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Developer: Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform: PlayStation Vita Release Date: September 25, 2012 ESRB: E for Everyone By this point, LittleBigPlanet is iconic. Everyone has created at least one level, people have stopped being friends without LittleBigPlanet in their library, and some gaming conventions probably won“t even let you in without a Sackboy tattoo. Critics have met every entry into the series with love and praise. These are big shoes to fill, and it doesn“t help that, like with the PSP series entry, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita wasn“t developed in the loving hands of Media Molecule. This, along with the PS Vita“s litany of features and gadgets, raises the question: Is the concept strong enough to survive? LittleBigPlanet PS Vita eagerly responds resoundingly with an â€œAbsolutely.â€ LittleBigPlanet PS Vita takes place in a world plagued by an entity known as the Puppetmaster. Once a beloved entertainer, the Puppetmaster became a rage-filled world-wrecker, a nasty reaction to being booed. The inhabitants of this crafts store cacophony turned to the Sackboy, the protagonist of the series, for platforming and puzzle-solving heroics. All-in-all, the story is fairly irrelevant, but not unappreciated at all. Each new world is designed after a different theme, such as a circus theme or superhero theme or something, but they“re all designed in the arts-and-crafts-y kind of aesthetic. Each builds up another piece of the plot, which is told by characters to fit the theme of the area, like a carnival ringleader for the carnival level, and things of the like. While the voice acting and characters aren“t top-notch, they“re competent, and that is enough to go a long way. The PlayStation Vita, as a gaming platform, has a lot of ways to engage with the world represented, and that“s just perfect for a game that prizes creativity and lateral thinking. Every feature that the Vita offers is utilized in the gameplay. Of course there is the same solid platforming available in the previous games, but the Vita offers a lot more, and so LittleBigPlanet PS Vita takes it up on those offers. The front and back touchscreens are used for a number of things, from directing movement to moving objects about the level. Specific objects can be touched or lifted via the front touchscreen, or weapons can be used against enemies by tapping the screen, or dragging to direct it. The back touchscreen can push certain flush objects out towards the player, opening a new block or something to climb on, as well as being used for movement with the jetpack-like device players get. Both of these are used modestly, spicing up levels with the mechanic without becoming overbearing. Unfortunately, the touchscreens still have touchscreen issues. The front touchscreen isn“t always precisely responsive, resulting in occasional frustration when attempting to delicately move objects. This doesn“t become punishing in design, but definitely can be frustrating while playing. The back touchscreen is almost worse; it is perhaps more responsive, but the fact that players can“t actually see the screen relative to the game, you may find yourself fumbling blindly at it until accidentally hitting the necessary thing, or dragging your fingers across the back to hit pop-out blocks. Or worse, having to trial-and-error flight areas because of awkward touch controls. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita isn“t oppressive with its touchscreen usage, and it is a nice, erm, touch, but prolonged exposure can get really annoying. The centerpiece of any LittleBigPlanet game is the player-created content. That is, of course, here, and it utilizes, as all menus, both the control pad and touchscreen options. This is a place where the touch controls shine phenomenally. All and more of the previous tools are here, allowing players to construct extremely elaborate levels that use a huge variety of available functions. Being able to switch between touchscreen and face buttons makes it exceptionally easy to put things together, far more so than it ever was on the PlayStation 3. The pick-up-and-play-ability also makes it so that players can work on a project over time, conceptualizing while doing other stuff, then coming back to the Vita to implement ideas and work on things. If the player-created content is the crux of LittleBigPlanet, then this definitively proves that the series belongs on the Vita. After creating the perfect level, players can then, as before, upload their creations into the world, as well as search out and play or rate other people“s creations. Frankly speaking, if the player-created content is the highlight of the series, then this entry has perfected it. All the old tricks are back, with the PopIt menu allowing character customization, decorations, and stickers that look pretty and can also be used to unlock bonuses and extra items, of which there are hundreds. Players can even make their own stickers using the camera on the Vita to take photos. I haven“t tested if it has a vulgar content filter of any variety for those stickers, so maybe be wary of that. Otherwise, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita affords an immense level of customization, built on the incredibly solid foundation of the previous games. The PS Vita is not so powerful as the PS3, and that is reflected graphically. The designs look great, but the graphics are noticeably muddier than the console versions. This is only a hindrance in contrast; on its own merit, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is a gorgeous title for Vita, and the stylization is spectacular. Fortunately, the audio doesn“t suffer, with the odd assortment of songs that very much contribute to the craftsroom-gone-awry aesthetic of the game. Sound effects and music are excellent, being a joy to listen to, and setting the stage brilliantly for the platforming and fast-paced puzzle-solving. Going handheld, for a lot of games, can be the beginning of the end for a series. At best, it can be the forgettable or even hated entry a series has to live down for the rest of time. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is not this. Even without the guiding hand of Media Molecule, this entry shows strength of concept for the series and the Vita itself. While it isn“t flawless, it is a strong reminder of why people enjoyed the PlayStation 3. If you“re a fan of the series, Sackboy up and pick up LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. Pros: + Spectacular world aesthetic + Tight platforming + Player-authored content is superb + Stephen Fry's narration Cons: - Touchscreen gameplay is cumbersome - All non-Stephen Fry voice acting isn't great Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is built steadily on the foundation set by the previous games, and uses the Vita's infrastructure brilliantly. This is definitive of what LittleBigPlanet truly should be.
Those of you who are waiting with bated breath for the next batch of Vita games to drop will be pleased to know that one of the most anticipated titles for the handheld has just been given an official date for release - LittleBigPlanet Vita will arrive in stores on September 25th in North America and on September 19th in Europe. This handheld version of the game is slated to take advantage of both the Vita's touch screen and touch pad, and is being developed by Double Eleven and Tarsier Studios; not Media Molecule, which has seemingly moved on to other projects now. Are you looking forward to LittleBigPlanet Vita?