There are plenty of one-shot jokes and inventions: the car that plays Sweet Child O' Mine; the fanboy jab at the Xbox 360's red ring of death; the comedically cack-handed Rick Roll. The best levels are just playgrounds filled with bizarre toys, or sort of interactive theatre performances that interject a little light platforming into variously stupid or strange stories. The two-part Heist - the story of a bank job gone wrong - has already established itself as an artful classic; you can also shoot Sackboy to a cardboard moon on an Apollo mission or, in the memorably eerie Asgard, pick your way through a forest of giant, electrified glass Sackboys, your image warping as though you're in a hall of mirrors.
The quality and diversity are already surprising. In reality, deep and rewarding gameplay will only feature in a tiny percentage of levels - it will take more professionally-designed levels to truly extend the lifespan of LittleBigPlanet as a platform game - but it doesn't matter. As an endlessly renewable sideshow, a daily source of surprises and silliness, a genuinely new form of interactive entertainment, it's a triumph - and one for which Media Molecule can actually only take some of the credit.
That credit goes to the handful of players dedicated enough to go through the painstaking hour upon hour upon hour of work necessary to put these levels together. And herein lies LittleBigPlanet's greatest disappointment - or at least, its double-edged sword. Create mode is an incredible achievement, allowing tremendous scope for freedom (especially in its mechanical tools) within the simple, logical and fast Popit interface, and accompanied by an exhaustive suite of tutorials narrated by an avuncular Stephen Fry. And yet, it's still really quite hard to make things.
That's partly down to some minor niggles with the interface (the laborious undo command, the counter-intuitive "pause" rules, the inefficient lack of shortcut commands). It's mostly down to the overwhelming depth of customisation and parameter-tweaking that's possible, but that can't be a bad thing. Can it?
Perhaps it can. It depends who Media Molecule wants to involve in LittleBigPlanet, and what it wants them to create. Cool Levels is already populated with the work of a talented hardcore who will serve the rest of the game's community with entertainment for years. But the creation, as it stands, isn't going to involve the majority of players of the game. It won't let them do the things they want to do - put their own images or music straight in a level (unless it's by taking pictures with an EyeToy). It will let them do hundreds of things they don't want to do or would never think of. And the three planes of action add a fiddly layer of organisational complexity in themselves: it might have been more accessible to limit creation to a single, flat plane to lower the barrier to entry.
The promise that anyone could create something simple and fun and personal with LittleBigPlanet hasn't come true. In a way, it's the opposite of Spore, which makes it easy and fun for every single player to have creative input, but doesn't let any of them change the fabric of the game. LittleBigPlanet lets them run wild, with unprecedented results, but it locks the majority out of the creative process, because it's time-consuming and simply not very enjoyable.
We hoped it could do both those things. That it doesn't isn't the let-down it might have been, thanks to the untamed community of brilliant nutjobs that's already out there, appending their DIY masterpieces to this beautiful, mildly flawed, magnificently multiplayer platform game. We salute them, we salute Media Molecule for making it possible for them, and we salute Sony for its total commitment to this brave, hare-brained project.
But mostly, we're just happy to see a flagship game for a modern system that's about running from left to right and jumping over things. New ideas are great, great old ideas are better, and LittleBigPlanet has both: it's the future and the past of videogames, rolled into one.
9 / 10