What is it about Stephen Fry? The man’s dulcet tones must surely have recommended him as a hostage negotiator if the whole acting bit didn’t pan out. And indeed, his repeat inclusion in the PSP edition of LittleBigPlanet is almost enough to recommend the title in itself. But of course there’s much more to extol this portable version of Sony’s platformer than Fry’s affable voice-over work alone.
LittleBigPlanet’s mantra is “play, create, share.” Players take control of Sackboy, (or Sackgirl as the case may be) and control him or her through a vibrant world of colourful detritus. Once done, LBP contains a level editor which allows players to design their own platform-roaming levels before sharing them with others online.
Originally created by Media Molecule for the PlayStation 3, LittleBigPlanet PSP has been developed by SCEE Cambridge. The essential format of the game remains intact, but instead of creating a trimmed down version of the parent concept, Cambridge have successfully gauged what can and cannot work on the portable console and adjusted their offering accordingly.
Multiplayer is out, so too is the third platform dimension. The trade-off is more than 30 new levels, a friendlier checkpoint and penalty system, new items, and a user-friendly editor and community “moon”.
Faithful to Media Molecule’s style aesthetic, Sackboy romps through levels spanning from Australia to Arabia. He still has hidden levels to find, bubbles to collect and both new and returning items to collect – all while negotiating the correct balance between difficulty and reward. The exclusion of the third platform dimension makes the controls more precise, even if our jaunty hero still executes the odd cringe-worthy jump.
Cambridge has also tinkered with LBP’s checkpoint system so that it’s a little less punishing. The PSP edition includes more checkpoints and no limit on re-spawns at each. Failures result in a penalty to points, but even if a score is wiped clean, players are not reduced to restarting the level.
LittleBigPlanet’s PSP level editor has also been effectively simplified. Players can borrow any of LBP’s levels as a template and expand upon them, or make entirely new ones. Once completed, levels can be uploaded to the community “moon”. A new ratings system makes it easier to determine what player-created levels are worth a download and which simply pay pubescent digital homage to male genitalia. Naturally, levels can also be exchanged with others via system link.
There is no multiplayer in LBP PSP. Cambridge explained that multiplayer functionality would compromise what could be done with the singleplayer version: In order to make the game capable of multiplayer, one third of the PSP’s processing power would have to be put aside. The decision was therefore made that LBP PSP was better off investing that quotient elsewhere.
It’s hardly missed. The result is a title that is part adaptation and part reimagining. If only all ports were given such attentive treatment.