LittleBigPlanet (PS Vita) preview: Touched by a Sackboy

First, the bad news: Unlike ModNation Racers, the PS Vita version of LittleBigPlanet won't be able to make use of all the user content already created for its two big brother sequels on the PS3. There are two Blu-Ray discs of content to use in the LittleBigPlanet games on the PS3, and there was no way for Sony to carry all of that content over to the PS Vita.

The good news, however, is that allowed the developers to really take advantage of all the Vita has to offer. "We wanted to make the game very original," the Sony representative told us while showing off the title after the E3 press event. And it certainly is -- while Sackboy moves and plays exactly like his PS3 counterpart (and in fact, all of the costumes did make the jump), the Vita's touchscreen is a literal game-changer here. In most of the other Vita games, the touchscreens are just a substitute for the traditional button controls. But in LittleBigPlanet, they give the game even more depth, tactility, and immersion.%Gallery-125609%
As you may have seen in the conference itself, the sky's the limit on what this engine can do -- I saw a fully-implemented two-player touchscreen table tennis game, as well as a floating bubble level where an antigravity Sackboy was floated around with just a touch and a swipe across the screen. You can only imagine what players will do in terms of creativity and originality when they get their hands (literally) on this thing.

But the most interesting stuff in the few levels I saw consisted of a weird mix of old LBP controls and brand new touchscreen tricks. In one level, Sackboy had to jump up and grab on to a wheel that took up most of the screen, and then, while still holding onto the wheel with the circle button, I had to spin him around to the other side with a touchscreen swipe, allowing him to jump off to the next platform and move on. Another swinging platform, later on, was moved via the Vita's gyroscope controls, so the player had to tilt it to the right to get it within Sackboy's reach, and then tilt the device back to the left to carry Sackboy across the gap.


The front and back touchscreens were used brilliantly as well. One part of the level presented a fully-functional piano keyboard, on which the player had to play a certain tune to open up a door for Sackboy to exit through. And one of the most interesting puzzles used both the back and front touchscreens. Sackboy encounters a square full of Tetris-shaped platforms that could either be pushed forward or touched back into the screen, and the player has to help him climb up, platform by platform, by pushing out the appropriate platforms on either touchpanel.

The extra controls are surprisingly just as intuitive as the traditional controls were in the original titles, and even in just the few stages I saw, LittleBigPlanet suddenly serves (iPhone and DS included) as one of the best reasons to have a touchscreen on a gaming device in the first place.



Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a little bit to see the finished product -- the Sony rep backed off of a "launch window" release, and instead said the game wouldn't be out until sometime in 2012. But of all the Vita games we saw, LittleBigPlanet seems to take the most advantage of the Vita's new controls, and will likely be a showcase game as the new platform grows into its own.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.