Playing with friends is a great way to get maximum enjoyment out of the game, with four sackboys creating moments that wouldn't happen if you were playing alone. There's also a decent competitive scoring system running as you make your way through each level, ensuring you're always trying to get as many orbs as possible. The problem comes when the levels get trickier. We found that the sections that required millimetre perfect jumps to be nigh-on unplayable with friends, down to the way the camera shifts about and has a tendency to focus on the wrong part of the action. It's a real shame as multiplayer with some friends around the same console is great fun when it works (it should be noted that we haven't been able to test these levels online with other players).
When the levels work LittleBigPlanet shows its brilliance, with creativity on show here that shames the majority of titles hitting the market this year, but there are too few levels in the story mode that reach this high standard. It won't take you long to beat the 20 or so levels (with a further truck load of challenge levels unlocked if you collect keys) and unless you really want all the items only a few warrant repeated play. Thankfully a lot of people will want to get all those items, as without them you're limiting what you can make in the level creator - arguably you shouldn't have to hunt every item down if you just want to create levels, but it's a design decision we can live with.
Judged as just a technically impressive, artistically brilliant platformer LittleBigPlanet would rank high on the PS3's best games list, but not terribly near the top. It's not until you factor in the level creation tools that the true depth, creative brilliance and longevity of the game shine through. Let us first point out that this isn't a tool for everyone. If you have no artistic flair you're not going to be able to create great levels - and Media Molecule has excluded features like using digital camera snaps (PlayStation Eye photography only) and user-generated audio that would have pleased more casual creators - but if you're willing to invest the time and have a little flair, this could be the only game you'll need to play in some time.
LittleBigPlanet looks simple, but the level creation tools have been made almost entirely for the hardcore to get hold of. As much as Sony might market LittleBigPlanet as a game for everyone, this aspect isn't going to get much love from your non-gaming partner, mother or little sister. If you've dreamt of making your own games (ideally 2D platfomers with floaty jumping, but there is room for some creative game design) the tools here will make that dream come true. It's complex stuff for sure, with the well delivered tutorials from Stephen Fry only really introducing you to the basics, but stick with it and truly great things can be achieved. The test server our review build connected to could only see a few handfuls of levels, but even these showed the kind of creativity that's hopefully going to be in even more abundance once the game hits stores.
Of course, if you don't care for level creating you can simply play the levels that others have created. Sure, a large number will be terrible and you'll only finish a handful, but you'll often find small moments of brilliance within what appeared to be a complete mess of a level - we can see cooperative level creating online being a big bonus for creative types once Media Molecule patches in the unfortunately excluded feature. A clever tagging and heart system lets you see what others think of levels too, so it's relatively easy to find levels that are worth your time.
LittleBigPlanet may well save the PS3 (if it indeed needs saving), it may be the most creative game of all time, it could well usher in a new era of user-generated gaming, and has a chance of bringing about a 2D platforming renaissance, but all those things are down to you. The game Media Molecule has created won't do these things alone, but if gamers create the levels we think they're capable of, we might be looking at one of the most important games this console generation has seen. As it stands it's an entertaining platfomer, highly polished training tool and potential gateway to greatness. We're hoping it will end up being much more.