I have made this bold prediction before, and now make it more comfortably as the year draws to a close; September brought us the Vita game of the year with Littlebigplanet Vita. It is, without a doubt, the best reason to purchase the console at this time, and I do not believe that it will be bested before the year’s end.
Littlebigplanet Vita is not only the best game on the platform, but it is also the best game in the series. Coming to us from Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven, the Vita game was originally touted as a living, breathing clone of Media Molecule’s PS3 title, Littlebigplanet 2. It looked the same, it felt the same, and it sounded the same. It was truly a console game in your hands. But the final product actually ended up being so much more than that, thanks to some ingenious design choices and, frankly, a fresh set of minds going to work on a franchise with no boundaries.
The story mode sticks to the typical Littlebigplanet formula- you meet a charming “creator”, play through their levels, unlock a couple bonus levels, and watch a pair of cutscenes to move the story along. Rinse and repeat until all of the creators come together to help you defeat the final boss. And in line with the second console entry, you will also encounter “alternative”, non-platforming levels here and there to change up the pace, and to show off how powerful the create tools are. The majority of the bonus levels are mini-games as well, several of them being versus levels meant to be played online against others. It is these levels that you will come back and play again and again, however simple some of them may be.
There are a number of things that help Littlebigplanet Vita‘s stand out from its console brethren. As far as story mode is concerned, this is where that fresh set of minds come into play; the story itself is fantastic. It is not as large in scale as Littlebigplanet 2‘s story, and it actually benefits greatly because of it. What you get instead is a simple, charming, whimsical tale that I absolutely loved. The presentation is fantastic, the characters are varied and interesting, and anyone of all ages can relate to it. It serves its purpose very well, and is a strong point for the game as a whole.
One of the biggest complaints about Vita games thus far has been forced touch and tilt functionality in games that do not need it. Uncharted and Resistance both were plagued with unintuitive touch features that were more of an annoyance or even hindrance than anything else. While Littlebigplanet does have quite a bit of touch, rear touch, and tilt integration, the developers can proudly say that it actually adds to the experience. Littlebigplanet, though a bit slow in pace, has always been a bit of a frantic platformer. This is compounded by the need to push, pull, and raise platforms using both touch panels. Tapping objects in the environment to progress melds seamlessly with the usual lever pulling and rope swinging. It feels really natural, like it has been part of Littlebigplanet all along.
Finishing up the single player elements of the game is a new mode called “The Arcade”. Featured are five games that basically have nothing to do with Littlebigplanet other than the fact that they were created within the game itself. Each of the five games features 10+ different levels of increasing difficulty, and will take you anywhere from thirty minutes to even over an hour to complete. Three of them are puzzle games that would be welcome in the App or Google Play Store. Retro Vector is a great homage to Asteroid, with the twist of saving stranded astronauts, definitely one of the standout games. Tapling is far an away the most interesting of the five- we described it as being a cross between Limbo and LocoRoco, which you can read about in our preview. After playing through these games, I realized how much content LBP Vita is packing. It is amazing to think that they are just a little part of a big package.
Finally, we have user created content. The highlight of the franchise, but also the site of the only gripes I have about Littlebigplanet Vita. The level creator is just as robust as ever, complete with dozens of tutorials. But even having played the tutorials, like other LBP games, I find that I really only know how to make basic platformers. How the master creators do what they do, I do not know. I wish there was a way for things to be laid out simply, but perhaps that is just not possible. As evidenced by the content that exists right now, the masters are still able to do what they do best. But for the little guy, the learning curve is still rather steep. Additionally, it is worth noting that these levels still take an eternity to load, a problem that will hopefully will be addressed in future installments.
The user created content itself has gotten a major new feature thanks to the portable nature of the console; any of these levels can be downloaded and saved to the memory card so that they can be played offline, on the go. I have already found myself downloading some of the non-platformers like “Shapely,” “Cows on a Biplane,” and a poor man’s Fruit Ninja to accompany the five games in “The Arcade”. What we have, really, is a potentially endless supply of mini-games that can be downloaded from Littlebigplanet as if it were a digital distribution platform. This is really exciting, and will keep Littlebigplanet in my Vita so long as users keep making new levels.
Bottom line, Littlebigplanet Vita is huge. From the story mode, to the minigames, to the online versus modes, to the user created content, Littlebigplanet Vita has it all. It is just as good- and I contend better- than its console counterparts. And it is without a doubt the main contender for Vita game of the year. Buy it. Buy it now.