LittleBigPlanet 3 is stuffed with so many ideas that its new custodian, Sumo Digital, has seen fit to abandon almost all of Media Molecule’s tricks and tools for its singleplayer campaign. But while the likes of Grabinators or the Creatinator are absent in this deliriously imaginative adventure, you won’t miss them. LBP3 may not be a long tale, but it’s a generous one.
You might occasionally miss the tones of incumbent narrator Stephen Fry, however, because the game’s expanded cast leaves less room for his soothingly wellbred intonation. The most exciting addition is Hugh Laurie, who plays LittleBigPlanet 3’ s well-meaning, buffoonish antagonist, Newton. Among other notable names, Nolan North, Peter Serafinowicz and Tara Strong (whose take on a spoilt queen, in combination with the contributions of Fry and Laurie, evokes the spirit of Black Adder at times) all feature, voicing the various Creators you meet along the way.
And there are other new faces in the form of three playable heroes called Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop, two of which are excellent additions. Oddsock bounds about on all fours at speed and is capable of running up walls, wall-jumping and leaping farther than Sackboy. Toggle, meanwhile, can flick between large and small versions of himself at will, becoming heavy and slow or light and fast in the process. This simple dynamic is put to great use in some inspired level design as you flick between the two forms to tumble through the game’s softfurnished obstacle courses. The latter of the trio, however, is less accomplished. While he introduces unfettered flight and his eponymous move to the series, he’s prosaic and unsatisfying to control.
Sackboy himself hasn’t been eclipsed by the fresh platforming possibilities introduced by his new friends, either, and critics of the earlier games’ approach to physics will appreciate the tweaks in Sumo’s approach. He might be limited to a comparatively basic moveset, but he has a range of new tools that both augment his movement and allow him to interact with the world in unexpected ways. Chief among these is the Hook Hat, which allows you to grab onto and ride sweeping ‘bendy’ rails like a woolly Booker DeWitt. The Blink Ball, meanwhile, is a headset that fires dual-purpose orbs, useful both as a way of killing enemies and capable of teleporting you to specially marked areas. And the Boost Boots do much as you’d expect, enabling you to double jump to previously out-of-reach areas.
You can select these tools – plus the Pumpinator (a hat capable of blowing and sucking air), and a secretrevealing torch called the Illuminator – from the new Sackpocket, accessed by tapping Circle, which allows you to carry multiple devices at once, rather than relying on pick-up plinths. The ability to carry more than one tool has allowed Sumo to engineer puzzles of greater complexity, but the studio only touches on the possibilities during the campaign – it’s down to creative players to explore such things more fully.
In fact, you don’t even have to stick to Sumo’s toolset, since the new Power-Up Creator allows you to build your own devices out of any objects you choose and, in combination with LBP3’ s improved logic gates, define their properties. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, you’ll find all of Sackboy’s previous equipment in the editor – the game is compatible with millions of levels created for the first two games, after all. Playable characters, meanwhile, can also be extensively tweaked. Dissatisfied with the distance you cover with Oddsock’s leap? Then add the ability to fly for his appearance in your level. It’s all part of Sumo’s effort to respond to the needs of the creators in LBP’s community, adding 70 brand-new tools and enhancing 39 returning gadgets in a toolbox that now sports 250 pieces.
But even these profound improvements are eclipsed by Sumo’s expansion of the game’s playable layers, which rise from three to an initially dizzying 16. Ambitious creators found ways to glitch in additional layers in previous games, achieving the illusion of greater depth, but being granted so much extra room exponentially increases builders’ options. Meanwhile, the addition of items such as slides, bounce pads, the aforementioned bendy rails, and Veliciporters (which spit you out at the same velocity as you enter them) make moving Sackboy between separated layers easy. Seasoned builders may worry that the added structural complexity introduced by 13 additional layers will mean that the Create mode’s thermometer, which tells you how busy your constructions are and prevents any more building once full, would max out quickly. But two tools – a dynamic thermometer and the Dephysicaliser – bring the editor closer to professional game-making tools than ever. Switching on the dynamic thermometer means the game only renders geometry within a definable range of the player, streaming the rest as you approach it. Meanwhile, the Dephysicaliser quickly switches off collision detection on foreground, background or otherwise unreachable objects to further reduce the load on your PlayStation’s memory.
LBP3 hasn’t suffered from the move to a new home, then, and Sumo evidently understands LBP’s community every bit as well as Media Molecule does. Yes, there are some small slip-ups along the way: our review build occasionally suffered from long loading times, and opening the Popit menu – an essential and regular task – was rarely instantaneous. Even so, as a platformer, the third numbered game in the series certainly represents Sackboy’s best, and funniest, adventure yet. But as an accessible, powerful gamebuilding tool, LittleBigPlanet 3 is remarkable, and offers more scope than we dared to expect.