Review: LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4)

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Title: LittleBigPlanet 3
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (12.4 GB)
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sumo Digital, XDev Europe
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
LittleBigPlanet 3 is also available on PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2014:
– Best Family Friendly Game (PS3)
– Best Family Friendly Game (PS4)

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 398 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Here we go again. Another PlayStation console, another LittleBigPlanet. If you count LittleBigPlanet Karting (and I’m going to) then this is the sixth major game in the series. How do you keep something fresh after so many games? Look to the sitcoms of course! When you hit (year) six it’s time to add some new characters! So are Sackboy’s new friends Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop just Poochies in disguise? No, no they’re not… except maybe Oddsock, but we’ll get to that later.

The story is like most LittleBigPlanet games, something has gone horribly wrong and it’s up to Sackboy to save the day. This time, three horrible Titans have been unleashed and they’re destroying the creativity in Bunkum. To defeat them you’ll need to awaken the three heroes that saved Bunkum from the Titans long, long ago. Those heroes being Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop. Did you catch that? You’ll be playing the majority of this game as Sackboy, again. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just that so much emphasis has been put on the new characters that it’s kind of a letdown to see what little time you have with them in the main adventure levels.

To be fair, the LittleBigPlanet game have always been about providing a platform for the community to let their imaginations run wild, creating new adventures and levels with all the tools, characters, and costumes at their disposal. We should expect a ton of content generated for each of the new characters as people get the game and get to work. The down side is that the vast majority of these levels won’t have anything even approaching the level of polish that the original game has.

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So how do you go about unlocking each of the new characters? Playing through the story, you’ll start at a Hub world (Oddsock’s first) where you can pick and choose how you want to proceed. The linear nature of the previous games is set aside within each hub and you can pick any mission or side mission available. In each hub you’ll need to play at least the three main missions to collect three marbles. Those will then awaken and unlock your new companion. Once done, you’ll get to play a level designed specifically for the new character and then that’s it, he’s put away as you quest for the next character as Sackboy.

You can swap out Sackboy for the other character within the Hub itself since the landscape is littered with “collectabells”. Searching around you’ll find that many of the collectabells and a few side missions are inaccessible to Sackboy so you’ll need the new character’s abilities to reach them. It’s worth trying to find the three hundred collectabells since you’ll be able to exchange them at Zom Zom’s Fashion Emporium, located in each Hub in an area accessible only to Sackboy. Each one contains new outfits for Sackboy and the character specific to that Hub. You can get dozens of new outfits for all of the characters without having to spend real money.

So we’ve seen what each of the characters can do, Oddsock can run fast and jump far, Toggle can break through walls or weigh things down when he’s big and fit into tiny spaces when he’s small, while Swoop can fly. They each have their uses and they’re all pretty fun in their own way. After playing Oddsock’s level, Sackboy felt slow and somewhat limited… until I filled up my Sackpocket with gadgets.

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The Sackpocket is a new pop-out menu (much like the Popit) that contains six new James Bond-ian gadgets for Sackboy, allowing him to expand his abilities. They’re doled out slowly across the game and going back to earlier levels after unlocking them all will allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas and find hidden items. I won’t spoil them all here but I’ll point out that the Boost Boots tend to make Oddsock a little superfluous. With them, Sackboy can get a short boost when running as well as jump higher and farther. This means that within the first Hub you can suddenly reach everything Oddsock could. It’ll be interesting to see what the community does to make Oddsock stand out as a character.

With the semi-open nature of the gameplay you’re given the Organizertron that will pop out and track your quests for you. It’ll give you a quick look at everything you’ve completed and what you still need to do without having to move from Hub to Hub in the World Map. Another nice addition is that the game will recognize that your profile has content from previous LittleBigPlanet games and ask if you want to import it. Pre-release, this consisted of collected items in the games only, not any of the costumes. The process is really quick but be aware that this could massively inflate your Save file as mine jumped from 15MB to 552MB. Might be time to remove the 1GB limit on Cloud Saves for PlayStation Plus users huh Sony? The Store is also nicely integrated into the game giving you access to all kinds of content, at least from what the menus show, since pre-release there was no content available.

There’s a new section called Popit Puzzles which take place at the Popit Puzzle Academy. Larry Da Vinci returns from LittleBigPlanet 2, and guides you through a series of levels designed to get you intimately familiar with the Create Tools while in a Play mode. This makes learning how to use some of the more important tools a much more pleasant experience and should hopefully lead to much more advanced user created levels. Speaking of which, there’s much more depth to the levels this time around, and by depth I mean actual front-to-back depth, with up to sixteen layers available for creators to run wild with.

