Post Script

Sumo’s first full Lit­tleBigPlanet is the se­ries’ friendli­est ad­di­tion yet


Even Steven Fry’s com­fort­ing voice couldn’t quite take the edge off the daunt­ing task of get­ting to grips with the orig­i­nal Lit­tleBigPlanet’s edit­ing tools. While com­par­a­tively sim­ple next to later in­stal­ments, Me­dia Mol­e­cule’s game was un­like any­thing be­fore it, and the tools it handed play­ers set a new stan­dard for con­sole level ed­i­tors. The game pro­vided a wealth of nar­rated video tu­to­ri­als, and soft­ened the fall with the in­tu­itively de­signed Po­pit menu, but it was still in­suf­fi­cient to stave off a crip­pling case of blank-can­vas syn­drome for many.

With Lit­tleBigPlanet 2, Me­dia Mol­e­cule gifted its com­mu­nity with an even deeper, more com­plex suite of tools ca­pa­ble of mak­ing en­tire games, not just lev­els. Sim­pli­fied logic gates and pro­gram­mable Sack­bots made life eas­ier for all those who had once hashed to­gether ad-hoc cutscenes and ma­chines from a be­fud­dling ar­ray of switches and sen­sors, while a mu­sic se­quencer al­lowed keen com­posers to sound­track their cre­ations, for bet­ter or worse. But while the game’s tools evolved, its way of teach­ing you didn’t.

Lit­tleBigPlanet 3 ap­proaches the prob­lem dif­fer­ently. There are still plenty of tu­to­rial videos, but Sumo has bet­ter in­te­grated LBP’s two halves by in­tro­duc­ing cre­ation el­e­ments to the story mode. Pre­vi­ous en­tries might have al­lowed you to vandalise story lev­els with stick­ers and dec­o­ra­tions, but LBP3’ s Con­trap­tion Chal­lenges go much fur­ther by re­quir­ing that you build a ve­hi­cle in or­der to take part in the event at hand. Your op­tions are limited to only a few se­lect parts, and the ve­hi­cles them­selves are built on ready-made chas­sis, but the sense of achieve­ment when you, for ex­am­ple, leap 100m far­ther after tweak­ing the de­sign of your long-jump buggy is a real rush. And, like dis­guis­ing vegetables in a child’s meal, such tasks get play­ers com­fort­able with the ba­sics of the cre­ation tools with­out them even notic­ing.

Any­one bit­ten by the bug can head to the Po­pit Academy. Tak­ing place over two terms, each with a hand­ful of lev­els ded­i­cated to a spe­cific tool or fam­ily of con­trap­tions, th­ese stages pro­vide a deeper un­der­stand­ing of LBP3’ s most es­sen­tial gad­gets while couch­ing the whole process in a se­ries of in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing puz­zles. Two of LBP2’ s Cre­ators re­turn as guides, with not even a whis­per from Fry, and cover a wide range of tech­niques from the ba­sics of us­ing pis­tons and string to more in-depth tasks, such as wiring switches to tele­porters or ad­just­ing the prop­er­ties of ma­te­ri­als to make them more slip­pery.

Although we longed for another term or two, the Po­pit Academy is a great on-ramp for LBP’s Cre­ate mode, pro­vid­ing play­ers with the knowl­edge – and con­fi­dence – to get started im­me­di­ately after they grad­u­ate. Sumo adds yet more pad­ding to each new­comer’s land­ing by ask­ing whether play­ers would like ac­cess to the ed­i­tor’s ad­vanced con­trols from the off, or to stick with a pared-down se­lec­tion while they get set­tled in. Which­ever you choose, ad­di­tions such as the dy­namic ther­mome­ter make it eas­ier to cre­ate with­out wor­ry­ing about lim­i­ta­tions or op­ti­mis­ing ge­om­e­try – that’s some­thing you can ob­sess over later on.

Given the dizzy­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of its ed­i­tor, and the ground­break­ing na­ture of the first game, Me­dia Mol­e­cule did an ex­cel­lent job of con­dens­ing that power into the eas­ily un­der­stand­able Po­pit menu. And by keep­ing Sack­boy on­screen, the stu­dio en­sured that mak­ing lev­els al­ways felt a lot more like play than ei­ther cod­ing or sculpt­ing. But Sumo has built on those con­fi­dent foun­da­tions in ways that feel so nat­u­ral it’s hard to be­lieve they weren’t here from the be­gin­ning. Switch­ing stu­dios part­way through a se­ries can of­ten be detri­men­tal, but LBP3 feels like an en­tirely nat­u­ral ad­di­tion. And it seems fit­ting that the in­jec­tion of fresh blood on the de­vel­op­ment side looks set to open up the se­ries to a whole gen­er­a­tion of play­ers who might oth­er­wise have been put off.

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