Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LittleBigPhysics

We entered the realm of video gaming a few years ago when we first bought Lego StarWars for our computer. We eventually graduated to a Wii and, as we seem to be gaming prodigies, to the PS3. Of course, most of the PS3 games are for super serious gamers, and we don't really fit that demographic (yet) - so the only kid-friendly game we have for the PS3 is LittleBigPlanet. And it's reason enough to have made the purchase.

The best way to get a taste of this brilliant game is to watch a demo of it. Not only can you play the levels that come with the game, you can create your own and you can publish them. The interactivity in this game is amazing and the cool part is that it's not just one individual interacting with the game. As a family, we can all join in and play... together! We help each other to jump, push, pull - it's a whole bunch of cooperation with just a touch of competition (in terms of who gets to do the cool stuff and collects the stickers). We all end up with the same point count at the end of the round, regardless of who the "winner" is, so you can end the level with good feelings all around. If no one else feels like playing, you can also sign into the community and play anonymously (without dialogue) with other players who show up.

By the way, even Obama loves LBP, which is completely justified. LittleBigPlanet has taken game play to a whole new level, thus changing the nature of gaming forever.

The game is built on a physics engine and deals with the same physical laws that govern the real world. That's neat. And it's especially neat to see players intuitively work their way through the game using physics principles that they may never have heard articulated. Levers and pulleys and pendulums and all kinds of good stuff. 

The music is fun and very catchy. When we first heard of the game, we went onto iTunes and purchased several of the songs we like. They are that good.

You can create/build your own levels. And share them. And play other people's home-made levels (in the Community) -- many of these levels are just as good as the Media Molecule levels that came with the game. Working on this type of platform is such a fantastic beginning-point for kids who may eventually want to build games using programming languages. It allows them lots of room for personal creativity while also providing immediate feedback and a sense of accomplishment.

As you play other people's levels, you collect the materials (songs, backgrounds, outfits, textures, colours, sounds, etc.) you need to build your own.

The unexpected thing about this game has been the amount of research that my son has done to find answers to his questions about his levels. He also spends a hefty amount of time using pencil and paper to design creatures he then wants to recreate in the program.

I'm amazed at all the other skills my son is learning through this process. For example, the other day, he had to figure out velocity  as he manipulated how things moved in a level he was working on. It's working wonders for his spelling, too. He loves story, so he works in little dialogue segments throughout his levels. 

Oh, did I mention that Stephen Fry is the voice for Little Big Planet? No? Oh, well, he is.

And then there's Sackboy.

By now everyone should be familiar with Sony’s Sackboy. If you aren’t, then what you need to know is that Sackboy (or Girl if you prefer) is the name of the character you use in Little Big Planet. The great thing about Sackboy is that he is wildly customizable. Everything from his sack color, to his hair, his clothes and facial expressions can be changed by the player. Sackboy himself moves incredibly realistically for a sack. What is perhaps most impressive is that Sackboy shows a wide range of emotions. The player can control whether or not he looks happy, sad or is excited, and on top of that there are varying degrees of each emotion. Sackboy is amazingly animated and realistic, especially when you consider he is essentially a character made out of sacks. (from GamingTrend)

Media Molecule is releasing LittleBigPlanet 2 later this fall and we can hardly wait! It promises to be more of the same, only bigger and better. If that's even possible.

___________________________________

Note: this game is fine for even younger gamers (6 or so), although some of the tasks are quite hard and some kids might find them too frustrating to play on their own. Some of the community levels have content that may not be appropriate for your children (cartoon gore), so you may want to play with them while they explore these other level options.

What else are they learning? Check out these fantastic articles: Little Big Education -- Sackboy makes learning fun and Little Big Education.


For iPod and iPhone physics based games, please see the previous post iPod Touch Apps.