It’s that time of year. You know, that time when the streets are filled with people holding hands. Coffee shops are crammed with couples gazing into each other’s eyes. It’s Valentine’s Day. And nothing says I love you like playing a videogame together. It’s better than going out to a crowded restaurant then spending a ton of money at the movies, and odds are you probably have something that can play them in your living room! That’s why we’ve got the Top 5 list of games to play this Valentine’s Day.
5) Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC)
Lego is awesome, and the love of Harry Potter does not discriminate across gender. It doesn’t hurt that the Lego videogame franchise is hella fun either. Developed by Traveller’s Tale and published by Warner Bros. in 2011, this entry in the series covers the last three books (or four films if reading isn’t your thing). You can roam Hogwarts as Harry and friends all with that Lego charm. It’s almost certain you two will have a blast. Just no using Avada Kedavra if someone sucks.
4) Castle Crashers (Xbox 360, PS3)
It’s simple, colourful and fun. Castle Crashers just does everything right, mixed with some awesome co-op play. Developed by The Behemoth and published by Microsoft, this title mixes a bunch of elements from RPGs and classic beat em ups. Set in a pseudo-medieval land an evil wizard captures four princesses. It’s up to a group of knights to save her. You two lovebirds can hack and slash your way to love while saving an entire kingdom!
Okay, so it’s not the best Mario game out there, but it’s arguably the best multiplayer Mario game around. Players can pick between Mario, Luigi, Toad, Peach, and Rosalina (if you unlock her), in an adventure spanning across different lands to try to save captured fairies from Bowser. You can work together or against each other with a little bit of competition to win a crown. Just remember it’s Valentine’s Day, don’t end up hating each other over this date idea.
So we couldn’t decide which entry in the series is the best, so we put the whole series by Media Molecule here. It’s our list, we can do what we want! Play as Sackboy and customize him to make him your Sackboy (they introduced a few new characters in the third one though). But aside from the customization, this 2D platformer is really fun with minimal chance of hating each other at the end of it.
1) Portal 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Portal 2’s online mode is the tale of two robots as they traverse a bunch of test chambers made by Aperture Science. You both get a portal gun–one orange and one blue. You can see where this goes. It’s actually a lot of fun, and the added difficulty of not having control over the other side of the portal makes the whole experience unique. You two will find out how in sync you are with each other when you play this.
So, those are what we think are the best titles to play on Valentine’s Day. What are you going to play?
Our favourite burlap sack is back in LittleBigPlanet 3, and he is not alone. Sackboy and his friends save the universe once again. LittleBigPlanet 3 has almost everything you’d expect from LBP and more, both good and bad.
For anyone who has played LittleBigPlanet before, LBP3 will feel right at home in the franchise. Your Pod, the decorating, the bitch slapping of other sack people, all very familiar. I was even allowed to download a few costumes I had downloaded in LBP2. Yet I’m surprised they haven’t added the option to rotate your sackboy while pimping him out. I want wings but even with my best attempts, my sackboy is only ever blessed with upper arm wings. Ugh just TURN AROUND! The short campaign wasn’t a surprise. LBP is so heavily driven by user generated content that a lengthy campaign isn’t necessary. The story is uninspired but feels in line with previous LBP titles. Has anyone ever played LittleBigPlanet for the story? Doubtful. It’s all about the enjoyment of exploring ridiculous level designs and visiting others’ creations, maybe even do a little creating of your own. Like many other games that include a level creation mode, the community is where LBP3 will really come to life. Any game that offers users the chance to publish community levels leads to endless entertainment and the LittleBig Planet community is one of the largest for PlayStation users, therefore generating no shortage of levels for sack people to explore.
It appears the developer, Sumo Digital, wanted to offer up a little bit of a LBP community styled level in the LBP3 campaign with a rather randomly placed top down camera level where players control a yeti. I found this level really pulled me out of my LBP experience. The character I controlled was a one off, no customization, no real context or story, a just thrown in there yeti. Wait, why am I a yeti? While this level felt out of place, side missions offered were quite enjoyable and somewhat outrageous. Building your own glider or racing car is nothing short of entertaining. Players also get the chance to play as three new characters, each with their own abilities. Each character although quite different from sackboy, feels like they belong in the LBP universe. Despite the fact that I was jumping from one sack-creation to another, it did not feel disjointed and only added to my experience rather than interrupting it.
