LittleBigPlanet PS Vita review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Tarsier Studios, Double Eleven, XDev
Medium: Vita Card / Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Online
ESRB: E10+

It’s no secret that the PlayStation Vita needs some serious hits to help drive consumer excitement for the device. It is also no secret that legitimately great PS Vita games have been few and far between since launch. So, Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven, with the assistance of Media Molecule and SCEE XDev, have combined their talents in a neffort to save the day with LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. And with this charming new Sackboy adventure ready to go, save the day they have.

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is a totally new LittleBigPlanet game and is every bit as good as the original games, and the sequel, for the PS3. This is not just a port of any of the previous LBP games, the PSP version included, and the developers really nailed Media Molecule’s vision and style perfectly. From the second you hear Stephen Fry’s intro narration; you will probably crack a smile that will last throughout the entire day.

In terms of storyline, LBP Vita goes a bit darker than the previous adventures. The Puppeteer (no relation to the upcoming PSN title) is stealing the joy from the residents of Carnivalia in LittleBigPlanet, and they need Sackboy’s help to thwart his nefarious intentions. The adventure takes Sackboy to 6 different themed worlds and has him meeting up with a rather hilarious and quirky set of puppet characters in his quest to defeat the seemingly evil Puppeteer.

With LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen and motion sensing capabilities add a legitimate level of interaction to a game that just begs for it. Play, Create, Share is in full effect with the additional capabilities put to really good use in pretty much each and every facet of the game. The gameplay itself is enhanced by allowing players to manipulate items around on screen in unique and intuitive ways, and serves to enhance the already solid platforming controls and concepts in the game. The interface is extremely touch friendly with well-designed menus, inventory screens and bubbly UI ideas that makes sharing and communicating a breeze. The create tools are many times more useful with the ability to accurately place items, rotate, pinch to zoom, and generally be more artistic thanks to the front and back touch surfaces. You can utilize the Vita’s cameras to take photos of real objects and make them into stickers or textures, which is definitely also a nice touch (pun intended). The microphone can be used to record sound effects and voice-overs as well.

Creative types can even make games and levels that take advantage of touch and motion controls in combination with the classic controls for a relatively unlimited number of possibilities. The developers themselves have even created a nice set of mini-games and arcade games that mimic other popular games and genres found on smartphone and tablet devices using the in-game tools. Gamers have already uploaded over 1,000 levels and creations as of this writing.

The online functionality included in LBP Vita is basically second to none. Just like the console version, you can team up with up to 3 other players or friends and play the entire game co-operatively, or take on another player in the competitive vs. mini-games. If you’re going for 100% completion, multiple players (no more than 2) are required to solve some simple puzzles in a few of the levels. Communicating with other gamers works very well with the Vita’s built in touchscreen keyboard, although there is no voice chat. Downloading new content, rating levels, leaving comments, hearting players and user creations, and taking photos and uploading is a cinch with all of the touchscreen controls. The experience is very, very impressive, and so far, extremely solid and lag free.

Visually, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is gorgeous and the production values are obviously quite high. The image quality is about damn near perfect, and you would be hard-pressed to distinguish the PS3 from the Vita version. The framerate is extremely solid, the textures are always high quality, and there are literally no rough edges anywhere to be seen in the game. There are some real-time cut scenes during the story mode that I was entirely convinced had to be pre-rendered CG (they weren’t). The lighting is exceptionally good as are most of the effects. A few very minor smoke and particle effects looked somewhat toned down from LBP2, but it could just be the change in style. As mentioned earlier, the UI is well thought-out all around, attractive and easy to use.

Audio is never an afterthought in LittleBigPlanet, and the developers are totally on point with the terrific soundtrack selected for LBP Vita. The voice overs, which are used sparingly, are nicely done and humorous throughout the story levels.

The gameplay, controls and physics feel solid and entirely accurate as compared to LBP2 on the PS3. Nothing at all feels dumbed down in any way on the Vita, and the analog stick and buttons work exactly as they should. The touch controls are usually quite good as well, though there are a few odd times where the touch input seems to lag slightly. The rear surface only respond to one touch at a time in the game, so you need to be conscious of not resting more than one finger on the back during sequences where you need to use it.

The worlds in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita are beautiful, very well designed, and are actually challenging. For those like me who feel compelled to ace each and every level, the chance of doing so on the first trip through is fairly slim. There are usually a couple of dangerous obstacles or tempting, hard to reach score bubbles that will result in a zapped, impaled or burned Sackboy/Sackgirl. Once you learn the difficult parts, and the methods for overcoming them, then it gets a little easier upon subsequent level playthroughs. There aren’t a whole lot of enemies to dispose of in LBP PS Vita, but the stages can definitely preset a challenge. On the other hand, the boss fights are definitely quite epic though. My only real complaint regarding the story mode is that it ends far too soon. The six worlds zip by pretty quickly, especially if you’re not a perfectionist. Thankfully there is already no shortage of free user-created content available to download and play, and there’s no doubt that a lot more is coming. We hope, like they did with the other LBP titles, Sony will make sure that new professionally created expansions will also be available shortly for the game.

If you have a PlayStation Vita, and whether or not it’s gathering dust right now, you owe yourself a copy of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. It’s not only a great LittleBigPlanet game and a great Vita game, it’s a great game, period.

Grade: A