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Review: LittleBigPlanet (PSP)

The PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is two shoulder buttons and an analog stick away from being one of the greatest games on Sony's portable platform.

There were plenty of things I loved in the original LBP -- frantic multiplayer, outstanding artistic and musical design, and an endless pool of community-generated content, to name a few -- but all of the game's delightful components relied heavily upon the strength of its creation engine, and the aforementioned community's willingness to master the tools they've been provided.

While the PSP version of the game does an adequate job of transplanting these tools onto a portable console, a surprisingly large amount of that power and ease of use was sacrificed in the process. The level creation engine is functional, but doesn't come close to the standard set by the original game. That's partially because of the marginal changes that were made to how these tools function -- though, more than anything, the PSP's inherent lack of buttons plays the biggest role in the game's diminished accessibility.

Gallery: LittleBigPlanet (PSP) | 22 Photos

Every single function of the DualShock 3 controller is utilized somehow in the LittleBigPlanet level creation engine. A number of functions which were once accessible by simply pressing a button now require a combination of buttons, or a bit of menu navigation. Not only do these changes extend the amount of time required to create your platforming masterpiece, but the PSP's less-than-perfect analog stick lacks the surgical precision offered by the PS3's controller.

For better or (more than often) for worse, the rules of level creation have changed. Movement now occurs in not three, but two different planes of depth, leaving you with fewer options when designing the paths your level will follow. Before placing any object into your level, you must decide whether it will be static (incapable of moving) or dynamic. This may seem like an improvement over the first game, which only offered one type of gravity-defying material -- however, it's easy to lose track of which items in your stage are stuck in place, and which ones will fall like bricks if given the chance.

To rotate or resize an object you want in your level, you must first select it from the menu, decide whether it will be dynamic or static, place it, exit the object menu, select the object with your Pop-It cursor, hold down the L button and then manipulate it with the analog stick. In the original LBP, you simply select it from a menu, resize it with the right analog stick, then place it where you'd like.

I know it sounds like I'm nitpicking, but the level creation tools are the backbone of this game. If players find them as frustrating and clumsy as I did, they'll be less likely to work with them, and the community levels -- which have provided hours upon hours of enjoyment for me in LBP Classic -- just won't be as strong.

The PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is two shoulder buttons and an analog stick away from being one of the greatest games on Sony's portable platform.

Also, without any multiplayer modes to speak of whatsoever, any replay value you're going to glean from LittleBigPlanet PSP is going to come from creating, sharing and downloading new levels. Fortunately, the latter two of those functions work flawlessly, using a framework which allows you to quickly download stages to your own private planet, preventing you from having to load them again should you desire another playthrough.

The story levels adequately fulfill their role as an interactive, extended training montage, showing you the capabilities of the game's creative tools. There are stickers, costumes and objects to hunt down -- though diehard collectors can probably get their hands on the game's entire unlockable catalog after about five hours of searching. Unfortunately, without any multiplayer support, the extremely clever two (or three or four) player challenge rooms from the original game don't make an appearance.

The PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is just as charming as its predecessor, boasting stylish, impressive (all things considered) visuals and a phenomenal soundtrack, which more than makes up for its lack of Go! Team with a healthy dose of Thievery Corporation. Stephen Fry reprises his role as the unseen instructor, teaching you the game's basic functions in a soothing, sing-song manner. I'd say it's a crime that Fry hasn't been tapped for even more video game voice work -- but I'm not reviewing Stephen Fry, now am I?

It's extremely difficult to review the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet on the day of its release. Much like the original LBP, SCE Studio Cambridge has simply provided level creation tools into the community, hoping that they'll obey the franchise's creed of "Play. Create. Share." The overall strength of the game relies entirely on how its community flourishes -- which is an aspect of the game I simply can't anticipate this far in advance.

I can say that the inevitable changes that were made to the level creation engine are too prohibitive for me to invest in contributing to that community. I'm hoping there's a few Creator Curators out there who possess more patience than I, because I believe that, if put in the right hands, LittleBigPlanet for the PSP can still function as an impressive (though slightly cumbersome) creative outlet.

In other words, you should go buy the game, and then start making me some levels. Seriously, pal. I'm not getting any younger, here.

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