It has been a long time coming, but Little Big Planet PS Vita is finally here and--on the off chance that you're wondering--Sackboy's latest adventure was well worth the wait. Not only does LBP Vita improve upon its predecessors in some meaningful ways, but it also manages to put the Sony handheld's oft-abused touch and tilt functions to great use while doing so. Out of the box, LBP Vita has plenty of great content, and if previous games are anything to go by, user-created levels will keep the game fresh with new and occasionally awesome experiences for many months to come.
Story levels are designed to be fun for solo players and groups of up to four players alike.
As in previous games, the story mode in LBP Vita serves as a showpiece for what the included creation tools are capable of. Playing through the expertly crafted story levels is both a humbling and an inspiring experience if you're an aspiring creator, and, more importantly, it's also a lot of fun. A charming narrative about an evil puppeteer in the colorful land of Carnivalia, told largely through brief cutscenes, ties all of the otherwise dissimilar levels together, and the playful audio and visual presentation throughout is hard to find fault with. If you disliked the floaty platforming action in previous games, you're going to be similarly disappointed here; the game never demands more precision than you're afforded by the controls, though, so when Sackboy dies, it's at your hands.
LBP Vita's story mode rarely poses a serious challenge, but acing levels with 100 percent of items found and no lives lost is a different matter entirely. It's not even possible to find all of the items on your first playthrough in many cases, because stickers found in subsequent levels are needed to trigger specific switches. Levels littered with secret areas, multiplayer-only puzzles (the built-in voice chat comes in handy), and loads of collectible items demand to be replayed, and even after you've milked a level for all of the tangible rewards that it's good for, there are level-specific leaderboards to climb.
Successfully find the keys hidden in many levels, and you unlock minigames that include everything from boxing and air hockey to whack-a-mole and tower-building with Tetris blocks, many of which are played with the screen oriented vertically. The fact that these incredibly varied minigames were all created using the same tools you have at your disposal is impressive, but none of them are likely to hold your attention for long. For that you need to head to the arcade area, which features five games that, in some cases, wouldn't look out of place if they were made available individually on the PSN store.
Arcade games like Retro Vector set the bar high for aspiring creators.
Like the aforementioned minigames, the arcade games boast plenty of variety. Retro Vector brilliantly combines elements of classics like Asteroids and Lunar Lander. StratoSphere is a colorful puzzle game in which you touch shapes to determine whether or not they alter the course of a ball, and Tapling is a stylish touch-to-jump game that's somewhat reminiscent of LocoRoco. About the only thing that these and the other two arcade games all have in common, other than being great time-wasters, is that they employ the all-new "memorizer" device.
Among other things, the memorizer makes it possible for you to create multilevel games that don't need to be played through in a single session because progress can be saved. As demonstrated by the arcade games, it's also possible to incorporate ratings for individual levels and afford players an opportunity to replay them in any order via a simple menu system. In short, the memorizer makes it significantly easier to create games that feel like games rather than just a series of levels strung together. It would be even easier if the lackluster memorizer tutorials did a better job of explaining things with some context.