maanantai 8. joulukuuta 2014

REVIEW - LittleBigPlanet 3 | PS4 | 2014

GENRE(S): Platformer
RELEASED: November 18, 2014
DEVELOPER(S): Sumo Digital, xDev Europe, Tarsier Studios, Supermassive Games, Media Molecule
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment

NOTE: This is my first PlayStation 4 review to feature my own screenshots, relayed from Facebook. I know the thumbs are kinda small in this particular review, but you can see them in full size by clicking on them. Feel free to tell me what you think of the _full_ size, and stuff like that, and whether or not I should keep using the white effect frames I've used in most reviews this far. I'm using this information to make the blog better and more fun to read, and as guidelines while I'm working on the new look of the whole thing. Reviews of games for other systems will remain the same as ever for now.

Last month was one devastating set-up of giant sequels to giant games. Apart from Assassin's Creed: Rogue which I already reviewed, a giant game of lottery went through my cortex concerning which of these games I should review first. Suddenly, I'm sitting here weeks later with three reviews already underway, without half a decision made. Well, my senses tell me to start with the simplest game, and a game which I could play for five minutes and know everything about, and how good it's going to be. ...LittleBigPlanet 3 is the closest to that kind of game out of the big three at the immediate hand, but it really isn't that easy to write about, especially not for a fan of the earlier games. LittleBigPlanet 3 was announced from the purest blue, as being developed by Sumo Digital just a few months ago. LittleBigPlanet 2 felt like the tip of this particular iceberg three years ago, and the only experience I've had with Sumo Digital's work is Dead Space: Ignition. Once again there's a personal connection between Dead Space and a new LittleBigPlanet game, but this time, the memory is one I'd like to forget, as Dead Space: Ignition was an all-around horrible and useless take on the Dead Space mythos. Still, creators Media Molecule did assist, as did Supermassive and Tarsier, who both had their hands locked on tight on certain aspects of the previous game in the series - Supermassive worked on the game itself and Tarsier pretty much made the whole of the fantastic, yet poorly advertised DC Comics add-on published late last year. LittleBigPlanet 3 does finally have just enough fresh material to start a new communal cycle, and exciting new takes on the simple platformer formula to keep the casual player entertained for a while... but the thrill just isn't quite there.

Y u hold back?

Stephen Fry : Narrator
Hugh Laurie : Newton
Lewis MacLeod : Oleg / Captain Pud
Susan Brown : Nana Pud
Tara Strong : Coach Rock / Vera Oblonsky
Peter Serafinowicz : Dr. Maxin / El Jeff / Papal Mache
Lorelei King : Elena / Felica
Nolan North : Marlon Random
Simon Greenall : Zom-Zom the Far-Out
Robbie Stevens : Larry Da Vinci

Newton, an unskilled creator riddled with mental issues, tricks our old friend Sackperson into releasing the three evil Titans to wreak havoc on LittleBigPlanet. With the world specifically designed to keep Sack from being able to save the day by him-/herself, he/she tracks down the three legendary heroes of LittleBigPlanet's yesteryear - OddSock, Toggle and Swoop - to even the odds.

To boldly go, where I have definitely
been before.
Another walk down the memory lane with LittleBigPlanet does sound kind of like I'm trying to make something out of nothing, but now that I think of it, I might have a point. So let's do it. Back when LittleBigPlanet came out in late 2008, it was amazing. Astounishing, even. Visually, it was so different from the conventional game, as a matter of fact we'd never seen anything like it - and gameplay-wise, it was an extremely refreshing throwback to the simplicity of the very basic 2D platformer. It appealed to kids for the mighty challenges that lied within its simple and clean first impressions and its completely unique style. Advanced, and/or more mature players praised the game for its advanced features, the most notable of which was the level editor, the all-time deepest and most complex system of its kind, which only grew with downloadable content. Not that the DLC was only for creators; they were just as much for the casual players. With hundreds of levels - from both sides of the spectrum - emerging every day from the community and playable to everyone hooked up with a decent broadband, LittleBigPlanet really felt like a game that would never end or lose its appeal.