It’s not all sunshine and sparkles however. I did run into a number of nasty bugs, more than in previous games in the series. Some of them got me stuck in the scenery between levels of depth while others had me disappear completely. There are two Day One patches (one of which was available pre-release) which contain a number of bug fixes among other things so hopefully much of what I experienced will be ironed out at launch.

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Visuals:
The game looks great, but the LittleBigPlanet games always have. There are some fantastic lighting effects on some of the levels with reflections and shadows getting a nice bump from the previous games in the series. Without the PlayStation 3 version to compare it with, I can’t really speak to any differences between the two.

Water is now an object and it’s gorgeous. You’ll have an entire section with Toggle that takes into account his two states of being, the physics of water, and many spiky objects. It’s actually a lot of fun and it looks fantastic.

That being said, I did run into a few instances of ugly pop-in, most notably in Swoop’s Hub up in the top right area of the level. It seems that every now and then there’s just too much going on in the level and it doesn’t all get loaded quick enough. These aren’t common, but when it happens it sticks out that much more.

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Audio:
The voice of LittleBigPlanet, Stephen Fry, returns to make veterans of the series feel right at home. Joining him are Hugh Laurie, Nolan North and others. Laurie is a delight as Newton as he really gets to stretch out and create a memorable character.

The music in the series has always been excellent and LittleBigPlanet 3 upholds that tradition quite well. Everything works in terms of setting the mood and giving the levels the just the right atmosphere. Watching the end credits and seeing all the different musicians involved gave me a real appreciation for how much effort goes into the audio side of the game and clearly, this is one of the highlights.

Online/Multiplayer:
The LittleBigPlanet games have always been best enjoyed with a group. You can play up to four players locally or online. Local is dead simple and the abilities of the PS4 shine here. With each controller turned on, you can assign a profile on the system allowing everyone to collect their own trophies and customize their characters as they wish.

Online is as clean and simple as it always was. Start a new level and you’ll be given a message (that can be turned off) stating that other Sackfolk are playing if you want to join them. A simple yes adds you into their session and it works (pre-launch) quite well.

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As with every version of LittleBigPlanet it’s usually best to either start from the beginning with some friends or join others after you’ve completed a level, rather than get dropped into the middle of it your first time through. Unfortunately, no matter how you play the game you’ll be locked in to the character available for that level. I was only able to find a single hidden level that allows all four characters to play together so until the community gets cracking, dreams of Sackboy, Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop combining their talents to power through an adventure will have to be put on hold.

The community plays a huge part in these games with over nine million levels created to date. The good thing is that all of these will be available to LittleBigPlanet 3 at launch. The creators can even upgrade their older levels to take advantage of the new characters and power-ups if they wish. A part of that is the new Dynamic Thermometer in the Create area. You’ll now only be limited by the size of your hard drive when creating levels and adventures, so build to your heart’s (or hard drive’s) content. You’ll also have access to tools that were only ever available in LittleBigPlanet Vita.

Conclusion:
Like all LittleBigPlanet games, we’re given a fancy new playground and a small story to get us acquainted with all the new goodies at our disposal. The games are built mainly as a showcase of possibilities to fire up the imagination of all the creators out there. The only problem is that with more than nine million levels only a tiny, tiny percentage of them live up to that promise shown in the adventures that come on the disc. Knowing this, I was hoping for more time with the new characters and their abilities and more levels showing off how to create good puzzles and paths that take advantage of them. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

What we have however is a platform ripe for expansion by the community. The top creators have already shown that they can do some amazing things given the right tool set and hopefully the addition of the Popit Academy will raise the level of quality coming from the rest of us. The possibilities are truly endless.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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  • johnnyp70

    Thanks Josh. I checked IGN, and they don’t have anything up yet, so this is most appreciated!

  • ChazzH69

    I’m looking forward to hearing a bit of Fry & Laurie again. This is way up there on my most wanted list.

    Nice review as usual Josh!

  • Michael Bothe

    I am a gamer that likes certain games and this game i bought because of the online content out there. So the story is short but that’s ok with me. 8.0-10.0 is a great score on a game. I see some people online think 8.0 means the game is a mess and failure even though they haven’t played it. I got the Target plush day 1 edition and will be playing it later on or this weekend. not much gaming time next two weeks since i work Turkey day and Black Friday. great review too Josh.

  • Lifendz

    Great review. Will def pick it up.

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