That's not to say that it's terribly different from its predecessors. You'll still find the same physics-based platforming, robust building tools, and customization options as before. Rather than redefining the franchise, LittleBigPlanet Vita is more of a "greatest hits" compendium of everything Media Molecule built in previous incarnations, with a few welcome bits of tinkering to improve the already-strong formula.
Touch controls could have easily felt frustrating or out of place but, aside from the inevitable screen smudges, they were never distracting. It always felt like an organic part of the experience and added an active layer to the traditional platforming. Best of all, it made perfect sense in the context of the game, since the proportions of the found-object scenery usually conformed to the size of my fingers. It felt, essentially, like I was reaching inside the Vita to impact the world.
LittleBigPlanet Vita also packs a variety of touch-based mini-games via the Arcade. Some of these are clear shots at popular games on the mobile market, and the whole notion carries a distinct "me too" feel. Many of the games come with similar level select screens and three stars to collect for a perfect score. "Tapling," in particular, feels like a darker incarnation of games like Angry Birds, which focus on planning the arc of a jump. The mini-games, however, also serve as a clever and subtle showcase for the robust creation tools, as pieces of the engine occasionally peek out from the periphery. No two Arcade games are alike, and none of them feel like the series' standard platforming. They range from a retro-styled space shooter to a quick-reflexes marble puzzle game, making the set as a whole an excellent display of LittleBigPlanet Vita's flexibility.
Unfortunately, LittleBigPlanet Vita still suffers slightly from the series' endemic physics problems, particularly when it comes to swinging on a grappling hook and tense timing is involved. Thankfully, the level design largely compensates for those weaknesses – I hardly ever felt cheated out of a life, and checkpoints were generous enough that I got back into the action quickly. In short, LittleBigPlanet Vita hasn't solved the long-standing physics issues, but the patchwork covering them is so seamless that the hole itself is hardly noticeable. (Naturally, mileage with user-created levels on this front will vary.)
The culmination of these disparate parts is a game that stands on the shoulders of those that came before it. LittleBigPlanet Vita's level design boasts creativity unseen since the series' inception, while benefitting from years of lessons learned from sequels and the community. As a result, LittleBigPlanet Vita positively bursts with charm and cleverness. It's more refinement than revolution, but that also makes it the purest distillation of the concept's potential. Don't let franchise fatigue keep you from this latest incarnation; it's the best yet.
This review is based on a download of the final version of LittleBigPlanet Vita, provided by Sony.
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