So, LittleBigPlanet on PS Vita. At first glance you almost dismiss it for looking exactly like LittleBigPlanet 2, but then you realise just how impressive it is seeing the weight and breadth of the console game packed down into a handheld device. How on Earth do they manage to stuff all that whimsy into something so small?
And whereas the PS3 versions of the game are restricted to using the DualShock 3 for player input, the PS Vita gives Media Molecule an additional set of swipes, prods, and pinches for the delight of both players and ingenious designers.
The most impressive part of a hands-on demo of The Puppet Circus, set immediately after Sony's E3 2011 conference, was one puzzle that had me navigating a clump of tetrominoes with both the front and back screens of the device. Pushing on the front would cause the quadratics to spring backwards, whereas a tap on the back screen would knock the blocks back into the foreground. It was quick, simple, and immediately satisfying.
Another puzzle had you moving a block around the screen with your finger, placing it underneath Sackboy at one part to have him jump to a switch, then moving the block to wedge open an all-important locked door. While I found this puzzle somewhat more fiddly, it never felt like the game's mechanics were at fault.
LittleBigPlanet works surprisingly well as a more tactile experience, masking some of its iffy control quirks and floaty jump mechanics with a bounty of other ways to move Sackboy around. Tilt the device on certain platforms, for instance, and he'll move in that direction. Pull back certain objects on tight elastic bands and you can use them to slingshot Sackboy across the map.
And, of course, it's all jam-packed with the series' notable charm and its amuse-bouche of miniscule touches. At one part you spring up into a one of those pier attractions where you squidge your head through a picture, another has you slide your finger across a row of piano keys, and there's even a bit with one of those machines where you test your strength and cause Sackboy to go flying.
The game will also feature support for all of LittleBigPlanet 2's tools, as well as PlayStation Network support so you can play, create, and share all your own creations. That's if you make any, of course, because LittleBigPlanet's designing tools have always been as difficult as they have extensive.
You'll also have the ability to snap stickers easily with the machine's two cameras, and you can edit photos to turn your snaps into in-game objects. And let's not forget you can lay objects down in the world by tapping areas with your finger, as well as being able to paint your constructions with your finger.
There's something particularly charming about LittleBigPlanet on the PS Vita. The game effectively showcases the various tricks of the device without being a cheap and nasty compilation of mini-games tailored specifically for each gimmick, while retaining that all-important creative zest and delightful ability to encourage players to fiddle and tinker.