LittleBigPlanet is not a game you play, put down and forget about until you next turn on the PS3. It's a full-time occupation. A potential obsession. But most of all it's the platform-defining title that PS3 needed to happen this side of Christmas.
Not many games have you sitting on the train on your way into work with a notepad, jotting down ideas for things to try when you get home. Not many games have you in the pub discussing the mechanics behind a fully operable car, or how you make a giant robot that can shoot fireballs from its fists. Not with grown men at least.
The clever thing about LBP is that it's as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The standalone story mode (yes there is one) contains a straightforward platformer that's so well-made and inventive that it alone is good enough a reason to purchase. Think of it like a physics-based Mario game. A very good one.
If you have a good time there you can go online and within seconds you'll be playing the levels of others. And there'll be hundreds of them.
So you get all that even before you dive into the Create mode, the part where developer Media Molecule has really shined. Again, you can get as deep as you like into creating your own stuff. Simple levels are super easy to create, more complex ideas take time and effort.
You can spend 20 minutes putting together a simple series of platforms to jump on, or six hours making a rocket, setting up its trajectory and a creating a fully-working engine-detachment mechanism.
Before we get into that though, let's breathe a little. The story mode is frickin' brilliant - even by Super Mario's standards. The mechanics are kept basic on the surface with Sackboy's only two abilities being jump and grab. That's it.
But the physics-based elements within each of the levels, the clever scenarios that MM has put together and the variety in gameplay is sheer genius. There are basic platforming sections, stages that have you running from giant mechs that smash everything as it rumbles along (see the video below), stages where you pilot ships through mid-air obstacle courses, drive cars at high speed or creep through the darkness with a dog holding a lamp.
Something as simple as the ability to grab onto things becomes a really clever mechanic when you factor in the game's physics and how this lets you manipulate objects, pulling blocks into place, grabbing on to moving objects to make use of their momentum, dragging key items through obstacle courses or pulling over towers to bring the items on top tumbling down.
It's traditional platforming with a twist added by real-time physics. Mario for the 21st century, if you will. And the chirpy music, gorgeous backdrops and comical scripts make this one of the most charming games we've ever played. Ever.
The Story mode will keep you busy for a fair while, too. There are three to four main levels in each world, and there are eight worlds. Then in each level there are two to three well-hidden keys, each key unlocking a bonus stage when collected.
Bonus stages range from small, cleverly-devised mini-games, like skipping a spinning pole or bouncing to grab orbs, to full-fledged levels in their own right that need to be done at speed or other unique scenarios.
That totals over 50 levels and when you factor in all the secrets hidden in each level, there's plenty of replay value to be had.
All this gives you the perfect excuse to get other players involved. Up to four Sackboys can tackle any of the levels at the same time (all levels CAN be finished in single-player though). It's seamless drop-in, drop-out play too; as soon as you turn on a controller a Sackboy pops on screen. Turn it off and he'll disappear.