Platform: PlayStation 3
In the weeks since I started playing LittleBigPlanet I've struggled to come up with a really good way of describing it. Is it the rebirth of the classic 2D platform game? Is it a games construction kit? Is it a social gaming app - a sort of MySpace or Facebook of video games? Somehow, nothing I can come up with really seems to do Media Molecule's game justice. Frankly, the only way you'll really, truly understand it is get out there and play it yourself. I'd recommend you do so right away.
Okay. You probably want a few more details first. Fair enough. Just imagine that somebody has spent hours making the platforms, springs, mechanisms and enemies that you might see in your average Mario game out of spare bits of wood, modelling clay, brick, cloth, stuffing and general bric-a-brac. They've then arranged these bits into levels and somehow given you control of a little sackcloth puppet - a sackboy - who can run around them.
I know it sounds odd, but it's actually as close as I can get to how LittleBigPlanet looks and plays. On the one hand, it all seems weirdly home-made, with an aesthetic that's one-third jumble sale, one-third art class and one-third Bagpuss. On the other hand, the game and its world feel imbued with this wonderful physicality. The gorgeous detailed textures and naturalistic lighting make all this made-up nonsense seem strangely, tangibly real.
It helps that every surface and every object seems to have lifelike physical properties. Get your sackboy to grab and drag a sacking box and it moves and threatens to topple with a convincing impression of weight, friction and momentum. Get hold of a wooden horse, give it a push, then watch as it responds to changes of slope and speed. You might have seen physics at work in driving games or FPS games before, but you've never seen a real-time physics engine employed in a platform game with as much energy and imagination as it is here.
And this is the key to LittleBigPlanet's reinvention of the 2D platformer. The classic run, jump and grab gameplay comes straight from the Mario tradition, but the way the physics works on balloons, bungie cords, skateboards, springs, rope swings, dangling girders and mine trains makes all the old clichés feel fresh once again.