For a series that was so imaginative at its birth, it’s surprising to see LittleBigPlanet struggle to be creative. Sumo Digital’s handheld iteration was fun for a mobile version of the platformer, and its smartphone spinoffs were at least playable, but the series has been heading downward since its debut. That continues with LittleBigPlanet 3.
Now that Sumo Digital has taken the helm from Media Molecule for the third numbered entry in the series, the latest incarnation is charming, but you’d be forgiven in an instant for thinking it feels much less exciting and fresh as much as just another platforming title with Sackboy having jumped into the stirring pot. It’s adorable, spunky, and full of life, but in the end it does little to push the series forward.
Once More, With Feeling
This LittleBigPlanet adventure begins with a bizarre amalgam of unskippable live action cut scenes and Stephen Fry’s narration, which quickly gives way into establishing the reason as to why Sackboy is once again embarking on a dangerous journey. The land of Bunkum’s creativity stores are under siege by Newton, a bumbling villainous sort who tricks the unwitting Sackboy into unleashing three Titans into the world that transform Newton into a formidable threat. It’s up to our cuddly Sackboy to lock away the titans and ensure peace is restored to the land.
The narrative sets the tone for a vanilla flavored and at times bland sort of platformer. Most of the fresh experience that come from LittleBigPlanet 3 are a result of the introduction of three new playable characters known as Titans. Their names are Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop, and they’re special Sack creatures with their own set of powers that expand the world around you with their allowances.
For example, Toggle is an interesting case because he can change into a larger Sackperson and a tiny one, so you’ll find that some areas require him to sink to the bottom of large bodies of water or a light body to perform other tasks. Oddsock is a bizarre creature on its own merit, a dog-like Sackperson that can run and slide and jump off walls. And then there’s Swoop. Swoop’s a bird, so obviously his major power is flight.
Unfortunately, you simply aren’t meant to actually play as this trio very often, which is bizarre given the fact that these new personas are exactly what the game seems to have been build around. You’ll collect the new Sackboy forms one by one as you explore the patchwork world in front of you, but thankfully Sackboy has a few new tricks up his sleeve that can alleviate the time between being allotted your special friends’ powers.
Amping Things Up
Sackboy has been granted several different powers which can be called upon via radial menu. While previously he was relegated to simple pushing and pulling mechanics that never felt quite perfect, especially given the fact that objects are located in the foreground and background, he can now use special gadgets to conquer the obstacles in his way. There’s a special vacuum-like device that allows him to push things from afar, boots that let him dash quickly through the air after jumping, and several other options that ensure you’re not just stuck jumping around and feeling useless until you can enlist the help of the other characters.
This is helpful, especially since each stage is actually set in a hub where you’ll be tasked with collecting items and completing objectives given to you by characters presiding over each level. You never know when you’re going to need those powers, so they do come in handy quite often. Finishing off chapters feels less like chipping off a chunk of the game and marking it as complete, so there’s a less nonsensical feel to level selection this time around.
Speaking of the stages, LittleBigPlanet 3 is a good looking game, nothing more. On PS4 there are obvious hints of the cross-generation development. It’s not enough to wow anyone, but does stick to the same style of previous iterations, meaning it’s colorful and full of personality.
Cut and Dry
There’s a good variety of stages to explore on your own without busting out special creative tools, but they do tend to blur together near the end of the roughly five hour game after much of the luster has worn off. You do have plenty of items at your disposal to edit the game as you complete the levels laid out for you. There’s a practically endless amount of levels and ideas that will no doubt be spawned from the creation tools, and you can even dive into the levels made in both previous installments. What will no doubt end up awaiting players as far as user-created content goes will undoubtedly eclipse the vanilla efforts of Sumo Digital, which feel like little more than echoes of previous efforts than handcrafted stages to fit the new trio’s special powers.
In the end, LittleBigPlanet 3 feels like a heaping helping of the very same platforming, cutesy attitude, and storybook wonder the series is known for. It isn’t especially bad at keeping you engaged, and it’s rife with a robust set of tools that allow you to build upon the seemingly endless creations of the past. In the case of the PS4 version, it’s an underwhelming debut both in terms of content and visuals.
Sumo Digital has done an admirable job of cleaning things up and releasing a solid new entry, but breaking the mold and avoiding a uniform set of patterns for future entries is absolutely going to have to happen if the platform series is to stay afloat.
Brittany Vincent is a Freelancer for CraveOnline. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.
Copy provided by publisher. LittleBigPlanet 3 is available on PS4 and PS3.