You could argue that the last thing the Sony PS Vita needs at this point in its lifespan is another extension of a hit PlayStation brand. We love Uncharted: Golden Abyss. We love WipEout 2048. Resistance: Burning Skies? Well, not so much. But do we really need another modified Vita version of a franchise we already know and love? Maybe not.
But then LittleBigPlanet PS Vita confounds expectations. It’s not just a full-fat, feature-complete new title in the LittleBigPlanet series, but a game that leaves you feeling that LittleBigPlanet was destined for this format. By integrating touch, tilt and camera features in the gameplay, two new development teams – Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven – have produced not just a good LittleBigPlanet, but probably the best one yet.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita Storyline
In terms of basic look and feel, it’s practically identical to LittleBigPlanet 2 on Sony PlayStation 3, with the same hand-crafted wool, cloth, felt and cardboard characters and objects, and the same quirky, distinctly British style. Stephen Fry still provides the narration, and you access all the features from your own familiar pod. Costumes, materials and new facial features can still be collected and used to make Sackboy your own, and you can still collect and deploy stickers to make the levels your own.
It’s also still fundamentally a platform game, with our Sackboy hero racing through levels, grabbing, dragging and lifting objects, swinging from the scenery and leaping from place to place. It still has that unique feeling that everything is tangible; that you’re playing in worlds where textures, weights and physics all matter. Some will still complain that the movement is a bit floaty, or that Sackboy isn’t as snappy to control as Mario, but really they’re missing the point: LittleBigPlanet has a physical feel that’s very much its own.
LittleBigPlanet 2 excelled because of its inventive level design, where new traps, new monsters, new gadgets and even vehicles left you feeling that just about anything could happen. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita does much the same trick – we haven’t seen a 2D platformer this inventive since Rayman Origins last year. Switches, launchpads and soft pendulums become the crux of ingenious puzzle levels, while bizarre triangular cars take you on a classic roller-coaster ride. There’s even room to riff on the styles of Mario, Limbo and even Sonic, with a spin through a casino world that could have come straight from the hedgehog’s nineties heyday.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita Multiplayer
Two-player co-op is permitted throughout LittleBigPlanet for PS Vita, with certain sections designed specifically for co-op play, helping make this a great game if you’re lucky enough to know a Vita-owning friend. Taken purely as a straight platform game, this LittleBigPlanet offering could stand proud with the best in the genre. Thanks to generous (and normally infinite) checkpoints, the difficulty level is challenging without ever causing any serious frustration.
What really makes LittleBigPlanet for PS Vita, though, is the game's finesse with which the unique capabilities of Sony's latest handheld console are brought into play. Some are superficial, like the ability to take a picture with the Vita camera then use it as a sticker with which to decorate the levels, but the development teams have also found ways to make touch and tilt work as part of the gameplay. One level mimics LocoRoco with a rolling vehicle that needs to be tilted left or right around the landscape. In other sections, blocks need to be pulled around the screen with a finger, or prodded into and out-of the screen by tapping them on the front or rear touchscreens.