Little people, big world

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

How do you review a game that's not actually a game? I found myself pondering this question as I began exploring the world of Sony's LittleBigPlanet.

The title defies simple classification. In this shared world, players perform platforming magic like in any run-of-the-mill Mario title, but they also have the power to create and share new levels with anyone on the PlayStation Network.

In terms of core gameplay, LittleBig is a fun, physics-oriented jumping puzzle game. Players create adorable avatars made of fabric, collectively called "sackpeople." The single-player aspects of the title serve as a tutorial, getting players ready for the grander scope of the community-design tools. Completing levels unlocks new clothes, stickers and pieces that can be used in creating customized levels.

The genius of the game is that once you've got the basics down, there's an expansive array of user-created content already out there waiting for you to explore. LittleBigPlanet is a sandbox where you design puzzles, create worlds and invite friends from the worldwide community to jump, smile and laugh together inside your own little world. You can create challenging physics puzzles, invent dastardly scenarios, or simply paint a nice platform and watch how others manipulate your creations.

The one feature missing from the current version of the game (though it's supposedly coming shortly) is the ability to work with other creators in real time to make a level. Imagine inviting friends along to work in concert to create the world's most complex Rube Goldberg machines - then animating them and telling a story.

Many games out there support user modifications on the PC, but few, if any, do so on the home-console systems. That means there's a chance the common creativity of the whole might lean toward less savory designs.

Similar approaches in games like EA's Spore led to armies of penis monsters flooding the internet. So far, the decency levels of the cute sackpeople and their worlds have been tame, and Sony is working to police the worst offenders quickly.

LittleBigPlanet is a platform for creativity, and anyone who's ever considered themselves a potential game designer now has the tools to test that assumption. With the expanded community-generated content and the promise of future features from Sony, this is possibly one of the best values for PS3 owners this year.

Pick it up - you'll be surprised how fun it is, and hopefully you'll find inspiration to add to the whole with your own LittleBig creations.

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System: Sony PS3

Players: Up to 4

Price: $60

Rated: E for Everyone

Who Should Buy it?: Adorable creators

GameOn! Grade: A+