(Sony Computer Entertainment) Reviewed on PlayStation 3. One to four players; online. Rated E for Everyone. Retail $59.99. ****
Web sites like Facebook and YouTube have indulged our virtual narcissism for a few years now, so it's only natural this "look-at-me" party should pervade the world of video games as well. And while LittleBigPlanet isn't the first game to give players a soapbox beyond their living rooms, it's certainly one of the best.
In LittleBigPlanet, players assume the role of a sockboy (or girl) who must jump, run, push and pull through fanciful worlds. This is a time-honored game design that dates to the original Super Mario Brothers, but LittleBigPlanet ups the ante with customization to the extreme.
You can dress, tattoo and color your sock person, decorate your home base and create your own fanciful worlds. And thanks to the Internet, your creativity doesn't have to be done in a vacuum.
Yet for all its Internet connectivity and community, LittleBigPlanet holds its own as a solitary experience as well. As British actor Stephen Fry narrates the proceedings with a droll wit, players are swept into LittleBigPlanet's universe with top-notch music and eye-popping visuals. Seemingly inspired by the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, Monty Python's Flying Circus and a little of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, the game's stunning look is unlike any of its candy-colored, hop-and-bop competitors.
Ironically, the biggest complaint I have is that LittleBigPlanet isn't big enough. Its story mode is much too short. The thinking, I assume, is that players would prefer to build and explore their own creations, over the prepackaged ones. But the designers' LittleBigPlanet is so daft and charming, it leaves you wanting more.
New this week: : The big guns this week are the sequels to two of 2006's most popular shooters: Microsoft's Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360) and Sony's Resistance 2 (PlayStation 3). ... Ubisoft launches a new strategy franchise, Tom Clancy's Endwar (360, PS3, PlayStation Portable, DS). ... Activision ties into two very different movies, Quantum of Solace and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (most systems).