LittleBigPlanet 3 carries on the LBP aesthetic. Creative level designs, full of random items that make LBP so enchanting. The textures are well done and bring LBP into the new generation. There were some small glitches, most notably the disappearing eyes. Randomly characters eyes would disappear giving my adorable sack-creature more of a Silent Hill feel.
I was all ready to get past the little weird glitches that appear in LBP3 and give it an 8.5/10, and then, I got to the final boss battle. This battle was a complete disaster. There is a glitch where your character disappears! I’m all for channeling Sue Storm, but disappearing randomly while trying to fight the final boss is incredibly inconvenient and brought down my entire gameplay experience. This battle took more than a handful of tries purely due to the invisibility glitch. Like every battle in videogame history, your success completely rides on your location in the level during the battle so being visible to the player is essential. There comes a point where you will eventually die and be reincarnated as a generic sackboy. Pro; you can see yourself. Con; if you are playing with a friend, as I was, the generic, undecorated sackboy can pose a new problem. I found myself screaming “which one am I?” as we tried to avoid sack death. LBP 3 had been such a pleasant experience until this particular point, it’s such a shame.
Fans of the series will love this title, just beware the glitches. The minor glitches will make you giggle but those big ones will make you want to rage quit. I do hope they patch out these problems to make the experience enjoyable for all sackboys at heart.
To read Melanie’s extended review of LittleBigPlanet 3 pick up the Dec issue of CGM.
Little Big Planet Vita co-developer Tarsier Studios announced their upcoming project today at the Nordic Game Conference. Called Hunger (working title), the game is described as being a 3D action adventure game incorporating stealth and exploration.
At the center of the game is Six, a young girl who has been abducted and sent to work in The Maw, a “surreal underwater resort catering to the whims of the powerful elite.” When she’s offered the chance to escape, Six goes on a journey through the Maw that allows her to catch “a glimpse at the corrupt heart of modern happiness.” It’s unclear at this time on which platforms the game will appear, although the team did sign on as a first-party developer with Sony four years ago, making it likely for the game to make its way to PlayStation platforms.
Although not much about the game is known at this time, it definitely seems like a departure from the cute and quirky world of Little Big Planet. Given how well-received the game was on Vita, we’re hopeful that Hunger is equally as neat an experience. .
Every now and then a game comes along with little warning and hype that manages to charm the pants off you unexpectedly. We call those little beauties “pleasant surprises” and they make the business of reviewing games worthwhile. Tearaway is one such game. It’s an unassuming little platforming puzzler that seems generic when you pick up the box, but is packed with so many innovative ideas and gorgeous designs that you can’t physically put the game down until it’s complete. The good folks at Media Molecule whipped up an original concept, covered it in charm, incorporated all of the Vita’s bells n’ whistles, and delivered an experience that provides pure childish glee for the player that ends before wearing out it’s welcome. The designs might be childish, but the endlessly creative game is strong enough to make anyone feel like a giddy kid with an overactive imagination until it’s all over.
The world of Tearaway looks like it was dreamed up by a particularly imaginative kindergartener with a love of arts and crafts. Everything appears to be made out of construction paper, yet still breathes and moves with impressive character despite homespun designs. Frequently you even have the option of designing your own trinkets and decorations with virtual construction paper that can be put into the game world and the function works flawlessly. Combined with appropriately bouncy music and endlessly adorable designs, the Tearaway world is a real charmer. Wandering through levels feels like walking through a child’s storybook come to life. It’s like a low-fi Little Big Planet (unsurprisingly Tearaway is from the same creators as that contemporary platforming classic) and…well, maybe low-fi is the wrong term.
