Little Big Planet [Buy Now]
Little Big Planet is probably Sony's biggest release of the year and the one reason for using my Playstation 3 for something other than high-def movies.
But now I have to wait just that much longer to get my ... well, you will have to wait to get your hands on it. I lucked out, but more on that later.
Little Big Planet had already made its way to stores about a week before its Oct. 21 release date. It was silently waiting in locked drawers behind counters for that faithful Tuesday when Sony was alerted that something was wrong.
It wasn't a defect or glitch.
It was something, um, offensive?
Keep in mind Little Big Planet is rated E-for-Everyone. Your character is a customizable knitted doll named "Sackboy." The game is structured so that you play classic Mario-style platforming levels to unlock a robust set of tools that allow you to design and create your own levels to be posted online.
Once online, your levels can be shared with and be critiqued by other Little Big Planet users. It sounds pretty harmless, a far cry from the sex-and-violence controversies that are usually associated with videogames.
A user writing on Sony's message board, who described himself as Muslim, pointed out that one of Little Big Planet's songs, titled "Tapha Niang" by Tourmani Diabaté, contains lyrics taken directly from the Qur'an.
According to the user, Muslims consider the Qur'an set to music to be very offensive. In response, Sony's official blog posted this:
"It has been brought to our attention that one of the background music tracks licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Qur'an. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offense that this may have caused."
Retailers holding the game until Oct. 21 were then asked to ship back their copies of Little Big Planet, so that the offensive material could be removed.
On hearing this news, I made a few phone calls. I was able to find a retailer who missed the memo. I purchased a copy of the game before they could figure out that the game had to be pulled.
I made my way to Moncks Corner with a few other Little Big Planet fans the morning of Oct. 21. It was about 1 a.m. when we walked into the electronics department. The clerk seemed confused that a small group of people would have made this late-night journey for one game.
I said that hers was the only store that had Little Big Planet in stock. She seem unconvinced, but sold me the game anyway. I rushed out before they could take it away from me, my precious recalled version of Little Big Planet.
My lead on the game though was short-lived. I had my copy, but I was not able to experience the important part of the game — sharing levels — until I downloaded its update. The update locked out the offensive music that I was so eager to be offended by.
Luckily, some were able to hear the song, and they were nice enough to record it. Here it is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQMO9YVVfHQ.
"Offensive" material aside, the game really is amazing. On the surface, it's a very pretty and very simple platformer. You can run, jump, and grab things, and that's about it. As you progress further into the game, though, you begin to realize everything you see can be manipulated by you as the player.
You begin to play focusing instead on level progression and on level creation. Your mindset to appraching levels is just different from other games. You come upon a challenge, say a large rotating water wheel. In other games, you'd look at this and say, "How do I get past this?" But in Little Big Planet, you find yourself saying, "How can I use this?"
I have found myself thinking about the game a lot while at work or school. I have found myself, dare I reveal my intense level of nerd-dom, even dreaming about the game. You will understand if you play it.
The game gives off a dreamy creative aesthetic. All the tools and items in the game are real-world items — you can use wood to build platforms, sponges to make grabable items, or skateboards as vehicles. A finished level looks like it came straight out the mind of Michelle Gonndry.
I have never played a game quite like this and I'm excited to continue. It takes time to learn how to use the creation tools, but it's worth it.
Did I mention that up to four people can play at the same time?
You may need to get some extra controllers.