Little Big Planet Splash screen

LittleBigPlanet 3 First Impressions

LittleBigPlanet 3 is a puzzle platformer with character and charm. Sackboy teams up with Oddsock, Swoop and Big Toggle with Stephen Fry narrating their adventure. I thought I was almost ready to give up on puzzle platformers because their requirement for precision and timing seems beyond me to master. I always end up getting stuck within the linear design on silly things like not being able to double jump up a wall or swoosh the analog stick fast enough for zigzagging or when I hit the jump button hopefully, my character still plummets to death because I hit it too early, too late or not at all. 

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LittleBigPlanet 3 has all these things, some harder to execute than others, but it also has variation in its four characters that make it easier. The tutorial, otherwise known as the prologue, was a bit long and laborious – I was itching to play and it kept slowing me down to introduce individual buttons that I could not remember half an hour later in any case. I wanted to dive into the story, figure out where I was going and did not appreciate my hand being held and every time I tried to run the very nice soothing narrator effectively told me to stop and wait so he can finish talking about this button here that does something very important and then I can be let loose in the actual game.

I finished up and was finally ready to start playing and it was wonderful. It’s a beautiful iconic world filled with creativity and bold design and I wanted to get lost in it, jumping and puzzling my way all the way to the end. Then the game crashed as I entered the load screen to collect the first marble in Chapter One. After repeated crashes and trying all the different gates including the Shop, one load screen finished loading and I was able to collect one of the three marbles. I then had the same issue repeat trying to get the second marble. It finally let me only to loose my progress at the end of the stage in another crash. I abandoned playing to have a cup of tea.

Returning a few days later, I was able to pick up where I left off and was able to play without any crashes, glitches or set backs. I collected the marbles and unlocked Oddsock. Oddsock encompasses all the things about puzzle platforms that I cannot do. Zigzag jumping, timed jumps, quickly moving forwards, faster than I can think to hit the right buttons. I find him challenging and right from the start, I am getting caught up in death loops and replaying the same tiny section over and over. I hope to get better at it with time, but for the time being, this is as far as I can get frustration free into LittleBigPlanet 3.

Features and Accessibility

Design & Visual Accessibility

It has a beautiful creative style and visual appearance. Text size is on the small side in the menu and log system, but subtitles are easy to read text against a high contrast background making them easy to read. Interactive elements was not always clear, but I didn’t come across any colour coded cues. There was no persistent flash or flicker within the game mechanics that could be problematic for anyone with photophobia and it seemed very accessible to anyone with simulation sickness. Some reduced vision should not be a problem, except that the text in the quest log and menu system is hard to read because of size and it cannot be adjusted.

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Audio & Accessibility

It has a great soundtrack that adds to the atmosphere and style of the game, but sound not required to play. There are no audio only cues and all dialogue is subtitled and I had no issues playing without sound.

Input and Touch

Sidescrolling puzzle platformers require a certain level of accuracy, timing and dexterity and LittleBigPlanet 3 is no exception. There are multi-button controls, for example hold down R1 to climb then press X to jump at the right moment. When building, items are moved with the analog stick then dropped or dragged with a secondary button. There are no QTE’s or button mashing that I came across in the first part of the game, but both timing and precision are essential skills.

Knowing when to jump, when to move and when to stop and being able to carry those out within a short time frame is the difference between success and failure. Jump too early and you are knocked off, jump to late and you miss the platform. There is regular check point saving, but no manual save. Pause any time for a break. It is difficult to play with one hand as the left analog is used for moment and almost everything else is on the right. There are also times when R1 and L1 has to be pressed at the same time or in quick succession. I find Sackboy a joy to play, but Oddsock is very challenging.

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Ease of Use

It is a creative and intuitive person type of game with icon based menu’s, visual building tools and being a drop down list type of person, I found confusing at first, but quickly adapted. It is a puzzle game, but the initial puzzles were linear challenges, easy to keep track of and complete.

There are many made up words in LittleBigPlanet 3, which adds to its charm, but makes it a little less accessible for some language based problems. There is both voice over and text, the menu is icon based with text when highlighted or selected, making it accessible to use. The quest log is a big help and the globe map keeps track of areas and progress, also a big help. There is no reliance on math.

There are quite a few keys to remember and no list in the menu or reminders, so if you forget how to use something, it takes some trial and error button pushing to figure it out again. There is only one difficulty level. Multiplayer is offered by default on each start-up as it is a game where the multiplayer adds fun and more content.

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This is my first introduction to LittleBigPlanet and the world, its characters and game mechanics are all enticing. I want to play more, I want to play it all. If it wasn’t for Oddsock, I think I would still be playing right now. The accessible challenges are typical for a puzzle platformer, with precision as well as good timing needed and  once I hit an obstacle, I was stuck with it until  I managed to complete it after repeated tries or had a capable friend at hand to hand the controller to. I think playing with friends could negate this issue and it does feel like a game made for co-op.

It is a generally accessible game but it does include a few unnecessary challenges, like small text, quite complicated controls that require dexterity, accuracy and good timing to carry out successfully.

I want to love it, I want to write glowing, wonderful things about Sackboy and his new friends. I want to focus on the positive qualities and the satisfaction I felt at the times where I was able to play a puzzle platformer the way it is meant to be played. I am usually so intent on the controls that I forget to look at the screen. I miss jumps, climbs and timed puzzles so many times that I spend hours trapped in repetition. It isn’t possible to really get an idea of the pleasure that genre brings others. I experienced that pleasure whilst playing LittleBigPlanet 3 as Sackboy.

Sackboy jumping without me having to think “press X …. NOW!” made room for me to notice the details in the design and enjoy the creative crafted environment. I didn’t die so often that I felt like I had been trapped in a game version of Ground Hog Day, stuck in miniscule time loops that end with my death until Oddsock arrived on the scene.

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It was a novel experience to play through a level with only one or two deaths and getting into the rhythm of the game. It was just perfect for a while. Enjoyable enough that I will go back and complete the infinite death loops until I can switch characters. I want to love LittleBigPlanet 3, I am sure I will love LittleBigPlanet 3, but it is difficult to manage some of the platforming sequences.

Product: LittleBigPlanet 3 | Developer: Sumo Digital | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Platform: PS4, PS3 | Genre: Puzzle Platformer | Players: Single Player, Multiplayer | Version: Europe | Release Date: November 2014 |Content Rating: PEGI 7+, ESRB E (Everyone)

The game review is based on the PS4 version of the game.

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