No two levels feel alike, constantly altering the simple formulas for surprise and awe.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect about Tearaway is the fact that the game incorporates every single one of the Vita’s inputs. The simple story involves a little character named either Iota or Atoi (depending on which gender you chose), whose head is an envelope and whose only purpose is to deliver a message to you, the player. That’s right, you are in the game as a sun god of sorts. Every time characters look up to discuss the sun, your image appears in the game in real time through the Vita’s front camera. More than that, throughout the game you’ll have to help Iota by sticking your fingers on the back sensor which causes your fingers to burst through the paper backdrop of the game to kill enemies. Elsewhere, rotating the system will cause other enemies to fall off ledges and if you ever poke a hole in the paper world, you’ll see your world peeking out through the Vita’s rear camera. Each and every input design is clever and gorgeously implemented. But more importantly, none of these things feel gimmicky. Media Molecule made them all vital part gameplay and as a result Tearaway feels like nothing else on the market. This is the game that makes good on all of the handheld system’s promises and it’s impossible not to be charmed by what the designers have whipped up.
There’s really only one problem with Tearaway as a game and that’s the roughly 5 hour playthrough time. There’s not a moment of those 5 hours that you won’t enjoy, but there’s no denying a sense of surprise and loss when it wraps up so quickly. However, that’s one of those hidden compliment criticisms. For a handheld title, 5 hours is plenty (and you can stretch that out by going back and finding extra hidden items if you’re “one of those” players) and really, the only reason to complain is because the game is so gosh darn great. From the moment the story fires up until the heartwarming conclusion, Media Molecule delivered a charming, immersive, and innovative experience that is instantly addictive. Even the simple story harkens back to folklore and fairy tales in a clever way without ever beating players over-the-head or becoming distracting. Simply put, this is one of the most original and creative handheld games on the market at the moment and a perfect showpiece for the capabilities of the Vita to sway anyone who doubts the potent handheld system. I encourage everyone with access to a Vita to run out and buy this thing immediately, if only because I desperately want a sequel and that’s only going to happen if you buy up enough copies, people!
Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. may have been the first game to capitalize on gamer nostalgia by pitting the Big N’s most famous faces against each other for rounds of fisticuffs that would answer schoolyard arguments about the relative awesomeness and ass-kickery between characters like Mario, Link, and Samus once and for all. An instant hit, the franchise has become a staple for every Nintendo console from the N64 on and also inspired developers to load up their projects with references and in-jokes that help knowing gamers justify their controller-bound obsessions. It seemed inevitable that one day one of Nintendo’s competitors would try to whip up their own version of Smash Bros. The concept is just too instantly appealing and the cross-marketing possibilities offer up way too many dollar signs to be ignored. So, in the year of the potential apocalypse, Sony has finally decided to throw their hats into the franchise-beat em’ up ring just before the world goes boom. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a Smash Bros. clone with only minor changes to the formula and you know what? That ain’t a bad thing. The unique Smash Bros. fighting mechanics have always been incredible and it’s about time someone knocked it off just like every other fighting game on the market.
Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. Playstation All-Stars offers gamers a chance to join in epic four-player battles. You’ll pick up powerful items, string together combos, slap around three opponents simultaneously, and eventually build up to super moves that put on an animated light show and substantially alter matches. Along the way you’ll be able to toss together hilariously unexpected fights like watching PaRappaTheRappa smack Big Daddy in the face and enjoy interactive levels that change, mutate, and even hurt you mid-fight. So far, so similar. It’s Smash Bros. with a Sony remix. There are some new additions though. Battles aren’t fought and won with health meters. Instead your normal attacks will be focused on building up your attack bar which, borrowing a technique from Marvel Vs. Capcom, has three levels of intensity each more powerful than the last. Points come from killing other players with these special attacks. A one bar attack will kill off a single opponent, while a 3 bar attack could kill off everyone more than once (and of course, you’ll get a sweet, sweet cut scene with the triple attack as well). It’s actually a pretty effective change to the Smash Bros. formula that adds a bit of risk/reward strategy to the expected button mashing shenanigans.
