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Controller Freak

Chad Sapieha leads you deep into the world of games, covering gaming trends

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A screenshot from LittleBigPlanet for the PSP. (SCEA)
A screenshot from LittleBigPlanet for the PSP. (SCEA)

LittleBigPlanet for PSP is mighty big fun Add to ...

Let's just get this out of the way: LittleBigPlanet for PSP is probably the best PlayStation Portable game of the year-this, despite the fact that Media Molecule, maker of the PlayStation 3 original released last fall, handed the reins to SCE Studio Cambridge, a developer perhaps best known for a series of middling kiddie platformers that went under the name MediEvil (Media Molecule did, however, lend some assistance).

Impressively, this fresh team of gamesmiths managed to almost perfectly capture its predecessor's charming aesthetic and imaginative spirit. From narrator Stephen Fry's inviting voice and the game's warm, worldly music to its burlap sack people and the delightful environments they explore (which are composed of everyday materials-wood, cardboard, cloth-applied to a variety of fantastical shapes and creatures), there is never any doubt that this is the same LittleBigPlanet that millions of players were enchanted by last autumn, only in smaller form.



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As with its precursor, the game begins with a beautifully directed video showing how random ideas and imaginings float out of our heads and upward toward the heavens to create the world of LittleBigPlanet, which is populated by real people reimagined as sack people.

We start by learning how to create a sack boy (or sack girl-our avatar is completely customizable) and move it around. From there, we are free to begin the story mode, which has us journeying around the world and exploring culturally-themed, two-dimensional environments made by Creator Curators-LittleBigPlanet bigwigs-who must be reminded about an upcoming festival that they appear to have forgotten or are simply ignoring.

It's in this engaging (though unfortunately short) mode that players see how Studio Cambridge's professional designers make use of the game's brilliant physics system to create navigational conundrums that require players to do things like teeter giant seesaws, clamber onto moving carts, paste stickers that act as switches onto dynamic objects, and fly around on a tethered jetpack, all in order to make their way through the environment and find hidden items.

It's in your best interest to pay close attention to how these puzzles have been constructed, because the other half of the game will have you employing a level editor to make your own challenges using items you found in the story mode.

This level editor is simple, robust, and just a little bit daunting. Anyone who takes the time to listen to and watch the lengthy-but wittily orated-instructions can learn how to make levels just as multifaceted and entertaining as anything the game's authors have made. There is a lot to digest, and you won't become a master designer overnight, but the potential is there for ambitious players.

On that subject, as with its forerunner, LittleBigPlanet for PSP has a thriving community of amateur game makers. Even if you choose not to put in the time required to create levels of your own, there are hours upon hours worth of player-made challenges just waiting to be downloaded, and more are being dreamt up every minute-much as they have been over the last year for the PlayStation 3 version.

It's worth noting, though, that while much of the game is a virtually flawless facsimile of the original, there are a few key differences between LittleBigPlanet and its small-screened successor.

For starters, there is no multiplayer. Consequently, the ability for players to use their sack person's arms to make communicative gestures has also been removed. We can still control their facial expressions and make them enact little animations of joy or sadness, but it is solely for our own amusement.

Plus, the levels of depth in the game's environments (which allow players to, say, walk in front of or behind objects on the two-dimensional plane) have been reduced from three to two. I hardly noticed a difference while playing, but it's a bit more evident when creating levels.

Even with these modest limitations, LittleBigPlanet for PSP is a warm-hearted and enormously enjoyable play. It can't truly be called original, given the existence of its predecessor, but that in no way diminishes how grandly it entertains.

If you've been waiting for a reason to dust off your PSP, this is it.

LittleBigPlanet

Platform: PSP

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge, Media Molecule

Publisher: SCEA

ESRB: E

Score: 3.5/4

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