300 Word Review – LittleBigPlanet
It seems reasonable to expect that a game which allows users to create their own levels for a 2D platformer should be made by people who can create a pretty good platformer themselves. This is definitely not the case with Media Molecule, the developers of LittleBigPlanet.
The problem stems from a misunderstanding about what makes a good platformer in the first place. Media Molecule seems to believe that the secret is a set of levels with lots of things to do; switches to pull, stuff to knock over, etc. However, a great platformer usually isn’t just in its level design, it’s in the game’s avatar.
In truly great platformers, like Super Mario Bros., or Sonic the Hedgehog, manipulating the player-character is really the main event. The level design is important, of course, but is often there simply to present challenging opportunities for improvisation and experimentation.
Unfortunately Sackboy, the only avatar in LittleBigPlanet, is sluggish and limited. The range of motion offered by the avatar is surprisingly constrained. Even the perennial ‘double-jump’ isn’t available. The physics of LittleBigPlanet also serve to make controlling Sackboy inconsistent. Sometimes you’ll land on a platform and float on the edge. Other times you’ll simply fall to your death.
Combine these factors with the very poor decision to have 3 layers of depth and you have a game where you never feel sure of what your avatar is actually going to do in any given situation.
LittleBigPlanet, of course, is more about making levels than it is about playing them, with the single player game really just meant to spark the imagination of the user. In the end though, as anyone who’s ever designed a platformer can tell you, a level can only ever be as good as the avatar that’s going to be navigating it.