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Little Big Planet thoughts

Oct
21

I played the demo. It gave me a little bit to write about.

Little Big Planet, originally scheduled to release 10/21 in the US and now pushed back a week until 10/28, is going to be Playstation3’s game of the year. There are other games that have been and will be very positively reviewed, but this platform/puzzle game is both a great game and a great showcase for the PS3 abilities. It’s not just about it being an exclusive, it’s about it full realizing the special capabilities of the system; beautiful HD graphics, integration with the media server (turn photos into game play objects) and the power of a free-for-all always connected community. The gameplay, at least for the opening levels in the demo, was just the right mix of easy to pick up but hard to put down that’ll make it accesibile to everyone, and the ability of users to make and publish their own levels should allow for for replay value many times over what’s actually in the game.

I was skeptical of the game the last few months, I’m not sure I even understood what it was trying to be until I played it. Once you you play it, it’s not hard to figure. It’s a side scrolling platform (with an iffy 3D), with coin collecting and secret path finding. It’s not the most punishing game; there seemed to be plenty of automatic save points as you went thru the example levels, and even losing a life isn’t that damaging. The stress is more on solving puzzles, interacting with the game environment in ways that aren’t always easy, but more intuitive over time and never seemed cheesy. We only got to play the first ‘world’ on the demo mode, which took me a couple hours, and the whole game is supposed to play around 20 hours – surely a lot more if you want to go back and grab every item and get a perfect on every level.

20 hours is only the iceberg tip. Besides picking up coins, your character also picks up items. You can use some to customize your character, and others to customize your own levels. That’s going to be the real draw, the creative levels players make up on their own, and then publish (easily) for everyone else to try and beat. You can also create your own items for these levels, including grabbing pictures off the system’s hard drive, or play any of these levels with a group of characters at the same time. (I had no idea how much fun/challenging this was going to be until there were four Sackboys trying out race each other to the next coin or reward. I did have a crash doing one of these, but I think it might have been an issue on my side.)

Like I said, I think this is going to be the PS3 game of the year; unless you’re allergic to the briefest hint of cute, or all you want out of your system is to shoot noobs in the face, you ought to try out LBP. The thing is, I can’t help but think about how PS3’s undersized user base affects the ultimate potential of this game. All the levels that won’t be made because those people decided to go elsewhere or are still waiting for the next price cut. A real cool user-created level will end up popular (and probably quite a few of them), but how viral can you be in a smaller community?

LBP is a going to be a great family game, a great introduction into video games, a great game for casual players to pick up and not feel lost. PS3 doesn’t feel like it’s hitting those markets yet, and the game can’t reach those markets unless the system arrives first. If the PS3 was a bit more affordable, better comparatively priced to the other systems, you could bundle it with the LBP and they’d contend for the xmas gift to get/find. This could’ve been a tipping point, if treated right.

Console owners benefit from more people owning their console (this game more directly than others.) I’m hoping there’s a change from previously stated plans and they make the price cut, because I think it’d change the landscape. I don’t expect it to happen, and mourn those who will miss out until Sony gets around to that price cut months after it matters.

(The game being postponed due to passages from the Quran appearing in an included song is something I feel like I could talk for days about yet have the desire to write zero words for the permanent internet record. Disappointing.)

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