Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LittleBigThings: LittleBigPlanet Vita is in My Hands - Literally

Greetings from LittleBigPlanet, folks!  As predicted, or rather, as I hoped, I was able to waltz into GameStop today and pick up my copy of LittleBigPlanet Vita with absolutely no hassle and upon returning home, I immediately jettisoned Dynasty Warriors Next from my Vita (I put it in after I finished Gravity Rush in the off-chance that I wanted to mindlessly grind towards the eventual goal of Platinuming the game) and inserted the cart that might as well have been gold-plated for as eagerly as I had awaited it, had longed for it.  There was a minimal update required prior to actually enjoying the game that enabled the Cross-Buy DLC option as well as other little tweaks, but LittleBigPlanet as a series is no stranger to patches (literally and figuratively, what with the sack/fabric motif) and as an avid fan of the franchise, neither am I.  As it was installing, my anticipation was at its peak and the point where I started playing the game was all the better for it.

The game is, in a word, LittleBigPlanet.  Having played 2 not too long ago, it's like I'm playing it again, except there's all new levels.  And that is -good-.  Impressive, even, considering that the series on PS3 is quite pretty to look at, if for the fairly distinct style it carries, but for also the overall 'look' of it.  That is pretty much captured nicely on the Vita with no real substantial area in which it is lacking that I can point out or identify.  The gameplay, much like the visuals, is distinctly fitting in the series' last offerings while adding in its own flair that I will get to in a moment.  That does mean, for better or worse, that it is still a LittleBigPlanet game, and if the controls have bugged you in the past, this game will likely do nothing to change that.  For my part, though, I never, -ever- got the controls complaints and I very much doubt that I will ever understand them, since, after playing other platformers who had their controls described as wonderful and disliking them, I am convinced that my definitions and my expectations are just different.

Yes, being a Vita game, there are touch-based controls for many things, some of them being mandatory.  And yes I get that some people hear that and instantly look for the nearest table to upend, but seriously, do not worry about it.  When done right, touch-based controls are simply natural, feeling like they deserve a place in line next to the X button and down on the D-Pad and such.  And make no mistake, they are certainly done right in LBPV from my semi-limited experience with the game.  You can interact with a few bits and bobs of the environment here and there in pretty natural ways - in the actual 'tutorial' bit for it, you have a block that you can take from a ledge and put it down as a step for your Sackboy to jump on to progress. 

But it's not a simple 'you touch, it does this' process in that you can...kind of just do whatever you want with items that you can pick up and move as that.  Even crushing your sackboy with it or, if you have a very steady hand, carrying them on the platform.  This type of usage is expanded on with spring platforms that allow you to pull it down to launch Sackboy up, rather than having to do those timed jumps some of you might remember from similar platforms in earlier games.  (Like the Wedding section in the first, remember how much of a pain that could be?)  Later examples show off the pushblocks which can be pushed in or out using the front and rear touch screens that will provide passage depending on their usage.  In one, you push back a wall to get by it, move forward jump up and then push it back out to serve as a bridge.  It does not feel forced, awkward, or anywhere near out of place, considering the 'universe' it's in.

Something that I certainly do want to touch on (ha!) before I forget is something that specifically has an all-new sort of excitement welling up in me.  You see, it seems that after beating a boss, you are granted access to one of the levels in The Arcade, which features, from what I can tell, something of greatly expanded-on Mini-games.  Mini-games that bring something into LBP that I have not seen in any fashion before and something that I've often lamented it lacks:  persistence.  Now, when I say persistence, I mean it in a game fashion, as in, you do something and it persists.  Specifically, the first Arcade game that is opened is Super Conductor, a puzzle game where you send a pulse from a source with the ultimate goal of getting it to where it needs to go, a task that leaves you to alter pipes and such as it goes.  If I'm believing right, it has 20 levels to it, and I'm stuck at....17 or something.  The thing that I am excited for is the fact that when I open LBPV up again and go back into the Super Conductor level, all of my progress is still there.  Levels 1-16 are still beaten.

It seems like a little thing to laud, but it's really not, considering that it's more or less something that hasn't, likely couldn't, be a part of LBP in the past.  I'm not even really sure how they manage it - if there's some sort of special programming that cannot be done with the creator (which would make me sad) or if it's just an honest-to-sack new ability that the game has managed to include in the editor.  But if it's in there, it's going to be huge for people not content to make levels that intend for you to get from A to B once and maybe do over again with a sticker that you only get at the end to open a second path.  Because it means that you'll be able to take these elements already provided, the 'overhead camera' for isometric-type games, the sackbots, and make a true, actual game, which has been the mantra of the series since 2, building on the idea that you were merely making 'levels' in the first.  I am highly skeptical that it's something available to us, but only because I'm tempering my hope, since I cannot imagine what people could do with persistence on top of the other amazing things that have been made in LBP and LBP 2 already.

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