My last blurb for the day is a bit cheerier than the last few. Pushing aside pseudo-romance-cannibal-abuse stories and being angry at people who don’t want to approach research with logic and the possibility of being wrong, I go to a happier place. A place I’ve already spent quite a lot of time with, both in previous incarnations and in this new one. A place where, literally, anything can happen… and probably will.
Little Big Planet 3 has been available for a little while now, though I only recently got the chance to play it, thanks in part to Sony taking pity on me and cutting the price by more than 50% for Valentine’s Day. You might still be able to grab it on the cheap if you hurry, as of 5:30 PM local time on the 15th, it’s still only $24.
For those who have lived in a vacuum of non-gamingness since the original LBP dropped back in 2008 – and boy, does it hurt to type that sentence, knowing I’ve been playing these for that long. Not as long as Metal Gear, maybe, but still long enough to go “Wow… it’s that old?” when I double checked the release date – it’s a game with a very simple motto that hides a very complex idea. “Play. Create. Share.”
The “play” portion of our program is very simple. LBP‘s primary entries (of which there are now 5, since the portable versions apparently weren’t cool enough to get numbers in their names despite being distinct from their console counterparts) are fairly basic platformers. You take a demented burlap puppet thing called Sackboy (or, excuse me, “Sack Person” in later entries), and go run around, jump on platforms, bop enemies on the head, grab bubbles for points and occasionally slap up to 3 other friends into bottomless pits while they stare at the results screen at the end of a level. No? Only me on that last part? Oh. Okay. Anyway. As with previous entries, LBP3 is competent in this, with varied and amusing level designs, suitably difficult without being too frustrating and annoying, and managing to make you laugh quite a bit along the way. There’s goofy stories involving threats to the ImagiSphere and the different (uncountable) lands it contains, with suitably wacky characters to guide or oppose you along the way. And a narrator who sounds like he was having entirely too much fun with his job. Plus, this time around, Hugh Laurie (you know, House?) is in it, which just makes it even better.
Changing it up from the previous entries (which, with the exception of the Gravity Gun addition to LBP2, pretty much let you jump and grab stuff, and that was about it), there are three new Sack Beings along for the ride; Oddsock, Swoop and Toggle. Oddsock is some kind of strange monkey/dog thing, that runs on all fours and is significantly faster than his companions; Swoop is – predictably – a bird, and Toggle is a giant stone golem with the ability to alternate between giant and tiny versions, each bringing something new to the mild puzzle solving antics. There’s also now a “Sockpocket,” which contains items such as the Blink Ball (fires projectiles that teleport you to them if they hit certain interactive surfaces) and a wind-generating gun that can alternately suck or blow certain objects in the environment (which sounds awful when I write it that way, but it’s still pretty entertaining.) You’ll get plenty of use out of your friends and new toys throughout the game, which is a bonus, since a lot of games tout new mechanics that you end up using once in a level and then forget about by the time the game is over.
There’s also a new game mode, called Poppit Puzzle, which lets you selectively edit and interact with a series of levels, to “fix” them so you can complete them. Ever said – or wanted to say – to a developer “Hey, that’s not how you should have done this! I can do better!”? Then here’s your chance.
But playing the story isn’t the half of it. Or even the tenth. Or the 33 1/3rd of it. Because then we get to “Create.” LBP lets you take all the zillions of stickers, materials, photos and other assorted doodads you’ll pick up in Story and Puzzle mode to go out and really put your money where your mouth is… by building levels of your own. Sure, that’s not necessarily a new idea – I’m sure I’m not the only one who spent hours locked in his room designing Doom .WADs – but LBP‘s native charm and the sheer amount of things you can actually do, often that end up with no resemblance at all to the main game in either style, theme or even genre just blows it out of the water. Plus, you’re actually playing while you’re creating the level, which both helps for testing and keeps you occupied instead of staring at a hex or graph editor until you have a migraine.
Of course, what good is it to make such pretty and impressive things if others don’t know about them? That’s where “Share” comes in; anything you make can be posted (and, so far as I can tell on the PS4 version, doesn’t require a PlayStation Plus account to do, unlike a lot of current games’ online functionality, so bonus!) to “Your Earth,” where others can play it, leaving Likes, Comments and Ratings. If you want to get really fancy, LBP3 adds in the functionality of “Stories,” where you can deliberately chain multiple levels – even with hubs and crazy cinematic sequences – to create whole games of your own, not just individual levels.
The Share mode is where most players of LBP are going to get their money’s worth, and that’s just as valid whether you paid full price or are snatching it at discount. Consider the Story mode just an elaborate tutorial, and a place to collect parts for your own insane creations. Share is where it’s at. In the last 24 hours, here’s just a few of the things I have played in this “simple little platformer:”
- An extremely entertaining Frogger remake, complete with randomized traffic, the proper top down perspective, and “squish” noises when you get run over.
- A Dying Light tribute, which goes so far as to add in a functioning day/night cycle, some parkour moves, working weapons (grenades, yay!) and a noise detection system.
- Whack-A-Mole with very angry bunnies. What, no platforms? Nope. Just a first-person view of the table and a nifty animated hammer cursor.
- A “guided tour” music video of Bruddah Iz’s Over the Rainbow, that included pirate ships, Puff the Magic Dragon in the background, and possibly the only rendition of a song in a video game that made me cry.
- A very whacked out Superhero Adventure, complete with cutscenes that are almost as well done as those included in the main game’s story mode, that included weapons, superpowers and potentially some of the most obnoxious fart sounds I’ve ever heard outside of Beavis and Butt-Head.
There’s more – hundreds, thousands, millions, probably – and no two are alike. Sure, there’s some that play just like the main game, albeit with a unique perspective from someone out there in the LBP community, and there’s others that aren’t so hot, and still others that folks have uploaded that are either broken, lame, or are still incomplete, but the good far outweighs the bad. Bonus! Levels made in previous versions of LBP typically still work, provided their creators haven’t nuked them, and though I haven’t had much of a chance to double check, it looks like levels you had previously made in older versions can be imported into the new editor and retooled if you’re of a mind.
I heartily recommend that nearly anyone with access to a PlayStation (the game is available for both PS3 and PS4) get over here and start playing. It’s intensely entertaining, and when you decide you’re tired of the main game, there’s all those zillions of levels other people have made, and the chance to make your own. And you can still slap people off the scoreboard, if you want, either local or online, with up to 3 other Sackpeople. Unfortunately, as with all great things, there is that small percentage of the population who just can’t get into it; if you’ve previously ventured into LBP‘s world and didn’t find yourself captivated – and what the hell is wrong with you? ;p – you probably will still remain standoffish and aloof to the plights of the ImagiSphere’s denizens. Given the variety to be found in Share, you’d think something would catch these folks’ attention, but after rigorous testing, I believe I’ve identified a genetic defect that prevents some people from enjoying this game, regardless of what creative proto-developers do under the hood while designing their own worlds. A heavy sigh.
So get out there and start playing it, already!