Finding the right touch in LittleBigPlanet Vita

Finding the right touch in LittleBigPlanet Vita
While PlayStation Vita games output gorgeous visuals on its screen, use of its alternate control mechanisms – like touch and tilt – have often felt flat. But our recent experience with LittleBigPlanet Vita has reinvigorated our interest in tapping and tumbling about with our Sony handheld. Somehow it seems fitting that the first-party series known for its creativity is the one to show developers how to use touch correctly.

The touch and tilt features in LittleBigPlanet seems additive to the experience, rather than wasted, unnecessary, or tacked on – a typical error of such functions. And since you're reaching in the adorable and tiny world, impacting small objects in aid to your little sack-person, the conceit of touch makes perfect sense within the LBP theme.
%Gallery-130817% For veterans of the series, this Vita incarnation will feel familiar as a well-worn glove. The preview featured a tutorial, but it was largely a refresher course. Sackboy still occupies three planes of depth, runs and jumps across levels, utilizes bounce pads, and grips onto objects as he navigates through stages composed of found objects. This time, Sackboy is tasked with breaking an evil Puppeteer's reign over the peaceful planet Carnivalia, which lends itself to colorful enemies and traps.

Judging by the small but spectacular pool of stages made during the game's beta period, it seems more experienced creators are already finding a home with the new, handheld-sized canvas.

The major difference in LittleBigPlanet Vita is that I could use touch to impact certain objects. Moving platforms into place and tilting to impact the gravity were sensible additions to the tried-and-true formula. I was actually more impressed by the ability to move objects in and out of the depth planes using both the front screen and rear touch pad. Special platforms could be poked with the front screen to move them back, and then with the back screen to move them forward. It's an intuitive interface choice with potential for clever design applications, but more importantly, it finally gives a justified gameplay application for the planes mechanic that has existed throughout the series so far.

As one might expect, touch features are implemented into the creation mode as well. I always felt a bit intimidated by the creative tools, especially as the Popit tool menu grew progressively deeper and more complex. The touch features alleviate this problem somewhat, by offering a more natural interface to create and place objects. I doubt I'll ever be able to consider myself a level design connoisseur, but the Vita control options do make the experience a little more inviting.


Judging by the small but spectacular pool of stages made during the game's beta period, it seems more experienced creators are already finding a home with the new, handheld-sized canvas. LittleBigPlanet has always had a strong community focus, and devoted fans have responded by performing some heavy lifting for extra content. Some creators have even already grasped the strengths of the new touch elements in level design.

The game packs a handful of mini-games as well in 'The Arcade.' I was able to try Tapling, a touch-only game with a distinct focus on trajectory control and quick reaction time to avoid sending a little round ball from careening to his doom. The small sampling of stages was akin to a modest mobile game, which is probably the point. The games don't last terribly long, but it sends a clear message to the community of how robust the tools are. Some creators have already responded in kind, creating non-platforming games that are just as fleshed out as Tapling.

LittleBigPlanet Vita is still very much a LittleBigPlanet game. The series had lost some luster for me after the second installment, and I was afraid that this portable incarnation would merely be more of the same. But while it definitely carries the feel of earlier titles and doesn't turn anything on its head, the touch features, tailored mini-games, and robust community were just enough to make the preview feel welcoming and fresh. It may not change minds, but as a lapsed fan I'm very tempted to return to the biggest little game in Sony's library.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.