[E3 2009] LittleBigPlanet Hands-On

Studio Cambridge takes over where Media Molecule left off, and we've got hands-on impressions.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 5, 2009
The PS3 version of LittleBigPlanet has, by most accounts, delivered on exactly what it promised when it was first debuted at the Game Developers Conference back in 2007 and became an industry darling in an instant. The game's promise of being able to play through user-created levels, build your own levels and share it all with the community is alive and well, and one need only fire up the game and head online to see what we mean.

That's not to say the game hasn't hit a few bumps along the way, but by and large most of the issues have been cleaned up as creators Media Molecule work tirelessly to turn Sackboy and friends into the PS3's multi-faceted mascot. Scads of downloadable packs and collaborations with other developers on big franchises like Metal Gear Solid 4 have resulted in adorable new costumes and some seriously novel additions to the existing tools and equipment given to creators and players alike.

Maybe that's why the PSP version of things (oh, you knew it was coming; don't even try to act surprised) isn't being handled by Media Molecule (at least not entirely), but instead at Sony's own in-house R&D division, SCEE Studio Cambridge. Given the studio's penchant for wringing a startling amount of oomph out of the PlayStation hardware over the years, it's not entirely surprising to see that LittleBigPlanet on the PSP looks... well, it looks (and plays) just like LittleBigPlanet.

The same simple controls for grabbing onto and moving things around existed in the brief platforming level we played (decorated with some aboriginal decals and soft, spongy boomerangs), as did the multiple layers that could be jumped between to make for some interesting (if a little wonky) bits of climbing and exploration, and little informational pop-ups from the local denizens were in full effect. Despite being early, the look of the game was remarkably sound -- surprisingly so, even. We scooted around what was obviously an Australian-themed level, passing various marsupials and grabbing into monkeys that would rocket us up further in the level. We could slap stickers onto things to trigger events (and the familiar points bubbles), and it all felt both familiar and new thanks to a) playing it on the PSP, and b) playing it on the new PSP go.

In a show of the possibilities that exist for portable players, we took a stab at the only other level we could play in the E3 build: a surfing mini-game where we had to hang ten on surfboards that were screaming across a smallish level, all the while avoiding hazards (like a chasing shark) and scooping up as many points by running to the front and back of the pitching board as possible. One slip off the board and the level came to an end, much like the mini-games in the console version. It was fun, it was simple and it represented a keen attention to the same basic fun factors that made that console version of the game so fun.

There wasn't a whole lot of LittleBigPlanet to explore, but if the rest of the game has the same kind of variety and attention to detail as its big brother -- not to mention the same easy-to-use customization and building tools (cross-platform play is still being debated), which Sony assures us will be in place when the game ships later this year -- then we see little reason not to be incredibly excited about taking Sackboy/Sackgirl on the road. Portable platforming, woo hoo!