I love LittleBigPlanet PSP. It also depresses me. Let’s go into the “love” bit first – quite simply, you couldn’t ask for a better executed, fuller-featured port than this one. It’s not perfect, but it’s only a point or two shy of the mark. The dual-era gameplay – classic, twitch-driven platforming meets present-day physics sandbox – is no less infectious on a screen the size of your wallet, the level creation mode equally powerful and the craft-shop aesthetic just as winningly self-conscious.
Stephen Fry’s back too, his plummy tips and wisecracks wafting you through the glossy intro with its permed, manicured “ordinary people”, over the corrugated card of the interactive credit sequence cum tutorial and into the paint-and-styrofoam meat of the seven-region, globe-trotting campaign. Each region is ruled by a “Creator Curator”, cobbled together from springs, speech bubbles and chunks of Disneyland stereotype, and breaks down into three compulsory levels with their own simple storylines plus a number of optional mini-game levels.
On setting thumb to nub, the first thing you’ll notice is that the difficult-to-place third movement plane, cause of many an arbitrary death-tumble in the PS3 game, has been nixed. Levels are obviously less complex as a consequence but there’s still plenty in the way of hidden side-routes and treasure troves. Your highly customisable Sackboy moves, jumps, grins, gurns, trembles, glares and grabs hold of objects as before, but in the absence of a second analogue stick there’s no wiggly-arm functionality. Gratuitous yet entertaining scripted emotes like a giddy triple backflip or Street Fighter uppercut are performed with L1 plus a directional button.
The developers (SCE Cambridge Studio “in conjunction” with Media Molecule) have cut loose a few of LittleBigPlanet’s more punishing archaisms. Checkpoints crop up with far greater frequency, and there’s no longer a four-strike rule for respawns: plunge into an electrified “ice bath” or lava pool and the most a player stands to lose is points. You’ll still get frustrated on occasion, mainly because the insensitive nub and face buttons have worn the edge off Sackboy’s already-spongy responses, but hardly to a deal-breaking extent.
There are some absolutely wonderful scenarios, even by LittleBigPlanet standards. My favourite takes place in a jollified Sahara desert, with Sackboy lugging cork barrels along a conveyer belt to a cargo ship, then guiding the vessel between bucking, serrated blades of plastic surf. At another point, you’re tethered to a jet-pack depot as it slowly and windingly tours a fabric solar system, zipping out to gather the bubbles which ring each wool-knit planetoid. Elsewhere there are blimps to be filled with party balloons, fox-cub trampolines, thieves’ dens and multi-storey lock-and-key puzzles which put me so heavily in mind of Crystal Maze I half-expected Richard O’Brien to join Fry at the mic.