LittleBigPlanet Beta Impressions

I had a chance to sit down with the LittleBigPlanet Beta for the Playstation 3 last night, but not after running into a few problems.

My first problem didn’t have anything to do with the beta, but when I moved recently I apparently did not take any mini-USB cables with me. Needless to say I had no way to charge my PS3 controller (I don’t have any other games, so I normally just use the DVD Remote). Luckily the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive uses mini-USB to connect to the system. So I used that to charge the controller for a bit, then moved it over to my laptop so I could sit on the couch instead of a foot from the TV. First problem solved.

Second problem came with the beta itself. I started the download and flipped inputs back to TV so I could watch something other than a progress bar move slowly across the screen. After a while I switched back to see what the status of the download was and was greeted with a “Server Timed Out” message. I assumed the download quit half way and I would have to do it again, since the progress bar behind that message said 54%. But when I cleared the error box the game started installing…weird. So I fired it up and started running around.

Third problem, again this was my own fault. So I start the game and my Sack Boy falls onto the screen and I start moving him around, then another Sack Boy falls onto the screen and just sits there. I had no clue what this other guy was for, I just assumed he was a part of the level or something, what did I know, I’d never played it before. So I run through, customize my guy a bit, learn how to move my arms and then I’m stuck. The curtains fall and it says “LittleBigPlanet” but I can’t do anything and there’s my “friend” sitting there under a checkpoint doing nothing…weird. At this point I assumed my download got messed up seeing as how it apparently “Timed Out” so I downloaded the whole thing again. This time I watched the progress bar all the way through to make sure it finished. It did and I re-installed it and fired it back up.

And what am I greeted with when I start it back up, a droopy Sack Boy just sitting next to my Sack Boy. Weird… This time, before I even ran anywhere on the level I figured out what the problem was. My DVD remote for the PS3 was on and connected to the system, so it just assumed I wanted to play 2 players. And since the 2nd Sack Boy never ran to the end of the level I couldn’t go any further, leading me to believe the game was messed up. I felt like a dumbass. So I turned the DVD remote off and everything went fine, I had finally made it past the opening credits to the game…read on for my impressions of the actual game.

Going into the beta I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard all these rumblings about how cool this game is and how it’s going to do great things for the PS3, but I really didn’t know what it was about. From the videos I saw it basically looked like a 2D side-scroller where you basically just ran to the right and jumped on and over obstacles. And honestly that is the core of the game, but there is so much more going on, which I soon learned.

There are 4 stages in the beta along with the level creator and the ability to play other peoples created levels on the PSN (Playstation Network). The first 2 levels are pretty easy, basically just running to the right and jumping on things. The 3rd level had a little more depth to it which is when I really started getting into it. The 4th level is really nothing, you just jump over some dudes tie and see how high of a score you can get. The real gem here is the online capabilities and the level creator. After finishing the 4 beta levels I ventured out into the LittleBigPlanet world to see what I could find.

When I think of level creators I think back to the days of games like Doom and Unreal where the level editors were so complex it was really hard to learn what everything did and how to actually design a decent level, not with LittleBigPlanet. Everything is really easy to use and people have created some really amazing levels so far, and this is just the beta! We played one level where a spaceship took you to the moon and you rode in a lunar car until you finally returned to the spaceship and were taken back down to earth. There was also a level based on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! The user created levels are what will make this game so special, but don’t think there is nothing out there if you’re not online. Apparently there will be 60 levels that ship with the game itself. So you’ll have plenty of levels to take your Sack Boy through.

So those are the good things that I experienced from the beta, but of course, there are some bad things. Lag. When Mike and I were trying to play some games together online, even the normal 4 beta levels, there was a ridiculous amount of lag sometimes. The tie jumping level was almost unplayable since we would get random lag spikes that would instantly cause us to lose. And when we could get into a game together that was relatively lag free, it would start lagging as soon as another player tried to join us. Mike eventually just started booting people from our games.

So lag in the games was a bit of an issue last night, but our biggest problem was actually getting into user created levels. It seemed like half the time the user created levels wouldn’t even show up on the world map and the other half of the time the games would say they were loading, but 15 minutes later nothing happened. Now I’m sure these network issues are exactly why there is a public beta in the first place, so I can’t really complain. Hopefully they realize what their servers can and can’t handle and have them fixed or upgraded by the time the retail version hits the store shelves. I for one wasn’t going to buy this game before playing the beta, but even after the few problems we had last night, I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking this up on launch day to add to my growing collection of PS3 games (which is currently 0).

Here’s a video of some of the user created levels.