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Critical Consensus: LittleBigPlanet 3 plays to the series' strengths

Sumo Digital carries on Media Molecule's high standards, but LBP 3's new ideas deserved more attention

Thanks to The Order: 1886's unfortunate tumble down the release schedule, LittleBigPlanet 3 is effectively the tip of the spear for PlayStation's end-of-year assault. For that, Microsoft might well be preparing an elaborate Christmas card for Ready At Dawn, because with both Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection drawing critical plaudits the Xbox One finally seems to have the upper hand.

Of course, the days when a few exclusive IPs were enough to decide the fate of a console are long gone, but they can still play an important role in the pitched battle of Christmas commerce. And if Sony could have decided which exclusive to let slip into the murk of Q1 2015, it may well have picked Sumo Digital's LittleBigPlanet 3. A new entry - from a new studio - for a series that has always combined goofy charm with intimidating depth, sacrificing a little of its mass appeal in the process. Sony has never released comparative sales figures for the series, but available information suggests that LittleBigPlanet 2 didn't perform as well as its predecessor. LittleBigPlanet 3 may reverse that trend, though by now many gamers will have an opinion on whether the series' admirably strange brew is to their tastes.

At the very least, Sumo Digital has honoured the series' tradition of quality. Indeed, for Joystiq, which gives LittleBigPlanet 3 the equivalent of 9 out of 10, Sumo has actually improved on one area that Media Molecule's games tended to disappoint: the campaign, which never did enough to transcend its dual function as a demonstration of what's possible with the creation tools.

"LittleBigPlanet the first to feel like the preformed game at its core is meant to be a showstopper, an abundant showcase of greatness, a dare to the player to push the envelope even further... The same attention to detail that fuels every LittleBigPlanet is obvious here, but it's far more dynamic and nimble than before, and the game takes every opportunity to take things to the extreme.

"The Adventure mode at the center of LittleBigPlanet 3 is a grand showcase of bold imagination like nothing else out there, with a wellspring of charm and warm-natured humor at its heart. Even so, Sumo Digital's brief 4 to 5 hours of polished, premade contributions pale in comparison to what could be - but that's essentially the point. The world that's been forged out of the enormous toy box this time around has never been more vibrant and inviting, but it's only a miniscule portion of what's now possible."

"LittleBigPlanet the first to feel like the preformed game at its core is meant to be a showstopper"


Most of the available reviews define LittleBigPlanet 3 as a game that builds on the series' existing strengths, and the most important of these is its pioneering creation tools. USGamer - which hails LBP3 as the best in the series to date, awarding it a 10 out of 10 in the process - is particularly impressed by the new additions in this area, which include weather effects, power-ups, and a broader set of options when it comes to grouping and structuring their content.

"In the same way that [campaign] levels are connected together and feature sub-levels, LBP 3 lets players do the same thing with their own creations. That essentially lets players create their own unique games - or 'worlds' as Sony likes to call them. What's interesting is that worlds now have 'deep layer' gameplay. This is essentially planar depth, which enables creators to set points where the player can move 'in' and 'out' of the screen - either by running, teleporting, or perhaps even racing on the back of something completely bonkers. Up to 16 planes can be active at any given time, which can give rise to some quite sophisticated levels."

At this point, it's only fair to address the elephant in the room. LittleBigPlanet 3 has attracted a few rave reviews already, but there's no getting round the fact that its current average on Metacritic is 79 - very good in its own right, but the lowest in the series' history by at least 12 per cent. A part of that will be down to good old fashioned fatigue, where critics are reluctant to hand out 9s and 10s when an established series is refining rather than revolutionising.

"In its current state, LittleBigPlanet 3 is hard to recommend without some serious caveats"


But for Polygon it's more about missed opportunity, and even a little dishonesty in the way the game was first presented to the world. In its 7 out of 10 review, Polygon recalls LittleBigPlanet 3's announcement at E3 this year, where the introduction of three new playable characters, each different in terms of abilities and physicality, were the "idea" on which it was sold. These characters were shown, "working in unison," and while this does happen at certain points in the game, Sumo Digital largely neglects the one aspect of LittleBigPlanet 3 that feels truly original.

"The LittleBigPlanet series is, after all, highly praised for its co-op friendliness. And this entry was introduced at E3 with a lengthy level demonstration with all four heroes working together... That kind of teamwork with all four characters is non-existent at worst and annoyingly buried at best.

"It would be an exaggeration to say that this ruins the game, but it feels like a huge missed opportunity. Each character in LittleBigPlanet 3 is enjoyable to play as on their own, and I suspect they're easier to design levels around this way as well. But bringing all four together makes for much stranger, more frantic scenarios. These scarce levels brought out the kind of off-the-wall imagination that is so core to the franchise, and I wanted more of them."

The great strength of LittleBigPlanet is that, while this kind of content is under-developed in the game, the series' hugely productive community will be waiting to fill that void with more than any one person could possibly play - not all of it good, of course, but then that's the necessary downside of choice.

"LittleBigPlanet 3 was introduced with a demonstration with all four heroes working together. That kind of teamwork is non-existent at worst and annoyingly buried at best"


For Eurogamer, though, LittleBigPlanet 3's biggest problems were technical, the experience corrupted and disturbed over and again by "a litany" of issues. Sony is by no means alone in releasing products that hobble rather than sprint out of the starting gates, but after the failure of quality control on Driveclub similar problems plaguing LBP 3 will be a disappointment to PlayStation owners everywhere.

"Even after applying a 'mandatory for review' patch, I had issues with clipping, screen tearing and noticeable frame-rate drops - particularly during co-op play. More serious problems included freezes lasting several seconds every time I pulled up the Popit menu, while two stages saw Sackboy disappear entirely after a checkpoint, forcing me to restart the level. Having quit the game after reaching the second hub, I was dismayed to find it still locked on my return, forcing me to complete the previous boss battle once more. A day one patch addresses some of these issues, though whether all these bugs will be resolved remains to be seen - and besides, that's little comfort to those with slow or intermittent broadband.

"Without these problems, I'd have no hesitation in saying this is the best LittleBigPlanet game to date... But in its current state, it's hard to recommend without some serious caveats. Held together by Sellotape rather than superglue, LittleBigPlanet 3 is in constant danger of falling apart."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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