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LittleBigPlanet

Preview: Massive hands-on with Sony's creative masterpiece

LittleBigPlanet places you in the role of creator - in the most flexible, innovative console game, possibly ever.

LBP lets you take almost anything on the planet, and massively improve it. Cows, for instance. Important for food and clothing, but a bit, well, mundane. But in LBP you can make a cow, cover it in photos of your mates, turn it into rubber and push it off a cliff and count how many times it bounces. In your face, God.

April 14, 2008 sees our first proper hands-on with LBP. We're busy creating a mock wedding, merrily slapping wheels and bunny ears onto an EyeToy photo of ourselves before rolling it down a hill to a chapel, where it will 'marry' a photo of a fellow journo, decorated with shells and vampire fangs. And we're loving every minute.

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But that doesn't explain what LBP actually is - it defies pigeonholing. Is it a platformer? Yes - there are stacks of platform-based Story Mode levels, as you leap from one end of the level to the other, avoiding traps. Is it a puzzle game? Yep, it's that too - there are tricky mind-teasers scattered throughout, sometimes involving landscape manipulation or requiring you to co-operate with other players to, say, operate a pulley system. A race game? Well, there's on-foot racing, certainly - one stage sees you desperately trying to outpace a bulldozer that's creeping up behind.

A straightforward points-collector? There are levels like that too. A game creator? LBP is definitely one of those - everything you see in these screens you'll be able to make yourself at home. An FPS? Well, no... but we wouldn't be surprised if devs Media Molecule suddenly unveiled a level based on a fluffier Call Of Duty 4. It's the sort of game where anything feels possible, because - most of the time - it is.

Joy to the world
More than that, it's a game that feels like digitized happiness. The sackboys and girls ooze character, smiling, laughing, wincing in pain... they're incredibly charming. You can use the right stick to control their gestures, making them wave and dance on command, while holding p and i and moving the right stick makes them dish out a ferocious slap to the nearest character, sending them flying. It's inherently comic. You'll fall in love with them.

Media Molecule hope LBP will spark an online community who'll make levels and play each other's creations. You can make stages alone or together, which you do by inviting mates - via the PSN - to come and create levels in your LBP 'pod', where you design stages, before making them 'live' on the network.

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To encourage community spirit, people can rate each other's levels and leave comments, with the most popular stages topping the LBP leaderboard - "to ensure the good stuff bubbles to the top," MM's Alex Evans says. Levels don't need to exist separately from each other - it's possible to lock them, and place keys to them in other stages. In this way, you can create your own cohesive game and let other people loose in it. "What ships on Blu-ray is only day one of LBP," Alex tells us.

Easy does it
Brass tacks, then - how do you actually go about making your own stage? It's got to be complicated, right, looking at the sheer volume and range of objects in these shots? Actually, no - it's a remarkably simple process.

First, you press r. This will bring up your Creation menu, floating above your little sackboy or sackgirl's head. The first thing you'll probably want to do is customise your actual character, and you can do that by using the D-pad to highlight the Character option (the little sackboy icon) and pressing q. In here, you'll find a stack of options - our first sackboy ended up being a bright red, one-eyed, sword-carrying knight with star-shaped sunglasses on, single eye poking between the lenses. The options are manifold, and you can spend ages experimenting.

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