In the real world, “you break it, you bought it” is a terrifying concept, one that causes parents to clutch their children, terrified at the thought of an unchecked imagination. LittleBigPlanet 3, on the other hand, wants you to break things. There’s a solid—and surprisingly challenging—platformer at the heart of the franchise, but it’s mainly there to remind and redirect players of and to the Create mode. There are even two new modes, the Popit Puzzle Academy and Contraption Challenge, which bridge the gap between building a level from scratch and exploring someone else’s. Completing levels and collecting the bubbles scattered within earns you the same materials, stickers, devices, and tools that were used by Sumo Digital to develop that stage. So go ahead and break the world down: You earned it.
Despite the backward compatibility, which allows you to import all your hard-won (or purchased) objects from the previous two entries, LittleBigPlanet 3 does more than merely upgrade the graphics—pushing the boundary of layers, for instance, from three to 16. It also makes a fundamental shift for developers by adding three new characters, each with their own unique style of gameplay, and by “stitching” multiple levels together into larger hub worlds, for a more immersive experience. Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog will feel right at home with Oddsock, a speedy dog-shaped sack creature that can run up and around curved loops and perform wall jumps. Those with fond memories of the animal companions in Donkey Kong Country, particularly Squawks, will enjoy flapping around as the avian Swoop.
Finally, there’s the two-formed Toggle, who can either embiggen himself to crash through objects or shrink himself down to squeeze into tight places, and there are plenty of physics-based puzzles that revolve around this magical redistribution of mass. Between these characters and the ability to build new tools for Sackboy, LittleBigPlanet more than ever gives the user the sensation that anything can be built within the game, and licensed DLC that ranges from Marvel and DC properties all the way through Sony’s library of Metal Gear Solid, Infamous, and Oddworld characters only reinforces that idea. Nothing is too big for LittleBigPlanet—not Final Fantasy, not Dead Space, not even the Muppets.
Along these lines, LittleBigPlanet 3’s main campaign is a bit of a peacock, as it’s more interested in showing off just how beautiful (and deep) the multilayered design runs than it is in really elaborating on it. Until the climactic finale, which is, ironically, also where the creativity peters off, each of the new characters has but one main level and one “challenge” level. As a result of this, however, the game is largely able to avoid repeating previously experienced content, a trade-off—if Disney Infinity 2.0 is any indication—that’s more than welcome here.
The very first hub world, Tanglewood, hits players with 11 wildly different stages in a row. In a casino heist, you’ll use a teleporter gun to blink from glowing target to glowing target as “How You Like Me Now” blares on the radio; you’ll then fly through outer space to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes for You” before learning the ins and outs of the Portal-like velociraptors that can be found in some sort of surreal ’50s diner. You can shift the perspective to build top-down levels, induce gravity-reversing effects, craft wild rollercoasters, and race vehicles made out of pumpkins with bottlecap wheels and balloons for ballast. If you’re worried that the controls might not be as a precise as those found in a Rayman game, you could simply recreate those levels in LittleBigPlanet and see for yourself. And while the campaign might not be as long as the ones found in Puppeteer or Crash Bandicoot, with millions of user-created levels already available, LittleBigPlanet 3 is the gift that keeps giving: There’s always a new and worthwhile creation just around the corner—and if not, you can always build one yourself.