Whether or not cutesy, loveable characters and bright, colourful landscapes are your sort of thing, there's no denying that Little Big Planet is a huge title for Sony. It's had more hype over the past year and a half than the Spice Girls' reunion did (and is more visually appealing) and along with Home it's been considered one of the big "killer apps" that will shift arse-loads of PS3s.
Or that's Sony's Little Big Plan. So finally the big question can be answered. Does it live up to its reputation? Pretty much. The fact is that Little Big Planet is one of the most original PS3 games as well as one of the most enjoyable so long as your imagination's up to scratch.
Poetry in motion
Graphically, LBP is one of the best-looking games I've seen on the console. You might not think it when you look at the screens: after all, it's just a battered-looking cloth doll running around a load
of basic-looking environments. But when you see it in motion and witness the different texture and lighting effects combined with the game's fantastic physics engine, you'll agree that it's actually a pretty impressive feat.
It's this physics engine that makes all the difference, though. Almost everything in the game moves, flies and falls exactly as you'd expect it to in real life: heavy things drop quickly, light things can be easily grabbed and pulled around, cars have realistic suspension and the like. You get a lot of games promising realistic physics, but Little Big Planet is the first game I've played in a long time that actually lives up to this claim.
The realistic physics help form many of the main game's puzzles too: whether you're grabbing boulders and using a jetpack to carry and dispense them into a pot that drops down and lowers a drawbridge; or pushing a skateboard to the edge of a ramp so you can quickly jump on before it picks up too much speed. You'll end up viewing puzzles as if they were on a real-life obstacle course.
As has been much promoted in the past, Little Big Planet is split into three different sections: Play, Create and Share. The last two are pretty straightforward and have been discussed to death in the past, but the Play section is maybe a bit less familiar. Basically, it consists of 50 different platform levels that can be played either on your own or with up to three others.
Players can jump in and out as they feel like it much like in the LEGO platformers. As you play through each level you collect different objects, stickers and outfits that you can then use in Create mode. In other words, Play mode really only exists as a fancy way for you and some mates to unlock new content in Create mode. It's like a 50-level training mode. Once you've got everything in each level, I'd put money on the fact that you won't be playing any of them again.
This is where our one main concern with Little Big Planet comes into play. We know this only relates to a minority of PS3 owners, but if for some reason your PS3 isn't online and you don't have access to the PlayStation Network, your enjoyment of the game is going to be seriously hampered.
What do I mean by that? Well Little Big Planet has clearly been designed as a social game first and foremost to the extent that some of the areas in Play mode are marked with a "2" sign, meaning you can only reach the collectables in them if you have a friend playing with you. If you're Billy No-Mates, forget about it. You've got no chance.
Effort equals reward
At the end of the day, Little Big Planet is a hugely difficult game to review because it's only as much fun as you make it. Put a lot of effort in and the game will reward you in abundance. However, if you're one of those casual gamers who's not interested in the whole creation side of things and you're only buying it for a 50-level platform game, then you're going to be sadly disappointed because as great as it all looks, LBP doesn't have a lot in there to keep you going.