We often talk about ‘playing’ a game, but often that term covers a multitude of experiences. In LittleBigPlanet ‘playing’ comes close to the sort of un-self-conscious messing around we get up to when we’re kids. It’s not about proving something, conquering something, or getting to the end of the level – though all these things still have their place. It’s just running wild and having fun.
That’s true if you play alone, and doubly true if you can find a spare girlfriend, partner, sibling, friend or housemate and get them to enjoy the game with you (up to four of you can play offline or online, but it’s actually more fun when everyone is in the same room). The view zooms in and out as much as possible to keep all of you on the screen, and there’s something about the game that invites warm cooperation and mildly spiteful competition as you race around, grabbing hold of this, dangling from that and generally throwing your sackboy around.
Your loved ones might not get the point at first, but as soon as they find themselves hanging on to your legs while you cling on to a balloon that isn’t quite rising as fast as you need it to, they will. It’s the kind of game that makes you laugh, both for the rich, surreal humour in the game and for the humour you’ll bring to it. Gaming has bought us few better remedies for the blues.
Were this just a great co-operative 2D platform game I’d be (figuratively) grabbing you all by the lapels and urging you to buy it, but we’re only talking ‘tip of the iceberg’. LittleBigPlanet is really all about making Media Molecule’s game your own game. Take your sackboy, for starters. Right from the game’s introduction – voiced, as are all the links and tutorials – by an avuncular Stephen Fry – you’re encouraged to take the little chap and customise him. Change his eyes, change his material, add hair, hats or a moustache, try different costumes on for size. Make him into a cat or a monkey. It’s all up to you.
And after years of watching canned animations for gaming mascots, there’s something refreshing about a character that you can fully make your own. Using the D-pad you can make your sackboy smile or frown. Using the sticks and the triggers you can move his or her arms or tilt the controller to make him or her sway or wiggle. It sounds silly, even irrelevant, but when you’re playing, particularly with others, it all becomes part of the fun.