We got us a key. We played the beta. Found out what we thought of it after the break.
We're going to keep this one pretty brief: we quite like LittleBigPlanet. Well, what we've seen of it so far, anyway.
It's been quite a while since we've been charmed to this extent by a videogame: it made us smile at its cute characters, zany ideas and Stephen Fry's jovial voice-over.
In fact, if you don't happen to like Stephen Fry - is there anyone? - then you're in trouble, as a large portion of the beta is him telling you what you need to do and how.
Speaking of tutorials, there are many; like one every few minutes. But to be fair to Media Molecule, they're very well presented and leave you in no doubt as to how to use your new found skill, a refreshing change from titles that lavish a hundred different moves on you in five minutes.
The first thing you do in the beta is customise your Sackboy. We won't bore you with the details as there are countless videos and descriptions already out there showing you how. What we will say is that it's very accessible and good clean fun. Your wife/girlfriend/child/whatever will all want a say in how it should look, and the menus are as well thought out and as easy to understand as the tutorials.
The levels themselves, while fun, do feel a little slow-paced. Media Molecule has assured us that this is an old build, so hopefully the final version will be a tad more... zingy. What doesn't help is the feeling that Sackboy isn't really doing as you ask: he feels (ours is a man: he wears trousers) kind of off kilter, like there's a tiny delay between you pressing the button and the reaction you get on-screen. Which is a shame.
LittleBigPlanet is a 2D platformer with a 3D bent, as in, you can move in and out of the screen in order to navigate around objects or to get yourself in line with them in order to interact with them in some way.
However, we found that far too often we were changing depth without actually wanting to, or thinking we were in line with an object when we just weren't. We also found that sometimes we could move in and out of the screen as we liked and other times we couldn't, with no obvious indication as to why.
The story of creation
Rather spiffingly, the beta allows you to create and upload levels, whilst giving access to others created by the community. The amount of options made available to you is staggering, and whilst the idea of painting on an open canvas is appealing, we recommend using some of the templates and build from there: keep it simple at first, and make sure you save often and switch to test mode, which allows you to try your level and check if it's going to be crap or not. You can tell we're talking from experience here.
If we were to list all of the LittleBigPlanet beta's features, we'd take up half of your day. There's so much going on, so much to see, so much to try, that you're either going to be like a child in an empty sweet shop or simply hide in the corner and feel overwhelmed by it all, looking for someone to take you by the hand and show you where to go.
Summing up this brief encounter with Sackboy is rather difficult. We definitely enjoyed the experience, but at the same time we are left with some doubts. After the initial glee of the level creator, we realised it certainly wasn't a cake walk and as our levels were turned out to be pretty pants, we'd thought we'd break it up a bit and try out someone else's.
Disappointingly, they were pretty rubbish and uninspiring too, so it's difficult to say how the game will hold our interest in the long run as when the game is unleashed on the Sackboy hungry masses, the amount of user created levels will most likely reach millions of levels in no time. Let's hope the rating system helps sort the wheat from the chaff.
You can consider us divided right now. This is only a beta remember, and Media Molecule has promised a full campaign which we must admit we can't wait to play: we did have lots of fun navigating the pre-made levels, even if movement did feel clunky at times.
The jetpacks are definitely worth a special mention due their inclusion being simply awesome. Let's hope there are many surprises like that come release. Roll on October 24.
By Mike Bowden