Then, came LittleBigPlanet 2. A game that simply blew the bank with tons of new features, for both the player and the creator; of course, you needed to play through the story mode to find out what you could do in this game, AND discover the tools and items for it along the way. LittleBigPlanet 2 was no longer a platformer - it was a platform for games, as it was not-so-modestly advertised as. With the new Sackbot and cutscene-editing mechanics, you could accomplish anything. Just look at that British guy who remade the whole of Final Fantasy VII using LittleBigPlanet 2's level editor. I've yet to try a decent version of this level pack, and I'll soon tell you why - but yeah, it was perfectly possible, as he proved with this effort that took years to accomplish. Not to piss in this guy's cereal, but it's also been proven the whole thing could've been a real RPG instead of a simple Final Fantasy VII-themed platformer... well, maybe I'll just shut up, having never finished a creation of my own. I do have tons of drafts lying somewhere, though. My point is that LittleBigPlanet 2 was the tip of the whole thing. Especially when the DC Comics add-on came along. It added the final features needed for a perfect LittleBigPlanet experience, from both the player and creator's points of view. If you haven't played that one, it's not surprising; but, if you have, you'll be even more disappointed with what kind of "fresh" and "new" features LittleBigPlanet 3 has in store. This is hardly the next generation of LittleBigPlanet, and as great as the game is in some ways, I really hope the buck stops here. Like I said, we've been to the top. We've been to the creative peak. Creators will reach it here, no doubt - but as players, we were there three years ago. LittleBigPlanet 3 holds back, even with everything that was established a long time ago. A lot.

This spacewalking schtick really ain't
that new anymore. At least they
figured to leave the sticky surfaces
from the Muppets DLC out.
The graphics are pretty much the same as always, and as I assumed beforehand, there really ain't much difference between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of the game. Not in look, not in the loading times. There are only a couple of things to take note of: dynamic costume effects such as wind flowing through your Sackperson's possible hair, and 16 dimensional planes, which Sumo Digital juices up with platform jumping between the first and 16th layer - not much in the between in-story - and long slideboards between the layers which aren't nearly as hard to deal with as they look. As for the original level design, I must say I miss the first LittleBigPlanet's colourful, surreal and therefore always surprising designs, as well as the cutout NPC's. I found them more appealing and more justified than these Sackbot creatures, for some reason. What I miss even more is the gibberish. Now we've taken a turn to full voiceover territory, even during levels. I don't mind having Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie reuniting - that's quite damn cool in fact - but of course, I don't get to hear them by default. What I get is a whole host of severely overshooting Finnish actors who haven't got one good thought invested in the game. The localized narrator is even more annoying and constantly besides the point than he was in the previous game. In a word, the voiceovers are horrible, and not only in the annoying sort of way. There's a fine line between being a delightful nuisance and being a messenger of Satan. Speaking of annoying, the music in turn is not nearly as annoying as it used to be, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing! There was a certain appeal to even that form of nonsense.

OddSock vs. one damn ugly
fish... pus... man.
Be it a conscious return to the platforming roots of the franchise or a kinda unintentional drawback to make and have time for the three well-publicized new protagonists of the show, LittleBigPlanet 3's story mode misses out on the diversity of LittleBigPlanet 2, by a devastating deal. There are a few "racing" levels, but even those are completely optional, one level that plays out like a 16-bit top-down adventure game such as Terranigma and a multi-phased final boss battle that mixes a few different POV's and pacings. Everything else is pure platforming, trying to keep up with the surge of great 2D platformers that have emerged since the success of the first LittleBigPlanet; I'm seriously sensing a NEED to compete with the phenomenal Rayman Legends and the more recent Super Mario Bros. adventures on the two Wiis. So yeah, LittleBigPlanet 3 is "just" a platformer to gamers, but it's a good one. At its best, very exciting, I admit it... but also, extremely short. There's the introductory hub, and three more - in each one of the latter, your only real goal is to set free the legendary hero by finishing three levels and then the introductory level to that character. After that, you're clear to face the final boss, and that's really it. Of course players can go on for ages, aiming for more score and prize bubbles in the hubs, the story levels and the array of optional levels. For creators (and potential new ones) there's a whole new game waiting at the Pop-It Academy, where they need to finish three semesters by going through a series of "puzzles" based on all the tools available. It seems like a fun way to allow players to really explore the secrets to proficient level creation, but the truth is something quite different. It's all really elementary there at the Academy - the puzzles are not very difficult, and there's just one or two tools for you to use in each level. Keep in mind that when you actually get to the level editor, all those tools and materials are cluttered up as always and it's hard to keep track of what you've "learned" in that damn school. Also, actually building a good level is quite different than drawing a straight line to cross a pit. Still, the level editor itself is smarter and less frustrating, and guaranteed to steal many a good night's sleep, if you already know and remember the basic rules.

Toggle puts the LittleBig in
What I like about the story mode is the inclusion of three different characters besides Sack, but you can only use them within their own hubs to collect stuff out of Sack's reach, and just a couple of levels during the whole game. I like the final levels in particular thanks to their concept of switching between the four characters, doubled with the fast pace I liked about the last Rayman game; and LittleBigPlanet does beat Rayman in the sense that the characters really do differ a lot from each other in every possible way, and the concept of four totally different characters without having to meddle with Sackbots too extensively will surely become the best level creators' new favourite plaything.

