Lit­tleBigPlanet 3

EDGE - - PLAY - Pub­lisher SCE De­vel­oper Sumo Dig­i­tal For­mat PS3, PS4 Re­lease Novem­ber 18 (US), Novem­ber 26 (EU), Novem­ber 28 (UK)

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.

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