LittleBigPlanet Vita is a lovely game. It’s the kind of game that you’d be happy to show your mum, safe in the knowledge that everything – even the death – is safe for delicate eyes. That’s fine. I’m happy that there are still some games that aren’t full-on in their depiction of violence. LBP Vita’s problem, though, is that behind all this loveliness there needed to be a bit more grit.
As ever in the LBP series, a terrible evil is causing problems, this time the so called “Puppeteer”, who has created an army of soulless minions that seem hell-bent on ruining the wonderful world Sackboy inhabits. This, expectedly, means you get to play through five themed areas, each overseen by a quirky character who pops up along the way to utter a few words.
More important is the platforming, which feels just like it does in LittleBigPlanet 2 – love it or hate it. I happen to enjoy Sackboy’s floaty jumps, but newcomers who haven’t already played the previous three adventures will need to accept that this isn’t Mario, like the rest of us did in 2008.
Gadgets and gizmos play a big part, with the grappling hook once again being the highlight. Using your momentum to swing about without appearing to be Boris Johnson stuck on a zipline takes some learning, but the most satisfying moments come when the grappling hook is involved.
Other thingymebobs include a gun, strange triangle car that sticks to walls, and Gladiators-style massive hamster balls. You’ve also got the front and rear touch panels, which are used in the majority of levels to push objects into and out the screen, as well as to simply move platforms around or spin wheels.
As I said, it’s all rather lovely, and there’s a definite sense that some of the elaborate stages took not only a lot of man hours to produce, but also a level of intelligence far greater than my own. It’s all a bit like a complex domino build, though; an awful lot of careful work went into setting it all up, but then someone comes along and it’s over without breaking a sweat. In LittleBigPlanet Vita you are the finger that flicks over the first domino, seeing what has been created, but not having to work to do so. In short, for your average player there’s very little challenge.
Playing with a friend (or three) is still an option, and a necessity if you want to see everything the game has to offer, but the chaotic nature of co-op causes frustration and at times lag made the experience impossible to enjoy. A selection of mini-games can be accessed from inside each world area, and five iOS-like arcade games are housed in their own menu, each offering at least 30 minutes of gameplay for when the campaign is done and dusted.
And now the obligatory level creation paragraphs. For me things are more or less as they are in LBP2. While you can now use your finger to paint objects, that doesn’t help me overcome a crippling inability to create something that doesn’t look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland with flowers dotted about – possibly with a grainy picture of a plush toy plastered on a wall.
With only creations from useless journos like myself flooding the level marketplace it’s hard to say for sure what is to come when the masses get hold of the game. With the touch panels to play with, there’s a good chance we’ll get some excellent user-created content in the future, but there’s nothing here that will make creating considerably easier if you’ve struggled in the past.
At four games in the LittleBigPlanet series feels less fresh than it once did, and new touch mechanics don’t add as much to the experience as you might think. There’s never enough of a challenge to match how complex the levels look, resulting in a joyous jaunt through some wondrous lands that never reaches the gameplay heights that always seem to lie tantalisingly around the corner.