Littlebigplanet PSVITA was just recently in the hands of those lucky enough to have been selected to participate in the invite-only beta. This beta was just a small taste of what is to come, featuring a handful of levels and mini-games. It did a great job of proving that Littlebigplanet 2– and then some- was possible in portable form, and demonstrated that the create tools are as powerful as ever. Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven showed that they have what it takes to bring the basics to the Vita, but what about the meat of the game?
Fast forward to today, and we’ve got our hands on a new build. This build features the entire first chapter of the game, complete with an opening and closing cinematic and unlockable mini-games, which should prove to be familiar to LBP veterans. This chapter introduces us to a new story, characters, enemies, gameplay mechanics, and so forth. Truly, I was stunned. The game is every bit as stylized as LBP2– dare I say more so?
Enter the world of Carnivalia- a colorful world full of colorful characters. Colonel Flounder is your guide, taking the place of Larry Da Vinci. He’s more eccentric and dynamic, conscripting Sackboy to help battle the clinically despressed Puppeteer who currently has Canivalia in his grips, aided by his dreaded “Hollows”. The art direction is spot on- the carnival feel is in full swing, the scenery is beautiful, and the kooky music provides a wonderfully appropriate soundtrack. We follow Sackboy as he journeys to La Marionetta- which begins with a nearly-derailed circus train- to begin his training with the dear Colonel to take down the Puppeteer.
The training includes re-introducing the players to the tried and true LBP platforming tricks like jumping gaps, bouncing of bounce pads, grabbing onto spinning wheels, and swinging from retractable ropes. It also once again gives us a taste of what the Vita can do, allowing us to push blocks in and out of the screen to create new paths using the touch screen and rear touch panel. There are some other touch-oriented features as well, such as moving blocks around, spinning gears, etc. All of this really helps to make this game feel like a new and fresh LBP, and it definitely adds to the frantic quality of LBP-style platforming that I have come to love. Like I have said before, I do not think that this is the end of the Vita’s additions to gameplay styles, but for now this is all they are letting us see.
In my hands-on with the Beta, I mentioned a mini-game called “Tapling” that was not unlike LocoRoco in gameplay and Limbo in style. It has surfaced once again with four other mini-games that were unfortunately not playable. In hopes of unlocking some of the other games, I played a lot of Tapling. And then I found that I was playing Tapling because I wanted to be playing Tapling. Once I finished the eight levels, I sat back and reflected on it. Fleshed out, this could be a standalone game- even in its current state, calling it a mini-game does not do it justice. It is beautiful, simple but satisfying, and has basically nothing to do with LBP. I am dying to play the other games, because I believe that LBP for the Vita is going to be one of the greatest values of this generation. Not only does it boast a story mode, multiplayer, a full level creator (with at least 67 tutorials), and virtually unlimited community content, but it also includes what are basically entire other games. Tapling can be played to completion in under and hour and a half, significantly less if you’re adept. But I still felt like it was a complete experience. This is truly amazing stuff, and something to be very excited about.
Based on my experiences with the beta and preview versions of Littlebigplanet, there is little doubt in my mind that this will be the Vita’s game of the year. Everything is coming together so nicely, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the final product and continue working my way through the story. This game is going to be incredible. September 19th in Europe, 25th in North America. Buy it.