[Review] LittleBigPlanet 3

Posted by | November 25, 2014 | Reviews | 3 Comments

The latest game in the LittleBigPlanet main series brings new characters and puzzles, but keeps the creative heart that’s always been at the center of the series.

If you haven’t played any LittleBigPlanet games before, don’t worry about the “3” in the title. The games don’t follow a single story. Rather, they’re a series of adventures. And they’re all hilarious, touching, and frankly adorable.

The question with LittleBigPlanet 3 was whether it would live up to the reputation of the first two games: one of unbridled creativity and fun.

The Story

Sackboy, Sackthing, Cloth Kid—whatever you call him, he’s the iconic, mischievous hero of LittleBigPlanet. In LittleBigPlanet 3, Sackboy is on a new world, called Bunkum, where he must find three legendary heroes in order to save Bunkum from three equally legendary titans. With the help of these heroes, you need to trap the titans back in the, er, Stitchem Earl Grey Tea tin from which they were released.

Definitely not Twinings Earl Grey. Not at all.

Definitely not Twinings Earl Grey. Not at all.

It’s cute, funny touches like this—the tea tin and the irreverent humor of the characters you meet along the way—that make the series feel really special. That and the pasted-on crafty aesthetic are creative touches that make LittleBigPlanet stand out from other platformers.

The Gameplay

Like the rest of the series, LittleBigPlanet 3 is a platformer—a particularly floaty and very forgiving platformer. The traditional running and jumping of LittleBigPlanet games has been augmented with tons of new ways to get around.

First, there are the new tools that Sackboy can use. These expand on the tools from LittleBigPlanet 2. In that game you had hats that could shoot cupcakes, gloves that helped you grab things, and more. This time the tools often help you navigate complicated levels. Examples include Boost Boots that give you a little rocket power when you jump, a Hook Hat that lets you ride rails (as you dangle from them adorably), and the Blink Ball—basically LittleBigPlanet’s version of a Portal gun. It lets you shoot a ball at special, shiny surfaces, and your Sackperson will pop up right there.

On top of that you have the new characters—Toggle, Oddsock, and Swoop each have their own special abilities.

LittleBigPlanet 3

Three legendary and adorable heroes.

With all this new stuff, the structure of the game is a little different as well. Rather than moving from level to level in an area, you find doors to levels and minigames in giant, explorable hubs. Because it’s LittleBigPlanet, each of these areas is jam-packed with collectibles—and you’ll need Sackboy’s abilities and the abilities of that area’s hero to get them all.

If that sounds like a lot to keep track of, it is. I think it’s safe to say this is the most complicated LittleBigPlanet game yet—and LittleBigPlanet has never been without challenge. Success rides on the player’s ability to swiftly press buttons, maneuver around obstacles, and understand momentum.

For an experienced (maybe even fanatical) LittleBigPlanet player like me, this was awesome. I got to challenge myself and discover new ways to play. If you’ve never played a LittleBigPlanet game before, you’re going to have to learn pretty quickly. Fortunately the tutorials are pretty helpful for getting the hang of Sackboy. But since every new hero is introduced with a level where you go directly into a boss fight, things get hard pretty fast.

LittleBigPlanet 3

Each character is a little different, and it’s fun to master all of them.

It’s worth it for the feeling of mastery over the movement and the characters—especially if you play cooperatively. Like previous LittleBigPlanet games, LittleBigPlanet 3 allows you to turn on a second controller (or a third or a fourth) and pop into the game alongside your friends and family. The game also allows you to play any level with people online. If you have online play enabled, the game will match you up with other people looking for a game.

Creative Mode

One of the most exciting things about LittleBigPlanet 3 is that all of the previous games’ Community Levels are available on PS4 for the first time. The Community Levels are those built by LittleBigPlanet players using the level builder.

This has also been redesigned for LittleBigPlanet 3, with a “Popit Academy” to teach players how to use the creative tools. This is why the crafty aesthetic of LittleBigPlanet is so important—each level is built out of the same stuff that you can use to build your own levels. It takes practice, but you can make and publish your own puzzles to the LittleBigPlanet community.

LittleBigPlanet 3

You can customize the characters’ costumes and materials.

I’ve always loved LittleBigPlanet’s community levels. There’s something really heartwarming about knowing that someone put so much work into a game just for the enjoyment of the community. Creators often leave little thank-you messages in their levels, and in turn players can leave reviews and rate the levels so they’re easier to find.

If you encounter inappropriate content in a user-created level, it’s easy to report it. It’s worth mentioning that this works, but  in all the time I’ve been playing LittleBigPlanet I’ve never actually encountered something offensive.

I enjoyed the Popit Academy creative-mode tutorials because they were similar to playing a level of the game—you help Sackboy create pathways with the help of Larry Da Vinci (the Popit Academy Instructor and a familiar face from LittleBigPlanet 2). LittleBigPlanet’s level creator is so awesome that community game builders have actually been hired to work on LittleBigPlanet games. As a tool, it’s a great way to get your kids thinking about game design.

LittleBigPlanet 3 creative mode

You could recreate all of LittleBigPlanet 3 in the level-builder if you tried!

I’ve never been particularly skilled at creating LittleBigPlanet levels, but I had a great time playing through the tutorial. It takes you from the simplest aspects of placing material so you can walk across empty space, all the way to changing the speed and rotation of objects to help propel yourself through a level. And it’s really easy, too, despite how powerful the tools are.

ESRB Rating

LittleBigPlanet 3 is rated E by the ESRB for comic mischief, cartoon violence, and a tobacco reference. All the playable characters are little burlap sack people, and as the game helpfully tells you, they’re vulnerable to certain elements. No falling in fire, onto spikes, touching electricity, etc. All these things will cause your Sackperson (or Toggle, Swoop, and Oddsock) to flail a little and disappear—only to pop back up again ready for another try. As for the tobacco reference? You can collect hundreds of stickers in LittleBigPlanet, and one of them depicts an old-fashioned smoking pipe.

LittleBigPlanet 3

Queen Pinky Buflooms also threatens to smear you in jam and eat you in a sandwich, but who would do such a thing?

Some of the user-created levels can be a little scarier. Some people recreate levels of M-rated games to be played in LittleBigPlanet—but you’re still playing with toy sack people and  poofs of smoke instead of blood and guts.

The Takeaway

LittleBigPlanet 3 is almost a perfect family game. Its cooperative gameplay will stretch your thinking and coordination—and it’s just plain fun. In that respect, it’s a worthy successor to the first two LittleBigPlanet games. However, I wish it were just a little more accessible. The gameplay is creative and challenging, but maybe just a little too challenging. If I were going to sit down with my mom and teach her how to play a LittleBigPlanet game, I’d probably start with LittleBig Planet 2.

Still, there’s no question that this is a great game for kids. They can explore, they can create, and they can enjoy themselves. And they might be better teachers than me–so if you’re intimidated by the challenges of the gameplay, I’d recommend sitting down and asking your kids to teach you how to play. This is a great game to enjoy with a loved one.

Simone de Rochefort

About Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.