Play, Create and Share: That was Media Molecule's driving philosophy for their award-winning LittleBigPlanet, a game with competitive elements that ultimately emphasized lighthearted teamwork. With over one million levels created and shared by players as of July 2009, the game seems limitless for sofa-dwelling PS3 owners. But SackBoy wasn't content with staying secluded in living rooms. In an effort to take such imagination and creativity on-the-go, Media Molecule has teamed up with Sony Computer Entertainment's Cambridge Studio. LittleBigPlanet PSP while not a mobile replication of its console counterpart, further shows how handheld gaming devices are more than convenient ways to distract children.
Like 2008's console release, booting up the game is an invitation to the world of LittleBigPlanet, a place made up of the what's-its and thingy-mabobs. Cranks, pulleys, gears, springs and odd shapes all come together to form the world in which your Sack-person explores. As Stephen Fry thankfully reprises his instructive role with whimsical, merry narration, you soon discover this pint-sized game offers almost as many possibilities as its benchmark-setting older cousin.
The glaring difference with collecting items and creating levels this time, however, is the single-player only experience. Not only did the PS3 version of LBP allow anyone to become their own Creator Curator and distribute their work online, it also let those same people to play with others in those creations—not to mention it took more than a solo effort to collect everything from prepackaged levels.
The same, unfortunately, can't be said for the game's PSP debut. After a quick journey through the 30 developer-created levels, spanning six different themed domains (spending most of your time with fairly long load screens on the UMD), and bringing together complacent Curators for a celebration, there is little reason to make replayed run-throughs. Bubbled objects are aplenty, but even those with light platforming skills can pick them up in a couple of tries. The omission of any sort of multiplayer exploit is fairly deflating when considering the console version's ability to create a social experience. Even the act of dressing up your Sack-person feels neglected without anyone to stick random objects onto, and barely visible detail in accessories from a smaller resolution and faraway camera.
Though the game fails to provide for cooperative gameplay, it still manages to deliver many of the other core ideas Media Molecule originally developed. The depiction of handmade aesthetics translates well even on a smaller screen, albeit with simplified textures, and fits with looped, inviting music in each level that never grates or becomes annoying. Each setting looks unique to the handheld sequel and doesn't feel recycled from the previous iteration. Mini-games accompany the loose story levels and make for challenging efforts of topping friends' scores. But most of all, the backbone of the creative experience remains intact.
While there are only two planes to alternate between on the PSP—compared to the console's three—there is enough depth and room to exercise your Popit in. Controls to materialize your ideas are cramped and a bit awkward, involving multiple steps of navigating menus, if you're familiar with the DualShock's setup, but such discrepancies are negligible when you consider you can launch a rocket-propelled snowman off a ramp, even if you're on the way to work in cramped public transportation. With the ability to create dynamic or static objects for your levels, even the touchiness of PSP's nub is mitigated so you can make sure your levels turn out the way you want. Most importantly, you can upload and share your creations smoothly online, and quickly download and rate other's levels.
LittleBigPlanet was a stepping stone for console-based, user-created content with gameplay options that were on par with its creative offering. While the PSP release of the game may not be a direct port in terms of being a multiplayer social event, the essence of Media Molecule's “Play, Create and Share” mantra remains intact. Though subject to some clipping, loading and framerate issues here and there, the ability to produce entertaining, custom-built levels anywhere and with only minor struggle provides mobile gamers with the possibility of an almost limitless length of play—this, of course, is dependent on the game's community and their willingness to remain dedicated Creative Curators.