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LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

Matt Gardner
Double Eleven, Games previews, LittleBigPlanet Vita, Media Molecule, Platformers, PS Vita games, Sony, Stephen Fry, Tarsier Studios

LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

We're tactile folk, here at Dealspwn. Given the choice between fiddling with buttons and multi-layered interfaces and menus, and poking and prodding and swiping and stroking our way around things, we almost always go for the latter these days. 1-to-1 touch control is a beautiful thing, revolutionising puzzle games, and breathing fresh life in the classic adventure formulae of yesteryear. A touch interface is a creative's dream - manipulating worlds directly - but it's also a platform-fan's nightmare: the lack of precision often too much to bear.

Thankfully, the Vita is armed to the teeth with diverse input mechanisms.

LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

There's something glorious about hearing Stephen Fry's mellifluous tones hit my ears, especially as I'm wedged between two snoring suits on a rush hour commute, Vita firmly pressed against both palms. It's almost soothing. In all honesty, since enjoying a half hour playtest of LittleBigPlanet Vita back before the console even launched, I've been practically frothing at the mouth with excitement at the prospect of a handheld LBP.

Development duties may have been handed over to Tarsier Studios and Double Eleven, but the recreation of Media Molecule's masterpiece is bang on...albeit quite a bit smaller than you might be used to on the TV in your front room. Sackboy is an charmingly wayward as usual: the floaty skiddy platforming of the home console big brother firmly intact, for better or for worse. You can still dress him up as a smiling cowboy or stick him in a morphsuit or transform him into a grumpy transvestite should you wish, all the while collecting little bubbles, unlocking new costumes, and slapping amusing stickers on everything that you can see.

LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

Of course, the latter part now uses the touchscreen, with the Vita version also encouraging you to rearrange select blocks within a level with a swipe of a digit. Certain sections require some accurate caressing of the rear trackpad too, prodding bits of the background out to form steps for our knitted protagonist. The timing on such sections is generous, a checkpoint never far away, although if the touch input doesn't quite register fully it can break the flow somewhat.

But the double touch panels make a difference elsewhere too. Creation is a cinch. It was never exactly inaccessible on PS3, far from it; but it's even more of a joy to mould the perfect level with your hands. Shifting and stacking, rotating and reversing, distributing and discarding, it's easier than ever before, and now you can do it anywhere. Any object can be tagged for use with either (or both) touch elements, and there's a veritable plethora of helpful tutorials to make the seemingly overwhelming options suddenly appear far less daunting. It require a little bit of a mental reshuffle if you're used to a gamepad or a keyboard and mouse in your hands, but crucially everything makes interactive sense, and so acclimatisation shouldn't take too long.

LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

There are fresh delights too. The little arcade-style side missions that now accompany the story mode have you engage in mini-games that range from turning your Vita 90 degrees to play Whack-A-Mole with Sackboys, to a little slice of purely tap-based platforming that's a little Canabalt-esque, aptly called The Tapling. Near functionality permeates everything, and certain sections can only be completed in co-op.

Not that there's a dearth of content to suit all-comers. The title of the game is simply LittleBigPlanet for a reason: this is the definitive LBP experience, just on a new console. So every single bit of user-generated content from the previous two games is available to play, and there's loads more to come as well. When you consider that we've already seen people working feverishly outside of the box to bend the creation tools to their will and come up with working musical instruments, top-down tank deathmatch arenas, Vietnam FPS levels, and space sims, oh we're in for a treat.

LittleBigPlanet Vita Hands-on Preview | Sackboy Finds A New Home

It would have been so easy to restrict content access for this game; it would have been too easy to simply say new console, new community. But this is so much better. Now you can take your creations to the workroom, to rejig in your lunch break.  You can choose from hundreds of thousands of new levels, with scores to beat, and times to best, with the promise of more and more each day. It's been the PS3 series that never stops giving, and that should hold just as true for the Vita as well - a game that can be something for everyone, even and especially if you already own the PS3 titles .

Never underestimate the appeal of taking an experience you love everywhere you go.

LittleBigPlanet Vita releases this September.



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