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LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition
Score: 100%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Media Molecule
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local or Online)
Genre: Platformer/ Online/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
The smash hit title to take the PlayStation 3 by storm has been re-released in the form of LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition. This little gem may not have undergone any graphical overhauls or amplification of sound attributes, but it still looks and sounds absolutely outstanding.

Graphically, the only disappointment that I felt when I popped in LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition for the first time was that it didn't output at full HD, but instead showed up with HD's little brother of 720p. Don't get me wrong... the game still looks incredible, with its toony, yet somehow realistic style, but it would have been a decent addition to up the resolution a bit for the new release.

I enjoyed the visuals just the same, however. The highly detailed characters wore their SackPerson faces well, and the environments have a superb and unique look to them. Additional visual content is available in this Game of the Year Edition that was only downloadable previously includes add-on costumes and other level packs that extend the value of this quite a bit more (I've read it includes around $30 of free content).

The audio of LittleBigPlanet is, in a word, perfect. The storyteller is great, with a very distinct flow in his tones, fluctuations, and style that make every word interesting. It's almost a methodical, soothing, bedtime storytelling voice that just feels right. The game's sound fx are also spot on and retain the innocence that this title strives for.


Gameplay:
If you haven't yet played LittleBigPlanet, the short description boils down to the fact that the game plays as a side-scrolling platformer, with the main character being a SackBoy (think burlap sack with legs, arms, and a head) that has plenty of life in him to keep you going for many, many hours. The levels are relatively short, but they are also very well-designed for the most part, and with the addition of eighteen select newly designed levels by LittleBigPlanet members, the replay value feels like they continue to flow (there are also over one million user-created contents within the community).

The biggest shout out for LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition is that of the physics-based puzzles and level designs. On top of that, the multiplayer aspect of the game (up to 4 can play at the same time) makes playing through levels (both additional and Story Mode) a lot more fun. Your SackBoy will have to drag around objects, ride vehicles, and hang and swing from many different grab-enabled objects. Within the levels, there are also opportunities for accessing areas that are only available for two or more players as well. If you ever get tired of the included levels, you can always create your own content or download that of other players, essentially making the possibilities endless. My favorite level thus far actually allows you and your team to drive and shoot a tank with multiple guns and ways to control everything... a fitting environment for my free Metal Gear Solid outfit.

For those of you who like to tinker, LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition offers the ultimate in customability. Beyond creating limitless content within the game, you will unlock TONS of objects, outfits, personalization items, decorations, and many other things, simply by working your way through the levels and searching for all of the hidden gems that lurk about. Many are easily visible and still others may take a bit of persistence, but that just adds up to great replayability. If you get tired of the available content, you can simply create your own, by taking snapshots of the game screen or importing your own pictures, for example, to use as decorations. If you own an Eye camera (I don't have one as of this writing), you'll be able to also use snapshots within the game.

Beyond all of this... is LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition fun to play? In a word, IT'S A BLAST! Okay, that was 3 words... but I couldn't contain myself. Admittedly, I had more fun while playing online, but even playing on your own is entertaining. This is a highly addictive game disguised as a simplistic looking title that will appeal to gamers of either sex and of all ages. I do feel it necessary to let you know that while the Game of the Year Edition is certainly a great buy for those new to the game, it may not be worth purchasing if you already own the original LittleBigPlanet.


Difficulty:
LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition is extremely easy to pick up and play. Gamers of all ages, and even typical non-gamers, will likely be able to jump into the action immediately and with ease. The controls are very intuitive, which makes playing quite easy as well. So with all of this ease being spread around, is it difficult enough for hardcore gamers? The answer is yes.

This title is a platformer after all, which means three things: there are some crazy jumps and swinging involved, some decent critical thinking skills are required to solve certain puzzles, and there are areas of each level that are more difficult to find or access that many gamers will either miss the first time through or choose not to worry about in the case of the hard-to-find content. These attributes of LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition add up to a fun experience for everyone.

As mentioned above, there are also multiplayer-only areas that cannot be accessed when playing through by yourself. What this means is that you'll have to make a decision to work together to get the goodies. Honestly, however, the game is much more fun while playing multiplayer when the (up to) four players in the party work together instead of being out for blood.

There are also checkpoints scattered throughout each level that allows you to restart if you happen to fall in the water, get burned by some fire, or any other unfortunate demise meets your character. What I loved about the checkpoint system in LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition is that you'll get multiple restarts from each checkpoint, so the game is only loosely based on a number of lives system. When playing multiplayer, everyone uses up those per-checkpoint lives, which means you'll often find yourself rooting for the final player(s) to reach the next checkpoint so that you may once again spring to life.


Game Mechanics:
LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition's controller scheme is ultimately simple, despite the fact that all of the buttons on the PS3 are used. Essentially, you'll really only need to walk/run, jump and grab/hang, which means that the analog stick and two buttons will get you through the game... easy enough for just about anyone to play regardless of age or gaming experience.

On top of those basic controls, you can also create your own expressions and personality by individually controlling your character's arms, changing his facial expressions and generally being nutty on-screen in front of your companions. While these features really have nothing to do with gameplay itself, they can be used to loosely communicate with your teammates through body language. As an example, if you want to show someone something or let them know they aren't in the right position, you can simply grab them and drag them to the spot you want them. These interactions are great, especially since the chatting window is slow when it comes to typing via the cell phone-like keypad.

When searching for games to buy, a lot of us will look at LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition and immediately turn away simply because of the visuals looking distinctly kiddie, but I'm here to tell you that looks can be deceiving. The gameplay of this title is well worth the price of admission, and the additional (and virtually unlimited) content is great for replay value. LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition includes a fair amount of content that wasn't included for free in the original release, so anyone looking to get involved in the LittleBigPlanet community should definitely pick this title up instead. Those who already own the original need not apply until the value of this title drops (and I don't see that happening for a while). If you give this game a chance (and guys put your macho egos aside), you will be sure to fall in love with LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition. I have played some great games in my time and I don't give out the coveted "perfect game" score with ease, but LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition deservingly gets the award without hesitation.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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