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LittleBigPlanet 3 is the least cynical game you’ll play this year.
This new installment in the adorable platformer/creation engine series, out now for the PlayStation 4 (reviewed copy) and PlayStation 3, is the biggest entry yet. Additions include three new playable characters with their own abilities, a fully voiced supporting cast, and expanded game-creation options.
And don’t worry about that warm feeling in your chest when you play it — that’s just your heart melting.
What you’ll like
It’s the most charming game of the year
LittleBigPlanet has always looked a bit odd next to other big releases with their brooding antiheroes, big-ass guns, and exploding helicopters packed with brooding antiheroes and big-ass guns.
But I’m fine with that because it’s always been nice to know that in the middle of all of those bleak and cynical blockbusters, a game exists that lets you change a small yarn-person’s expressions and move their arms around for no reason other than that it’s fun to do.
After too much time playing games that are all about punching/stabbing/shooting everyone between Map Points A and B for revenge/fun/frontier justice, games like LittleBigPlanet that celebrate creativity, sharing, and just plain happiness provide a welcome escape from the more brutal escapist entertainment that lines the shelves of your local big-box.
And it does it all with some elementary school-level construction materials and a little stuffed guy whose smile is as big as his comically oversized head. It is simple, effortless, and infectious, and it really just wants you to be happy.
It’s the biggest, most diverse entry yet
The biggest new feature this time around is your ability to control characters other than Sackboy/Sackgirl, each of which has its own special abilities. You also have Oddsock, a quadrupedal creature who can run faster, leap higher, and jump between walls like a puppy ninja.
Toggle is a brute who can move heavy objects, break glass objects, and weigh down platforms, and he can also turn into a much smaller version who fits through tiny spaces and can run along the surface of water. Finally, Swoop is a bird and can fly over hazards and through winding passageways that the other characters can’t.
The different characters effectively mix up the gameplay, and more important give creators a lot more options when they’re designing their masterpieces. Other features that open up a ton of possibilities include support of up to six levels arranged around a single hub world, which means that you can effectively create complete games with multiple stages in LittleBigPlanet 3.
The new, item-wheel-like “Sackpocket” lets players carry multiple items at the same time, and the “Organisertron” enables for an open-world mission structure with players tracking several open tasks (e.g., main story and side quests) simultaneously.
All of these options and features make Create Mode sound really intimidating, and sure, it will take a lot of fine-tuning and fiddly work before you have something you’d let other people play, but it offers you plenty of help along the way by introducing you to the basic concepts to get you started. And that giant, blank screen will probably scare off a lot of would-be level designers, but even they are all set because. …
A ridiculous amount of content
You’re not going to run out of things to do in LittleBigPlanet 3 any time soon. If you want a story, it has a 10-12 hour Adventure Mode full of levels to complete, items to find, and new abilities to unlock, along with a great performance from narrator Stephen Fry’s old comedy partner, Hugh Laurie. Laurie plays Newton, a hapless creator who is this game’s version of Portal 2 villain Wheatley.
If you don’t want that, the game also includes 14 standalone puzzle levels that also give you a basic rundown on how the level-creation system works. Players looking for a quick fix can scoot over to the Community section and play levels that other people built, or they can work on their own creations.
And it’s in the Create area that the real breadth of LittleBigPlanet 3’s content becomes visible. You can use the items and materials you collect in the story to make your own stuff. Or, if you aren’t new to the series, it will automatically pull in items from the previous entries for you to play with. The backward compatibility also extends to the Community section, as you can play every fan-made level from the first two games in this one.
So if you start up this and can’t find something to do, I really don’t know what to tell you.
What you won’t like
It makes you wait
The addition of voice acting has a slight drawback: It means that you get overly long cutscenes in the story mode and some lengthy dialogue in which characters are ostensibly telling you how to do something, but their personalities get in the way.
For example, your second teacher in the “Popit Academy” (those training puzzles I mentioned earlier) is obsessed with cakes. So she can’t just tell you how to use the stupid pistons and robots without also talking about how all the shit she has in her oven.
It’s a small gripe, really, and you can skip this dialogue. But then you run the risk of not getting the tutorial hidden in among all of those damned baking references.
Judging by its content alone, LittleBigPlanet 3 is easily the greatest value for your money this year. But beyond that, it’s a fun, deep, and endlessly charming experience that has plenty of ways to entertain and amuse you. This is the PlayStation 4’s first must-buy title.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is out now for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a free PlayStation 4 copy for this review.