With two full console outings, an upcoming karting affair and a prior handheld outing, it only seems logical that Sackboy would make an appearance on the PlayStation Vita. LittleBigPlanet Vita, with its recently announced launch date of September 25, is bring the franchise’s signature whimsical style and player freedom to Sony’s latest system. Though not a great departure from previous experiences, Sackboy’s misadventures through the land of Carnivalia offer the franchise’s enjoyable platforming experience on the Vita.
This preview of the latest platformer in the LBP series introduces players to the new land Sackboy can explore, a circus-themed carnival ride that is not quite as enthralling as a roller coaster but still offers up an enjoyable time. Carnivalia has fallen under the dark spell of the Puppeteer, and is a darker world than the previous outings, but it still introduces players to the fundamentals of the franchise’s jumping, collecting and creating mechanics. Sackboy remains a blank canvas on which players can express themselves, swapping every facet of his appearance to suit their style.
Sackboy still has his soft leap, and continues to grab onto objects for dear life as the player traverses each level. These introductory outings adopt the carnival aesthetic, as challenges and tutorials are revealed behind a stage and red curtain. For veterans of the franchise it is nothing new, but players who have yet to touch the series will find assimilating into the LBP design quite accessible.
Developers Double Eleven and Tarsier Studios have implemented a set of touch controls on the screen and rear touchpad to allow players to bypass certain obstacles. Players can tap the touchscreen to push blocks into the world and clear the path for Sackboy to progress. Similarly, by tapping on the proper location on the back of the system, players can shove these blocks forward to act as stepping-stones through a level.
The touch controls can also be used for a few amusing diversions. Launching Sackboy up into the air by pulling down and releasing a spring not only allows for an adorably out of control character but it also makes for an easy way to navigate Carnivalia. While strolling along, players may even encounter a wall made of piano keys. By tapping on each, a note will play and items may even drop from time to time.
And though these additions from the hardware, this outing is taking the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the series’ gameplay. Players can still plaster levels with stickers, witness a cast of colorful characters and expect a well-constructed platformer. If anything, the biggest and most exciting surprise was that the preview included a number of minigames.
Simple yet effective, these offerings reminded me of many downloadable apps found on handheld marketplaces, and with player creativity involved, fans will likely be in for some fantastic gameplay ideas. The few on show here, including one largely black and white challenge that had players leading a glob through treacherous terrain with swipes and taps.
Whether LittleBigPlanet Vita succeeds or not may depend on the player base willing to put in the time to produce creatively sound titles. Though the franchise has over seven million user-generated levels, the ease with which touch controls allow for direct interaction with the building tools may not be enough to draw players to the handheld.
Carnivalia feels like its own distinct world with a host of crazy circus-inspired decor, which helps to differentiate it from Sackboy’s various other adventures. I enjoyed what the preview hinted at and only hope the final product can retain the zany sense of creativity on display here when it releases on September 25.