LittleBigPlanet Vita turns doodling into level design

LittleBigPlanet has often been pitched as a game that allows you to build the kind of Vita titles that the system currently lacks — but it wasn't until today that I realized it could actually pull that off.

LittleBigPlanet has often been pitched as a game that allows you to build the kind of Vita titles that the system currently lacks — but it wasn't until today that I realized it could actually pull that off.

As fans of the franchise know, the embedded levels inside LittleBigPlanet represent the hyper-refined tip of an infinite iceberg; the real meat is in Create mode. In LittleBigPlanet Vita, that mode has been bolstered with touch-based options that, thankfully, do away with the near-constant menu navigation of the console games' level creators. Instead of opening the Pop-It, moving your cursor the object you want to manipulate and then selecting it, you just ... touch it. With your finger. On your hand.

Creating is just ... more fun than it has been (though it was already pretty fun to begin with), effectively turning fingerpainting into a method of drawing tangible platforms and objects in the environment. Want to cut shapes into that object? Drag the eraser through it. Or pinch it to resize it, or twist your fingers to rotate it, or tap on your sticker collection to decorate it. It feels less like resizing pre-made shapes, and more like doodling.

A new tool called the Memorizer allows creators to build save states into their levels which can remember properties from one level to another. Though LittleBigPlanet 2 gave players a suite of tools to connect their levels, decisions made or scores earned in earlier levels couldn't be reflected in later ones. It's a small addition, but the LittleBigPlanet community has a way of taking small tools and doing enormous things with them.

For a game-within-a-game made in a limited amount of time, it was surprisingly fun.

Speaking of: The first user-made level I played blew me away — not just because it was clever, but because it was created a little over a week after the beta was made available. In the level, I dragged my finger along the rear touchpad to move a dragon through a cave, using the front touchscreen to move objects out of the way and the X button to blast enemies. For a game-within-a-game made in a limited amount of time, it was surprisingly fun.

The single-player level I ran through looked and felt great as well. Tarsier and Double Eleven haven't just tried to compress the console experience to a more digestible nugget — a folly executed by the PSP LittleBigPlanet. Its art style and core mechanics match those of the rest of the series, but it's running on an engine all its own; one with less-floaty jumps and graphics that are, for lack of a better word, softer.

I'm not convinced that the PS Vita is in need of rescue from a single first-party release, but if it did, I haven't seen anything better on the handheld for Sony to pin its hopes on. Check out a video preview of LittleBigPlanet's newly announced features below.

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