side mission, I built a race car from a bottle, a tennis balls, and added several balloons to assist with jumps during a race with an NPC. Our little sack creature must (either alone or with up to three other players) run, bounce, and climb its way through the main levels to find marbles, which bring the heroes back to life when you’ve collected enough.
Speaking of heroes, the biggest feature that sets this entry apart is the addition of the three playable characters: Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop. With each character comes a new way to tackle puzzles. Oddsock, the four legged canine sock puppet, is able to speed through puzzles and bounce off walls. Toggle, well, toggles between his monstrous and petite form to weigh down switches, walk on water, and break glass, among other things. Then there’s Swoop who, you guessed it, traverses the levels via flapping her feathery wings and swooping to avoid danger.
One of the most surprising aspects of these brand new characters was how easy they were to get the hang of. Despite being limited to Sackboy for the past iterations, I was happily bounding as fast as Oddsock’s little woven legs could take me once I got my hands on him. I quite enjoyed his quick little trot through the death filled obstacle courses, and had a lot of fun shifting between large and small Toggle at the last minute to see physics in action.
Of the three characters, however, Swoop was hands down the most frustrating to use. Though soaring through the levels was fun, the walls rigged with electricity and nearly unavoidable spikes make our beaked heroine one of the most finnicky characters in the game. Meaning, if you don’t time your moves just right, you’re toast. Notice a trend? Luckily, I had no problem getting her to respond in the way I wanted her to. The times I did perish were a matter of not being careful enough. This unforgiving aspect of the game is also one of the most rewarding. The fact that I knew exactly what went wrong every time, gave me a positive outlook that I would indeed actually get it right sometime. As frustrated as I got, quitting was never an option, which is a good sign in any game if you ask me.
Probably the most disappointing thing about the new characters, however, is that they aren’t used as much as I had hoped they would be. I felt like I spent the majority of my time making the rounds as Sackboy in order to get to one of the famed heroes– who, when reached, only granted about two levels per hub world. One was designed to introduce you to their special skill, the other a boss battle. It wasn’t until the very end that all of my skills were put to the test in a death defying relay to victory. The tag team aspect of this sectoion was something I had wished carried over to the rest of the story. I would have liked to have used Oddsock in Toggle’s world, or vice versa to vary the gameplay even more.
Luckily, however, the underutilization of the new characters in story mode was remedied by their appearance in create mode. One of the many new items that have been added to the create mode was the character changer, which allows you to determine which character can be used in a particular section of the level. This completely revolutionizes the things you can do in terms of puzzle making and can create an interesting experience for other LittleBigPlanetian players who wish to tackle your creation. Want a level where you are consistently switching between all of the characters? You have the tools to do just that.
Although I’ve never been drawn to LittleBigPlanet’s customization mode, the changes made to it have morphed it into an accessible experience, even for someone as unimaginative as me. The Popit Puzzle Academy is an optional set of challenges that is a pretty good tutorial for those who don’t know where to start. Just as in adventure mode, the instructions here are easy to understand and execute. These individual tasks are later built upon to do complex things like create death traps and player sensors.
Once you think you’re ready for the big leagues, the “My Moon” area accessible from the pod allows you to create your own levels, and for the first time ever worlds of connected levels. Within create mode, you can now customize weather, create tracks, and even make your own power ups! With the new ability to go over 16 layers deep, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. But, If you’re like me and creating isn’t your forte, there are over 3 million backwards compatible player created levels from LBP 1 and 2 to choose from in the community catalogue.
Plain and simple, LittleBigPlanet 3 is the same charmingly fun adventure we all know and love, with a little extra flare this time. Although underutilized, new playable characters add an extra dimension to gameplay, both during the main story and create mode. While some people may put it on the back burner until they’ve played the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4, LittleBigPlanet 3 will be there waiting with all of the familiar warmth of the previous additions, and an inspiring creative mode to keep them playing well after the holiday season.
-New characters add another level of creativity when tackling puzzles and creating them.
-Power ups are fun and refreshing.
-Create mode is even more accessible.
-Heroes weren’t integrated as much as I would have liked.
4 out of 5 burritos
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of LittleBigPlanet 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game hit stores Tuesday, November 18 for the PS4 and PS3.