LittleBigPlanet 2’s hotly anticipated cross-controller add-on launches later today in North America (tomorrow in Europe), and we’ve already been lucky enough to experience the content's first couple of stages. For those out of the loop, the $4.99/€4.99 expansion adds several new cross-controller levels to the PlayStation 3 game. It also implements all of the tools that you’ll need to construct your own dual screen experiences, which can then be shared with the title’s online community. You won’t need the full expansion pack in order to play the user created stages, but you’ll still need pockets deeper than Simon Cowell in order to get set-up.

What came first?

The cross-controller levels simply won’t work unless you own a PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and a copy of LittleBigPlanet 2. While you can pick up the latter for a paltry sum – especially if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber – the hardware requirements demand significant financial investment. Still, assuming you already own both components, you may as well stump up the cash for the new content, because this is an exceptional example of one of the Vita’s most promising features.

Admittedly, it does take a while to actually get into the game. In addition to a weighty LittleBigPlanet 2 patch – around 1GB in size – you’re also prompted to download a new application onto the Vita too. This adds a bubble to the system’s start screen, and must be opened before it connects to the console. Considering storage space comes at a premium on the Vita, it’s a bit frustrating having to have an additional 482MB sitting on your memory card – but because the PS3 isn’t designed with lag-free streaming in mind, we assume that some of the game’s data has to be stored locally in order for the solution to work.

Touch it

Once everything has been fully installed, though, the feature works seamlessly. Controlling the Pod’s familiar menus with the Vita’s face buttons feels as intuitive as you’d expect, and there’s no evident delay between the systems. While you browse the menus on the PS3, a small galactic scene fills the Vita’s five-inch OLED screen. There are some mild interactions for you to participate in here: you can tilt the system to rotate the window, and even flick a touch screen switch to change both the lighting and gravitational properties in the picture. It’s silly, superfluous LittleBigPlanet fluff – but it’s a nice novelty while it lasts.

As with other LittleBigPlanet DLC, the cross-controller add-on boasts a full mini-campaign brimming with neat little gameplay tricks designed to get you thinking. The first stage – which takes place in a kind of space pirate prison – sees you using the Vita’s screen to avoid invisible laser hazards. The handheld displays a map of the room that you’re currently in, and highlights the locations of any obstacles. However, because you can’t look at both screens at once, you'll need to tap the touch screen to bring up a magnifying glass on the television, which uncovers any potential impediments and allows you to successfully avoid them.

From the rear

A little bit later on, the level introduces some of the ideas from LittleBigPlanet PS Vita. For example, you must block off an unavoidable laser by pushing bricks forward using the rear touch pad, and create a makeshift bridge by loosening panels using the front touch screen. Meanwhile, one area sees the action switch entirely from the television to the Vita’s screen, where you must navigate a simple outdoor platforming section in order to open a locked door.

For all of the first level’s charm, though, the second stage serves as a much stronger showcase of the cross-controller technology. Here, the Vita displays a Space Invaders-esque shooting game, while the television shows the inside of a space craft. Tilting the handheld console not only moves the aircraft in the mini-game, but it also rotates the level on the big-screen. Ultimately, you need to coordinate your movements, as you attempt to shoot down alien space-crafts with the portable, and simultaneously navigate an ever-changing obstacle course on the TV. It’s pretty intense.

There’s plenty more to the expansion pack, which we’ll be uncovering in a deeper feature in the New Year. For now, though, if you own all of the relevant components, and you’re excited by the prospect of some brand new LittleBigPlanet 2 levels to play, then you can’t really go wrong with the platformer’s latest add-on.