Like a cuddly toy that’s slipped down the side of a forgetful infant’s bed, there’s a sense that LittleBigPlanet 3 is getting overlooked. Caught among the onslaught of holiday releases, Sackboy and his band of burlap buddies have failed to catch the interest of the robotic hordes fawning over annualised outings such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Assassin’s Creed Unity. That’s a shame, because after some brief hands-on time with the sequel, we came away with the impression that developer Sumo Digital’s knitting something special – and it’s the new characters that are undeniably the stars of the show.
Our demo centred on two of the adorable additions to the cast: Oddsock and Toggle. The former is a four legged finger puppet, who uses his additional appendages to sprint up walls and around the world, while the latter best resembles a kind of fabric based paper weight, who can change size whenever you want him to. During our time with the game, we were able to play two stages, each designed around each character’s unique abilities. The idea, we assume, was to get our creative juices flowing – and by the time that we were done, we practically had to wade through a puddle of imaginative saliva upon taking our leave from the booth.
The thing that’s most impressive about both characters is that they just make sense. Dashing around as Oddsock feels perfectly natural, so when you start doing loop-the-loops and wall jumps through the handicraft scenery, you won’t ever really need to think about what you’re doing – it just comes organically. Toggle’s moveset is a little less momentum based, so his level relied on more methodical platforming puzzles: making the character big in order to compress springs, for example, gave us the height that we needed to reach ledges – but only when we’d, er, toggled to the Herculean hero’s smaller form.
It’s too early to say whether the series’ chief criticism has been solved, but we definitely felt that the platforming was much tighter than in previous editions. It’s still very much got that airy craftworld feel, but we never found ourselves wrestling with the controller in order to get either character to land where we wanted them to. And that’s a good thing because, on the evidence of this demo, the levels are more complex than ever before. Creators will be able to work with 16 layers for this particular outing – as opposed to the previous three – which means that your scenes will have a lot more depth to them.
While we’re sure that this will be explored much further in the final game – and the user created concoctions that will inevitably follow – our demo definitely did hint at the possibilities that this will provide, as we used lifts to move from the back of the scene to the front, and bounced between layers using jump pads. Visually, this wasn’t necessarily the best demonstration of the title’s graphical prowess, but we get the sense that the levels had been designed specifically to show off each character’s abilities, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they were absent from the final game. Still, the title certainly looks sharp in 1080p.
Even if it’s not a graphical show stopper, though, we get the distinct impression that Sackboy’s latest escapade is going to have longer legs than any of its holiday peers. By the time that Far Cry 4 and LEGO Batman 3 are distant memories, LittleBigPlanet 3 will just be coming into its own. With the promise of better creation tools – and even the ability to create trailers for your levels using the share button on the DualShock 4 – this is a title that will evolve over time. And while the new characters may have raised a few eyebrows at E3, we’re satisfied that they’re going to breathe plenty of new life into Sony’s stitched series.
Are you already in love with LittleBigPlanet 3, or is this a sequel that you’re finding a bit bittersweet? Push up or down in the comments section below.