When LittleBigPlanet burst onto the gaming scene last year, it was quite an amazing paradox: a game that really did nothing new but still managed to be revolutionary. That's largely because the main draw of the title wasn't so much the gameplay as it was the ability for users to get their hands dirty by creating and sharing new levels. Now the Sackperson experience has made the jump to the PSP, and while it's mostly faithful to the source material, a few concessions had to be made, ultimately hindering the end product.
An important fact to note about the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is that this is not a port, nor is it merely attempting to copy its big brother PS3 version. There is a brand-new story mode with 30 professionally made levels, and all the user-created content is PSP-specific. In short, don't be scared off simply because the two games share the same name; they are far from identical.
One thing that is unchanged across platforms is the fundamental gameplay mechanics; players still run, jump and grab their way across the stage to collect score bubbles, stickers, new costumes and all sorts of other goodies. Also, a major draw in the single-player mode is going back to levels you've already beaten with new stickers and switch triggers in the hopes of unearthing even more goodies. This formula was incredibly addictive on the PS3, and it works just as well here.
Even though the two games are fundamentally similar, there have been plenty of tweaks and changes made for the PSP iteration, and sadly, most of them are for the worse. One of the new concepts that actually does work is the way that stages are now composed of two "layers" instead of three, streamlining things considerably and making for far fewer glitches. It also makes level creation a bit easier since it removes an entire plane of existence from consideration while you're building.
Sadly, the other changes don't fare so well. First off, multiplayer support has been totally cut from the title, so you can't even play an ad-hoc game with friends. A major selling point for the PS3 version was that you'd be able to jump into the game with family and friends, and this vision of togetherness was used in ad campaigns and promotions. This time around, that element is gone, so if you don't like playing alone, you'll be in for a rude awakening when you fire this one up.
The other big disappointment is the graphical downgrade necessary to get the game running smoothly on the PSP. The console edition really reveled in details, showing off the texture of the fabric the Sackpeople were made of and adding subtle elements to the costumes to make things more fun. I would dress my characters in the most outlandish getups possible just so I could laugh at the results. With the PSP, all that detail is lost, and the characters feel flat and bland no matter how you dress them up. Sure, I can still create a Tron-inspired Mexican wrestler with a silly hat, but it just doesn't have the flair we've come to expect. The levels also a bit more empty, stripped down to bare essentials so as to keep the game from falling apart at the seams as you try and run a stage. I realize that when transitioning from the power of a console to that of a handheld sacrifices must be made, but you don't realize just how much the graphical details of LittleBigPlanet really add to the game until you take them away.
Thankfully, one other memorable aspect of the original whose spirit is intact here is the soundtrack, as the PSP version cranks out tunes just as enjoyable and memorable as the console version. Really, it's worth just starting up a level, putting on some headphones and kicking back to enjoy the tunes. Who cares about actually completing the stage? You're just here for the music.
One other impressive aspect of LittleBigPlanet PSP is just how well the game handles the creation and sharing of levels. Very little has been cut from the PS3 level designer, so players still have an incredible amount of freedom to build whatever they can imagine. Sure, you may have to scale back your ambitions a bit in order to fit within the PSP's capacities, but there are plenty of user-made levels already available to show that you can make some great stages with the tools currently available.
Additionally, sharing levels is handled rather elegantly, even if trying out someone else's work takes a few extra steps. First off, rather than streaming levels directly off the servers, you have to download them onto a memory stick and play them from there. Also, that means that once you're done with a stage, you'll need to delete it if you want to free up room for more levels, other games, etc. Thankfully, though, the downloading process is quick and painless, and you can often have new stages downloaded and running in less time than it takes to stream PS3 stages. All in all, the developers proved that with enough clever thinking and elbow grease, you can keep wholly intact one of the things that made the franchise great.
While the PSP edition of LittleBigPlanet retains much of the PS3 version's allure, there are a few things that may ultimately hurt the experience. The lack of multiplayer support is a major blow, and the visual downgrade robs the title of a great deal of charm. Even so, with 30 new stages, an extensive level creator and ease of downloading and playing new levels, there's a whole lot crammed into this package. It may not break all the rules the way the original did, but this is still a game poised to shake up the handheld market a bit.
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