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This week Zero Punctuation reviews Little Big Planet.

Transcript Edit

The current gaming renaissance has been a bad time to be a mascot, all told. Since the average age of gamers is now far beyond old enough to know better, the need for a girning cartoon face to convince your mum of a console's wholesomeness has fallen in indirect proportion to the average number of lovingly rendered skull and brain fragments bursting from the backs of people's heads in a typical Christmas release. The hyperactive little shits of the '80s have become the insecure neurotics of today who need a steady drip of realistic violence to continually postpone the inevitable office shooting rampage. Sonic the Hedgehog now lives in a septic tank in a condemned hospital, and Mario's probably not far from moving in with him, since his creators are making much more money selling bathroom scales and MIDI synthesizers to undersexed, housebound women. This is a cynical time, and we don't want our big corporations to have friendly and approachable faces. As we weather the economic crisis among stockpiles of canned dog food in a refrigerator box, the image of a cabal of black-suited fiends with red, glowing eyes sitting around a spotlit conference table in a penthouse office wallpapered with banknotes gives us a nice, comforting blame figure.

Well, maybe for you. I'm part of the notoriously recession-proof entertainment industry, so I've been blowing all my money on guitars and beautiful Filipino boys. But anyway, the PS3, I've always felt, looks like something I'd expect to see bursting out of a Middle Eastern mountain range to herald the coming of the star-born ones. But Sony, it seems, have vowed to bring console gaming back to the family through the power of their big, unfeeling black monster and hence LittleBigPlanet. It's astonishing just how much effort has gone into making the game friendly. You get the impression LittleBigPlanet is waiting for you to invite it to your birthday party. A lot of that is the voice-over by Stephen Fry that feels like a velvet finger soaked in warm honey being gently worked around your earhole. I SAID EARHOLE!

And then, of course, there's the Sackboy character, who looks like the result of a sinister military experiment to concentrate cuteness to a weaponised level for use against angry girlfriends. Sackboy is a mascot for the current age, one with absolutely no identity or personality but that which the player ascribes to them. In most cases, then, this will mean that Sackboy's a mustachioed cross-dresser in a stupid hat, and if you play with friends he also has an irresistible compulsion to punch people in the face at the end of levels.

Gameplay is basically platforming so old-school it wears a mortar board and employs corporeal punishment. You have to transfer yourself from A to B by way of a jump button and a physics engine. The one acknowledgment of that whole 3D thing the entire games industry has been built around for the last decade is the ability to switch intermittently between three 2D planes, usually at the point when you don't want to. Controls are a wee bit stodgy all over, like a treacle pudding that sits heavily in the stomach after a hearty meal. Jumping is also a rather difficult and inexact science, like coming up with analogies for these reviews when the air conditioning's bust.

Playing co-op with some chums is fun, because when you totally fuck someone over it's doubly funny to then turn to them in real life and make smug preening noises. Everyone gets a shared amount of life, you see, and once it's gone you have to start the whole level again, a gameplay device in place presumably to ruin friendships.

But the level design is really, really good, like. . .something good that's. . .made of chocolate. They're full of really creative mechanical devices and it's all got this wonderful charm about it that disarms you, then trips you up and plants your face into a muddy riverbed. . .made of chocolate.

If I seem to be having trouble with this review, it's because LittleBigPlanet is so bloody insubstantial. There's really nothing else to say about it. Once you get through the levels - really nice levels, mind - all you're left with is the ability to dress up like a twat and stick googly eyes all over your mission hub. I guess that means this review is a bit shorter than normal. So here's something else to fill the time.

(Yahtzee dances around in his boxers to "Soul Bossa Nova" for 12 seconds, a pair of googly eyes attached to his bum)

Oh, fuck! Sorry, I forgot - user-made content.

There's a very in-depth level designer built in, with a host of tutorials you will be tempted to go through just to have Stephen Fry's voice tonguing your coc. . .hlea for hours on end. And at the end of it, perhaps you could make some levels to put online for all to see, an act that will typically will hold all the significance of gobbing into a river.

I feel there's a fundamental different in philosophy between me and the developers of LittleBigPlanet. They believe that every single person is an extra special god child with a bud of creativity aching to burst out into a single, perfect flower, and I believe that every single person is a tosser. And any flowers that pop up are going to be buried under garbage, fiery penises, and countless reproductions of levels from Super Mario Bros., all of which the moderators hastily delete (along with anything that looks at them funny.)

If a game that stands up by itself wants to release level design and modding tools, then brillo bananas. Good modding communities are the sprinkling of cinnamon on a delicious trifle, and thus relying on user-made content is like eating heaped spoonfuls of cinnamon neat from the jar. I don't want to have to wade through waste-high rendering plant runoff to find the good levels, especially when I can do that just by playing the story mode. You know, the levels designed by professional fucking level designers? If I buy a house, I want an architect to design it. If I design it myself, it may have a more personal touch, but it's going to fall over very fast. And even if it doesn't, the giant fiberglass breasts on the front will be very tacky. And the neighbors will complain when the gingerbread garage starts to smell.

Here's my final word: it would be very ignorant of me to say that courting user-made content is lazy. It's probably a lot of work to make the design tools user-friendly and create an online sharing system for it all, but it's an awful lot of effort when all you're ultimately doing is creating a great big blank wall for people to scrawl giant cartoon cocks on.

AddendaEdit

  • Determined to bring everyone down: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Getting users to rate levels doesn't work perfectly either 'cos there are a lot of ferrety dipshits out there who will give five stars to anything that references Naruto
  • No relation to the Little Big Adventure series, regrettably

BonusEdit

(The camera cuts back to Yahtzee's googly-eyed boxers, however this time he is standing still. The camera zooms in on his bum with some rather unnerving sound effects and digital screeches. The camera will also switch to this grainy filter at times.)

ScreenshotsEdit

LittleBigPlanet 2

It's all got this wonderful charm about it

LittleBigPlanet 4

Umm. . .

LittleBigPlanet 3

If I design it myself, it may have a more personal touch

External LinksEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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