The 20 fighters that come along with the game are a nice mix of icons and obscure fan favorites pulling together a group of fighters from diverse and differing worlds n’ consoles like Little Big Planet’s Sackboy, God Of War’s Kratos, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, MidiEvil’sFortesque and both the good and evil versions of Infamous’ Cole MacGrath. There are some weird omissions (no Crash Bandicoot…seriously?), but it’s safe to assume that there will be plenty of DLC characters to fill in the gaps. While the general gameplay is fairly accessible (especially for Smash Bros. veterans since the controls are essentially the same), not all of the fighters are created equal. Some like Kratos allow players to annihilate the competition on the first spin of the disc, while others like Twisted Metal’s Sweet Tooth will require a lot of practice just to be able to fill up the attack bar. It’s clear that the designers went out of their way to make sure that every character had their own unique fighting style, but sometimes the gap between the fighters is so extreme that it’s pretty well inevitable that updates will be required to level out the playing field. For now it’s balanced enough for a party, but first time players will definitely not be able to use all of the fighters right off the bat.
As far as gameplay goes, all the expected modes are accounted for. There’s a single player arcade option that takes about 30 minutes to work through with each character including the final boss. It’s definitely the most disappointing aspect of the entire game. Not only is it ridiculously easy (often feeling more like a training mode than anything else), but the cut scenes used for the wrap around stories for each character are done entirely in stills. Obviously fighting games aren’t exactly played for their single player stories, but this is a disappointment. Part of the appeal of this sort of game is getting to see amusing rivalries play out between familiar characters and you’ll only get to see that with one pre-match rivalry dialogue scene between each character. It’s definitely a missed opportunity and a bummer. That said let’s face it, fighting games live and die on multiplayer and arcade story modes are essentially a bonus feature at this point. Playstation All-Stars delivers the multiplayer goods in style. Local matches will lead to just as much laughter, joy, and bitter resentment between friends as Smash Bros., while the online multiplayer is focused on tournament play. The game has been loaded with extra costumes, items, and trophies to be earned online that should extend the gameplay of this title exponentially. While it would have been nice to see the developers go all out with an epic single player adventure with these familiar characters like Smash Bros. Brawl, that didn’t happen and at least the straight up fighting is ridiculously addictive/entertaining. Hey, they gotta’ leave something open to explore in sequels right? Games aren’t standalone projects anymore people! They are all franchise pilots.
The good news is that while there’s no denying that Playstation All-Stars is dripping with gooey globs of Smash Bros. DNA, the game is very much its own beast as well. It’s just different enough to stand alone, while delivering all the joys of that Nintendo beat em’ up party. Sure there are problems and inconsistencies, but nothing out of the ordinary for the first chapter in any new franchise. Sony has delivered their own franchise fighter that should suck up hours and hours of the lives of many longtime PS gamers. The multiplayer is fantastic and that’s all that counts. Updates and DLC will expand the fairly limited roster of characters and levels soon enough, while the inevitable sequels with smooth out all the rough edges. Throw in the fact that a Vita version comes free with every disc and smoothly interacts with its console daddy, and you’ve got yourself a pretty deep fighting game well worth the investment. Sony could have easily fallen on their face with this thing and while it’s inevitable Smash Bros. fans will still scream “rip-off” at the top of their lungs, it would be mistake to dismiss this if you’re a fan of that franchise. Smash Bros. games only tend to come once per console generation, so this is the perfect way to ease the pain as you wait for Nintendo to debut their shiny new Wii U version. This is sure to be a damn fine new fighting game obsession for lovers of the genre and will hopefully be successful enough to warrant sequels. Sony done good on this one folks. There would have been sales without this kind of loving attention to detail, but thanks to the effort we can officially expect a new fighting franchise rather than the sad knock-off embarrassment that this thing could have so easily been.
