There's a feeling that an awful lot is riding on LittleBigPlanet. Some have called it the saviour of the PS3. Others have labelled it the most creative game of all time. It's even being held aloft as the poster boy for a new wave of user created gaming. For some it's just the game that is going to breathe life into the near-dead 2D platforming genre. So yeah, it's fair to say that LittleBigPlanet had the potential to destroy the dreams of an extremely vocal online community and hurt the company that invested a lot to bring the game to market. Thankfully developer Media Molecule has delivered a game that succeeds on most counts, fails in only a few and offers enough to be enjoyed by just about anyone.
For those not in the loop, LittleBigPlanet is a real-world physics-based 2D platformer that sees you take control of Sackboy (or at least a sackboy), a cloth-based anthropomorphic character that can leap about in glee (or sadness if you press down on the d-pad to alter his facial expression). One tap of the jump button will cause him to perform a skip-like jump that more or less skims the surface. Hold the button down and he'll jump higher. Your sackboy (we say 'your' as you're able to customise his attire and accessories to your desire) can also hold on to things by holding R1. This lets him move objects or swing on things, which come into play in the many levels Media Molecule has included.
Although focussed very heavily on user created content, LittleBigPlanet includes a story mode that spans the globe. Each themed area (The Savannah, The Temples, The Islands, The Canyons, The Wedding, The Wilderness and more) consists of a handful of levels which when completed open up the next in the story. Collect keys to open secret challenge levels and return to each to level in order to set a new high score (orbs collected earn you points) or to collect the many hidden items.
As in many platformers there are items scattered about the levels, but here they're not used to give your character new abilities or temporary enhancements, but simply added to your box of goodies. A menu, called popit, holds the secret to LittleBigPlanet's uniqueness. Bring this up and a new world of console gaming is unleashed. During the story mode you're simply able to stamp the world with stickers (often to release hidden items) and customise your sackboy, but everything you collect can be used in the level creation tool - something we'll get to a little later.
Compared to the very best 2D platformers (we're talking about Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, and even the recently released Braid if you want a modern comparison) your sackboy's jumping doesn't feel quite as precise as you might want it to be. We found ourselves forever over doing jumps, slipping off ledges and generally getting into trouble at the hands of the controls. Added to this is the three-tier system the levels use, allowing sackboy to move in and out of the screen. For the most part this works almost seamlessly, with the game figuring out where you want to be, but at other times it can cause real problems, ending in annoying and occasionally infuriating death.
This is made all the worse by what can only be described as a terrible checkpoint system. Checkpoints are well positioned throughout the story mode levels, but the lives system (usually only three lives per checkpoint) can cause headaches. For the most part LittleBigPlanet isn't a hard game, which makes tricky sections something of a shock and a pain. We actually really liked the parts of the game that asked us to perform incredibly hard feats of platforming, but the game seemingly wanted us to hate it. Fail enough times and you'll run out of lives, forcing you to replay the whole level. Replaying levels isn't hard, with most being pretty easy to run through once you've seen them, but when you're having to do that over and over again because of one obscenely tricky jumping section (which isn't helped by the floaty jumping) it tests your patience to near breaking point.