OddSock the Swift - or Sackdog, as I used to call him since I could never remember these new characters' names before actually getting the game - is very fast, as his name implies. He can run on walls and jump further than anyone else. Toggle - LittleBigFatsack - provides some of the most challenging, physical and most of all, diverse sequences of the game. He can change from pint-sized to a huge pile of mass in the fraction of a nanosecond, which means - among many things - that he can run through tiny shafts and evade large enemies by simply running under them, but at the same time, weigh down huge elements such as platforms everyone else is too light for, or crash through bulletproof glass, with just one press of a button. Swoop - Sackwing - is a bird, so his contribution to gameplay is quite damn obvious. The flight mechanic from LittleBigPlanet 2's DC Comics add-on gets a little tweak here, as Swoop is able to remain airborne after the... well, swoop. You know. Swoop is definitely the hardest character to handle as far as I'm concerned, even after much practice, but luckily, he's also the least used character in the whole bunch.

Swoop comes face to face with the
prime evil. Who's a mix between a
light bulb and an egg timer, in a suit.
This is LittleBigPlanet, after all.
What really puts a cap on LittleBigPlanet 3's problems, is its whole host of compatibility issues. Yeah, it's cool to be able to play PlayStation 3 stuff on PlayStation 4. It's a cool idea. And that's all it is. I'm not one to review a game after its glitches, because glitches are a (usually) passing flaw, but if developers are pushing 2 gigabits of patches every week to a game and it's not getting any better, it just takes more space on your hard drive for nothing, that's when I hit my boiling point. The game itself is not that glitchy - there's nothing out of the ordinary to my recollection, at least nothing that would break the game. But the compatibility issues are massive. First of all, even if you import your stuff from your age-old profile to the game - I shit you not, I even saw the precise stuff that I wanted into the game light up on the screen - it isn't found in your Pop-It inventory. And the levels? Be they community levels or old DLC levels for the previous games, they glitch and crash all the way to hell and back. All of the physical stuff simply doesn't work anymore. For example, a trampoline that was supposed to bump me to safety in one of the DC levels had minimum bounce and I ended up sliding off it into a gas-filled pit instead. In that same level, I simply couldn't get one of the prize bubbles, 'cause the enemy that was supposed to work as a "springboard" acted totally different than it did in the original. After the Lex Luthor boss fight, the game just froze. In the cutscenes, the characters don't even move their mouths when they speak, they just keep swinging their arms around like retards, which they never did in the original. I could go on and on about the glitches that make the old stuff practically unplayable. The same kind of stuff affected me even worse when I tried out that Final Fantasy VII epic. It simply does not work here. Oh yeah, one last thing: no Metal Gear Solid, Pirates of the Caribbean or Toy Story for you. Not even if it's on the list. Not even if they're clearly marked "purchased". They're not found in the PS4 part of PSN, and I doubt they'll ever appear there. Again, making the game backwards compatible even on the PlayStation 4 was a nice thought. Actually making it work would've been an even nicer thought.

It's time to wrap this one up and I'm really kind of sad. By no means did I expect much out of this game, 'cause like I already stated a few times, we all saw the tip of the iceberg a long time ago, and it was no longer the small team of brilliant minds behind this game, but a whole group of small studios, led by one who simply... does not have that touch, to put it nicely. I expected a very entertaining platformer, and that's what I got. I only wish it'd been longer and taken more out of the base LittleBigPlanet 2 was built on. Come on, there's a helicopter shooter showing up in the screensaver, where's that level or any of its kind in the game?! A first-person shooter in the God damn launch trailer, where's that? I might not be a huge FPS fan, but that's misleading, really. Creators will get much more out of this game than players. I warmly recommend LittleBigPlanet 3 to skilled level creators, but LittleBigPlanet 2 to players. Not that the first game is to be missed by players either, if some PlayStation-owning minority has still managed to do that.

+ A massive playground for skilled level creators
+ Fun new characters
+ Fun new gadgets, too, although not quite as fresh as the aforementioned
+ Fun story mode, as long as it lasts...

- ...In other words, a jiffy
- Misses out on the constant surprise factor of the previous game when it comes to level - or more specifically, GAME design
- Severe compatibility issues with PlayStation 3 content, with apparently no remedy in sight
- Pop-It Academy was better as an idea than as an actual series of levels
- I could strangle the localization team; not really an issue to rate the game after, but definitely worth mentioning

< 7.9 >

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