There’s a certain magic about the world of Little Big Planet, a sort of lighthearted fun mixed with a touch of outright insanity. It’s what made the first two Little Big Planet games so accessible, and so darned entertaining. LittleBigPlanet 3 is the series’ first adventure on the PlayStation 4 (but still available on other PlayStation consoles, too), and the first LBP for developer Sumo Digital, taking over from Media Molecule. There’s still an amazing amount of things to do: special puzzles, a story-driven Adventure mode, and all sorts of personalization, stickers and decorations to unlock, and all the other facets fans have come to expect from the franchise. But I have to admit, I found it difficult to get into the game for quite some time.
If it weren’t for the phenomenal experience I had with a couple of user-created levels, I think I might have to write this game off. LittleBigPlanet 3 is just an okay game out of the box, but it’s a phenomenal toolbox to generate some great platforming experiences.
I have to admit that perhaps my problem was that I started with the game’s adventure mode. The story isn’t particularly gripping; you play as your Sackthing on a quest to save the world of Bunkum, a mystical repository of imagination. The dastardly villain, Newton, wants to unleash the three titans to destroy the world, and you have to revive the three ancient heroes of Bunkum to save the day. This serves as a way to introduce the three new playable characters in the series, each with their own unique abilities. Other guides help you along the way, and there’s a fantastically qualified voice acting cast to take you along for the ride. It’s just a shame that the game gets to rambling so often; great bits of platforming are often interrupted by too-long cutscenes, and most levels already come with a significant amount of loading time.
On top of the story issue is a cumbersome user interface. The world of Little Big Planet is one of massive creativity, and that’s complemented by the gigantic number of stickers and decorations that you can plaster all over. But navigating through your collection takes a whole lot of time, and the controller-centric interface just does not lend itself well to going through large inventories of anything. Particularly when trying to create anything myself, I kept wishing I had a mouse at my disposal. This certainly held true while playing the Popit puzzles, tasks where you use the game’s creation system to solve special puzzles. It always takes multiple button presses to access common tools, and sections where you’re racing against the clock feel more like your racing against the game’s interface than the objective. The PS4 touchpad proved unhelpful; the sensitivity felt inaccurate, and I couldn’t find a way to customize it. Perhaps I’m just not patient enough to deal with tweaking literally hundreds of individual components and set pieces to create my own levels and experiences in the LBP universe with a couple thumbsticks. Thankfully though, there are plenty of people out there who have that patience, and wow, does the community really inject life into this game.
There are literally over 9 million levels of user generated content to explore. Now, I’m not saying that they’re all good, but I AM saying that, with that many levels, you’re certain to find some diamonds in the rough. There is a fantastically-robust level creation system in LBP 3, one which lets you create anything from story-oriented platformers to infinite runners and top-down shooters. Where the game Adventure mode gets bogged down with a semi-serious storyline and eccentric style, the community levels can call back to the fun, energetic style that made the Little Big Planet franchise so successful in the first place. It’s just a shame that you have to go to the community levels to get that feeling again.
You’re not going to get the best that LittleBigPlanet 3 has to offer simply by unwrapping the game. You have to listen to it ramble, you’ll have to deal with a cumbersome interface, and you’ll probably have to make your way through some not-so-great levels to find the cream of the crop. But if you’re willing to dig for the gold inside, or if you’re a budding creator looking for an in-depth, rich sandbox to create your own magic in, you could certainly do a lot worse.