LittleBigPlanet Beta Review
By Larry Hong – 10/04/08
Developer(s) Media Molecule
Publisher(s) Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

      It’s been awhile since I’ve posted gaming news on this website, but I was recently able to get my hand on some beta keys from PlayStation.Blog and PlayStation Underground so I quickly jumped into downloading, installing, and playing LittleBigPlanet Beta.

      Once I started the game, I was taken to a very basic level with small little tutorials teaching me how to be happy, angry, sad, and worried, how to wave my hands, slap people, run, and jump. As I moved along the level the development team behind LittleBigPlanet appeared throughout the level. When I made it to the end, my last lesson was to learn how to use the PopIt menu and customize my character.

      After this, I was sent to the Pod. An interactive menu screen which allows me to play a level, check my LittleBigPlanet information, and create my own level—although I was unable to do it just yet. The main levels have two purposes: first to teach the player how to grab, pull switches, hang onto sponges, and other advanced techniques; the second purpose it to allow the player to collect items for their own levels and customizations... oh yeah they’re also for general fun as well so it has three purposes.

      Each of these levels has three possible 100% completions to them: Collecting 100% of the available items on the level; never lose a life; and completing the level. With each completion of these objectives the player is given even more items to use for their own level creations.

      Levels have three depths, farside, middleside, and nearside. This can get a little crazy when a lot is going on and you accidentally push the joystick down or up causing your little Sackboy (or Sackgirl) to switch to another depth and fall off to the bottom or run into a ghost or other baddies. Set checkpoints can be found throughout the level in case the player dies or is stuck and needs to respawn at the newest checkpoint—this can be done via Popit menu.

      Now to level creation; let’s get into it since it is one of the biggest reasons we are all hyped to purchase LittleBigPlanet. Media Molecule has not held anything back in terms of physics and freedom to create—save for the amount of content you can put on one level represented by a thermostat on the left side of the screen.

      Everything can be created from various forms of material which all have special functions—wood being the basic; sponge being light and grab-able; and metal being heavier than other materials. Players can cut, paste, paint, enlarge, shrink, and associate poisonous gases to various different materials until they create what they want—a horse, a duck, a rocket ship, a tank, if you can imagine it, you can make it... with enough patience. Now creating at this level can and will become tedious. Making duplicates would be hard, so LittleBigPlanet allows the player to create a square and capture any one of their creations.

      Now players are able to make anything and everything interactive either by setting a function via placing a brain item on an object or placing buttons and switches next to the object and linking them together via wires. Placing rocket items to an object allows it to shoot forward or up, but as I’ve learned it is a lot trickier than it sounds. For instance, making anything top heavy and/or unbalanced will cause the object to fall face forward when a rocket is propelling it. My advice is to test every single part as you go along and then test it one more time through the whole level or you’ll end up with a big mess.

      Online multiplayer is its Achilles Heel at the moment. I’ve tried connecting to several levels with other players only to be disconnected or have the host disconnect leaving me hanging on the screen until I’m ultimately dropped as well. Loading times are a little slow, but it could be due to the servers not ready to accept a large number of players just yet. This could be an isolated incident with me, but I’ve played multiplayer with issues on other games before so that’s doubtful. In addition to that, loading the LittleBigPlanet online takes a little while as well making you wait 3-5 minutes before the first few levels show up on screen.

      The audios and visuals sound and look very nice. It all fits the same scheme which may seem kiddy, but LittleBigPlanet is for everyone from the very tall to the very small so it only makes sense. Perhaps a Blood and Gore add-on in the future may appease those gamers who do not believe games can be good without blood and gore, but I don’t see a problem in the direction Media Molecule is going. Now, as I said before the controls are solid, but there are moments when you suddenly jump from middleside to nearside or farside to middleside when you do not mean to. Media Molecule has done its best to prevent accidents like that from happening locking you to one side during some situations or automatically having your little Sackboy (and Sackgirl) auto target a button or switch regardless of which depth you are currently on. This can also be limited by the players when creating a level because it allows you to stretch a certain material or object lengthwise, heightwise, and depthwise.

      Now Media Molecule has already said time and again that the LittleBigPlanet beta is from an earlier build and is not the final build. This also means our beta creations will not be imported to the full game. To anyone who has made something fantastic, be sure to make blueprint copies somewhere to recreate it come the release of the retail game. As an early build I believe Media Molecule hit the mark for a game like this, as a final build they still have some issues to work on including but not limited to its online gameplay. Now whether LittleBigPlanet can draw in new gamers to purchase a $400 console, we’ll just have to wait and see; I have no doubt that PS3 owners, on the other hand, will pick this game up on October 21, 2008. Sorry for the lack of pictures, I’m still trying to get funds to make that happen.