Hands on With LittleBigPlanet Vita
The Vita, being the newest device coming to market, needs a great launch title to reel gamers in. LittleBigPlanet is that title. Every aspect of the game was crafted specifically for the Vita, making use of each feature that the handheld boasts.
There were many Sony reps on hand to explain the Vitas features, giving us the best possible hands-on experience. After a short talk about the device’s functions, my rep booted up LBP’s tutorial level for me. Once loaded, it was apparent just how pretty the game is; the visuals were smooth, without any pixelation and the images were very, very clear. I found that the game looked almost as good as its Playstation 3 counterpart, which is an incredible feat for a handheld. After taking a few moments to run about the first room, I noticed the level of animation was also superb. My sackboy moved and jumped fluidly, without catching on anything I didn’t mean him to or flopping around like the rag-doll he appeared to be.
Once I had enough messing around and was ready to move on, the Sony rep pointed out that I had missed the touch screen and that any teal coloured objects could be grabbed and dragged through its use. I then spent another few seconds dragging a conveniently placed small box around the room to test the mechanic. The responsiveness of the touch screen was great, and I was able to move said box around without it dropping early or flying out from under my finger.
Satisfied that I had the skills necessary to make it through the tutorial, I finally ventured onwards. What followed were a series of puzzles involving both movement and use of the touch screen. At one point, I found myself before a giant piano keyboard and a locked door. As a musician, I had fun taking a few seconds to plop out some tunes before the rep suggested a glissando left to right across all keys. A swipe of my finger, and three octaves later, the door opened.
The next room saw my little burlap friend attempting to get up a few floors. There was a teal wheel beside the next floor. Remembering that teal is the magic touch colour, I jumped and used ‘R’ to grab hold of the wheel, and while still holding ‘R’ I spun the wheel with my left hand via touch, spinning my sack friend to his destination. Once up, I found a vertical slingshot made of what looked like rubber bands and a teal block. Jumping on without hesitation, I pulled down the block and launched my stitched-up pal skyward.
After the eagle… err, Sackboy, had landed, I found two more ways to solve puzzles. The first was tilt, which was a feature I had been unaware the Vita possessed. I had come to a large gap and a sliding platform out of reach. Instead of taking a leap of faith, I simply tilted the device to the right, sliding the platform towards me, so that I could step onto it. A quick tilt in the opposite direction and Mr. Buddy McFriendpal, as I came to refer to my sackboy, was across the gap. A swift stroll around and I came across another large chasm and more piano keys. After some unsuccessful screen tapping, the rep pointed out the touch pad on the back of the Vita. Keeping a finger on the back pad placed a fingerprint on my screen in the space where my finger was. This helped me push the keys out from the wall towards the camera, so I could jump onto them and get across. The next area brought a wall filled with interlocking shapes, with the destination on top of it. After making a set of stairs out of shapes, I climbed up about half way. From there, I kept pushing shapes in and out of my way, until I reached the top. A few seconds later, I had finished the level, and was left feeling both highly entertained and a nice sense of accomplishment.
Next, I was able to try out a sampling of the mini-games on offer in LBP. The first was an air hockey styled game that both Will and I played together. We each took a side of the device, grabbed our hockey paddles, and the match ensued. I was surprised at how well the multi-touch worked on the Vita, and after a short but intense hockey showdown, I came out on top. My next sample of mini-game fun came in the form of squids: a giant squid was dropping smaller, coloured versions of himself down tubes and it was my job to switch doors to get each squid into its respective drop zone. Requiring fast thinking and even faster reflexes, this mini-game was both challenging and stimulating.
Handing the device over to Will so that he could get a chance to enjoy it, I talked a little more with the rep about the mini-games. In the full release, custom mini-games will be able to be built, posted, and downloaded by the community, much like full levels in other LittleBigPlanet titles. If done well, this will effectively extend the game’s life even more, making another LittleBigPlanet that continues on forever.
After shaking the rep’s hand, saying goodbye to Mr. McFriendpal, I walked away from the beast that is the Vita. As I did so, I was madly impressed with LittleBigPlanet and how well it played. Making use of every feature of their Vita, ranging from its buttons and sticks, the tilt feature, or the touch screen and pad, Sony has created what’s looking to be a well crafted and clever title. Add in the level and mini-game crafting, and LittleBigPlanet will have a very long and enjoyable life. The game is releasing alongside the Vita on February 22, 2012.
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