Physics is a funny thing. In games, I mean, not in real life. In real life, physics is a very serious thing, and should only be studied by serious people in lab coats, pocket protectors and thick glasses. Probably.
In games, though, physics is usually a take-it-or-leave-it affair. After all, modelling physics to make a completely realistic game environment requires a lot of computational power, even if you use something like a PhysX enabled graphics card.
This means that, at some point, developers have to be selective over which parts of the laws of physics they use – so while some things may react realistically, sooner or later you'll come across something that doesn't, and the whole illusion fails spectacularly.
Of course, an exquisite physics engine doesn't belong in every game. You wouldn't expect one in the latest The Sims expansion. Conversely, though, there are games where you'd expect physics to play more of a role – and platformers as a whole spring instantly to mind. We've all grown up believing that a mere plumber of Italian descent can jump many times his own height, and nobody's questioned that ability.
Until now that is.
Click to enlarge
Developer Media Molecule has endured a huge amount of hype – and just a littlecontroversy – with its new game, LittleBigPlanet. And boy, has this game been hyped. It's been called everything from the next must-have game to the saviour of the PS3.
Looked at superficially, it just looks like another platform game – but the addition of physics and the ability for user-generated content gives Media Molecule the ability to turn LittleBigPlanet into something much more special than just another platformer. So, is this game really the panacea for the PS3 gaming blues? Is it a new entry in the very short list of must-haves for the PS3? Can it really prevent the country from sliding into recession?
Well, perhaps not the last one, but we've taken a look at LittleBigPlanet to see whether it lives up to the hype, or whether it just sinks in the mire of marketing bumf.
Click to enlarge
You start LittleBigPlanet by wandering your way through the credits, accompanied by music that will bring back waves of nostalgia to those who remember Tony Hart or Vision On.
From then on, you are guided through a few short introductory levels by the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry as you are introduced to your sackboy and the deceptively simple controls. Besides the usual platform controls of left, right and jump, the right shoulder button is also used to make your little sackboy grab onto things. This is an important concept to understand, because unlike most other platform games, LittleBigPlanet requires your sackboy to interact with the scenery to help your way through some of the levels. This might range from just grabbing onto swinging blobs to help you over a gap, or you might need to rearrange some blocks to help you jump up to a higher level.