"iPhone game, not real, don't care."
This is the canned response many gamers, notably our resident elitist Longo_2_guns, have for iPhone and Android games and the way they stack up against what we've all come to know and love. It's a legitimate opinion, but the publishers and developers responsible for your favorite games are paying attention to the competitive mobile market.
Sony is particularly cognizant of the way smartphone gaming has encroached on their business. They've equipped the Vita with high-fidelity visuals, hardcore tactile controls, and two touch panels that mimic the capacitive screen you'll find on your iPhone or Android phone. It's this melding of control schemes that makes LittleBigPlanet Vita (LBPV) truly special.
I've been quicker to hammer my own thumb playing the platforming levels than waste time creating a level in any previous LittleBigPlanet game, on what I perceived to be an unintuitive toolbox of knickknacks and arts and crafts. I was more than happy playing a level someone else dedicated hours working on than making a level myself.
But that's changed with LBPV. No longer do I shun the level creator. Instead I celebrate it.
The mobile gaming market has prepared millions of people by training them to expect certain things from a touchscreen device. I use my iPhone constantly, whether I'm checking e-mails or managing a tiny fleet of planes. LBPV capitalizes on this training by reacting to every touch, prod, and poke as expected.
Opening up the level creator in LBPV was like opening an app on my phone. Your pod has three options: campaign, community, and create. Tap to select. The campaign menu operates much the same way. Double-tap a level to begin loading (or to begin downloading in the community section). Tap and hold to read a description of the level (or to read the tags and ratings other players have given community levels). The pop-it is navigated much the same way, with swipes sliding over to different categories or further down the list.
Touch controls shine in the creator, where intuitive options continue to reign. Pinching an object makes it smaller, with the opposite action achieving the opposite result. You can paint textures and materials with a fingertip. Any combination of touch and tactile controls can cut creation time in half. I set out to experiment with the level creator and realized I had to see just how different touch controls made the experience.
So I opened up LBP2 and set the disc in my PS3. While the larger television screen was a welcome sight (LBPV's sack-people are diminutive and it can be hard to see what's going on with all the different objects on screen at times), the dualshock controller seemed like a hindrance. While there were moments where the PS3 version seemed more precise, I would happily trade that in for a more intuitive, fluid, and fast experience on the Vita.
LBPV's intuitive touch controls also mix and mingle with the analog sticks and buttons in the game's campaign. Several new mechanics have been added to take advantage of the Vita's unique specs, including a pair of wings that allow Sackboy to fly around levels while guided by your input on the rear touch panel.
The less obvious touchscreen implementation is smart and fluid as well. Blue objects can be manipulated with the front touchscreen and green objects are affected by rear-touch input. Moving a platform into place so Sackboy can leap up is fun in a novel way, but as the campaign (and community levels) require more touch input from the player, the gameplay actually gets better.
One campaign level pushed Sackboy to run faster and faster and required me to take my hand completely off the right buttons to manipulate touch-platforms so Sackboy could run unimpeded. Another level featured a complex jumping puzzle where I had to pop platforms in and out to allow Sackboy to progress.
The at-times disorienting rear-touch panel even includes a green marker on screen so you can hit the right objects. Little thoughtful touches like these fulfill the promise the Vita made at launch.
When you consider that gamers will be able to create their own touch-based minigames along with the long-form levels they've been making on the PS3 for years, LBPV has huge potential. There's an endless world of gameplay floating around in gamers' imaginations and LBP is better equipped than ever. It's not the leap forward LBP2 was, but it's certainly welcome on the lagging Vita.
The end result is a successful blend of traditional controls and new-wave touch gaming, a title that seamlessly mixes rival input schemes. LittleBigPlanet Vita makes good on the promise Sony made with the Vita when it was revealed.
Copy provided by publisher.