Sackboy has been busy these last few years. First, in 2008, he battled The Collector and saved the residents of Little Big Planet. In 2009 he trotted the globe recruiting curators for a grand carnival. In 2011 Little Big Planet was again threatened, this time by the nefarious Negativitron and with the help of The Alliance, Sackboy was victorious once again. By now you’d figure that everyone’s favorite little sack thing would be ready for some rest and relaxation. I would agree, but that’s just not the case for our hero in LittleBigPlanet for the PlayStation Vita. This time the land of Carnivalia has become a dark and joyless place due to the deranged experiments of a mysterious fellow known only as The Puppeteer. Can Sackboy restore joy and laughter to the realm of Carnivalia? Or will the strange empty minions called the The Hollows doom Carnivalia to an eternity darkness and sorrow. Certainly not, if Sackboy and myself have anything to say about it.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is the fourth entry in the main LBP series. When I first got my hands on this title I was worried that after three games LBP and its whimsical puzzle platforming might be getting old. I can assure you that this is not the case. This new PS Vita version features a whole new story that will have you jumping, bouncing, swinging, and grabbing across five different areas of Carnivalia. This is the first time I’ve played a LittleBigPlanet game all the way to the end and I really enjoyed the smooth learning curve. When a new mechanic like grabbing objects or swinging from your grappling hook is introduced, the mechanic is featured prominently in the next few stages which allows you to get really comfortable with it. As the game progresses and the stages get more challenging, you’ll need those skills just to navigate the intricate levels. While I didn’t find puzzles that really had me scratching my head, it was still satisfying to land those perfect jumps. However, since there wasn’t anything that had me perplexed I did miss those “Eureka!” moments that come from finally solving a puzzle. I found the game to more about precise and stylish jumping and swinging rather than puzzle solving. Which is fine because the jumping and swinging are as amazingly fun as I’ve come to expect from the Little Big Planet series. The game is also kept fresh by the simple fact that the game is on the Vita, which brings multi-touch controls and the rear touch pad into the equation. The Vita’s accelerometer is also used but I won’t count it as new since the same thing was accomplished by the SIXAXIS controllers on the PlayStation 3.
A Feature Showcase
I really must say that this game is a fantastic showcase for what the Vita can do. It incorporates almost all of the Vita’s features in a restrained and effective manner. At no point did I feel that gameplay elements that took advantage of the Vita’s functionality were gimmicky. They are used appropriately and effectively. It’s surprising that this game wasn’t released sooner since I found it to be such a great showcase for Sony’s latest hand-held. The bonus for those creators out there is that you now have a new device with new gameplay opportunities to explore. A lot gameplay elements exclusive to the Vita are showcased in the game’s Arcade Mode which becomes fully unlocked upon completion of the game’s story. In Arcade mode you’ll find five mini-games which are great for playing on the go since the levels found within don’t take very long to complete and are very digestible. There’s also lots of side-levels which are found in the five main areas of Carnivalia, and most of them will have you using the Vita in a unique way. For the creators out there, the series signature level creator is back with a few new tricks up its sleeves. The editors interface is based around the Vita’s touch screen functionality which makes placing and scaling objects intuitive and easy. Also the Vita’s camera allow you to snap photos and turn them into stickers which can be used to decorate your creations. If you’re more of a consumer rather than a creator you can download new levels while connected to Wi-Fi and then play them offline while you’re on the go. However, there are some limitations. It’s a shame, but understandable that levels from Little Big Planet 1, 2, and PSP aren’t compatible with this version. One should also note that access to the online features does require the activation of an online pass. It’s a measure I am not personally a fan of, but can’t really hold against the game.
Stay Gold Sackboy
Although I was skeptical when I first started playing, having completed Little Big Planet PS Vita I can assure you that this is still a quality series that feels right at home on the Vita. The story is whimsical, full of fun colourful characters and has a climax that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The gameplay is fun and intuitive and features the excellent platforming I’ve come to expect from the series. This game is a must own for anyone with a Vita.
Sony held an event at the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Toronto to usher in the release of LittleBigPlanet 2. Our full review of the game will appear in the next issue of C&G as well as here on the website, so keep on the look out for that. As for the event itself, Sony took over the bar in the rear of the hotel and turned it into a cross between a debutante party and a tree-house fort; a clean, catered space was complimented by giant sackboys and a stage area with happy colors and simple images one would expect from a child’s drawing.