It was a brand new concept that sets an unprecedented wave of creativity in motion. Today there are several hundred thousand user created Little Big Planet levels, that are shared and played across Playstation Network. No wonder expectations are sky high for Little Big Planet 2.
After more than two years in development the little charmer Sackboy and his friends return. It may not launch with the same sense of innovation and revolution as the predecessor, but that is only to be expected. What we are served with Little Big Planet 2 is well crafted continuation and a more powerful tool for your own creations.
The first addition in Little Big Planet 2 is how a story has been integrating into the campaign segment of the game. I can't say that I missed it in the predecessor, even if I would have preferred some sort of red thread to follow. This time around Media Molecule have concocted a story that involves an evil vacuum cleaner who sends an evil horde against the alliance of the hobby universe led by Sackboy. Throughout the adventure you are guided by the leader of the alliance, Larry DaVinci, and you will come upon a series of odd characters.
I usually enjoy a bit of nonsense, but this is unfortunately a bit too much. The major cinematics have voice overs, which is all nice and well, but there are still quite a few text boxes to click your way through. And given the chaotic design, all the squeaky voices and sounds makes for something that comes across as more messy than before.
Even if the story feels somewhat counter intuitive it's not a reason to criticise Media Molecule too much. We're not in it for the story, but instead we're captivated by the weird platform puzzles and the brilliant level design. Sackboy has definitely taken a step forward since the last time we saw him, and with new weapons and vehicles it's a much more action packed experience this time around.
The creativity at work in Little Big Planet 2 is evident by the use of cake as ammunition. You use them to lower gates, fix bridges and lay waste to enemies. If you stand next to a raised bridge you have to stick a cake to the underside of the bridge in order to lower it. This kind of humour is present throughout the game.
The first taste of action is when you swing your way across a flaming ravine with the new grappling hook. With several players on screen and the ability to grab a hold of each other from a distance you are forced to time your jumps even more carefully than when you play on your own. The physics engine that powers all of this makes every jump feel natural and is the cause of lots of hilarious mistakes. There are very few Playstation 3 games that allows for this much fun for several players on one screen, and there will be lots of laughs as the deaths starts to pile up.
The challenge of reviewing a game such as this one appears when you reach the part where you have to describe the creation part. There is really no game that compares to this other than the predecessor.
You can only customise the levels in the campaign with stickers and sackboy decoration, but once you head over to the creation part the possibilities are limitless. If the options for decorating in The Sims gave you a headache, then designing levels in Little Big Planet 2 will make make your head explode. Everything exists within the physical rules created by Media Molecule, but the real magic lies in all the mechanics you can add into the equation. Adjust camera angles, add context appropriate sounds, tune weight and working radius of puzzles. It's enough to make your head spin.
If I were to describe all the tools and options the player has, then this review would have been the size of a decent book. Instead I'll attempt to give you a brief overview of what the most important additions are all about. Because no matter how you feel about it, the creative component of Little Big Planet 2 is the main feature. With the Creatinator, Sackbots, Moviecam and Controlinator the level creation has gone from something very deep to a veritable ocean of opportunities.
Moviecam allows you to capture long film clips, direct scenes and use commands to do so. The Creatinator deals with all usable equipment (grappling hook, head cannon, etc.), Sackbots allows you to customise the behaviour of individual enemies, and Controlinator, well that's a whole chapter of its own. Fundamentally it allows the player to incorporate your own control scheme in all objects, and it allows you to make your own arcade games for example.
Are you creating a spaceship? Add your controls for the ship, create the movements for the enemies, divide the game into levels and add a linear progression and you may end up with a modern version of Space Invaders. When I wrote about the first game I used the expression "your imagination is the only limitation", but this time around it feels as though there are no limits to what you can create.
And I haven't even touched on the finer details in the creation part of Little Big Planet 2. Instead I want to remind you of all the things that made Little Big Planet such a grand experience. The community that shared, rated and commented on creations you could download or upload and experience with three other players online. An amazingly powerful asset for any game and one that Little Big Planet 2 has from day one.
Little Big Planet is as deep as a well. There is so much to do and experience. The new tools open up a world of new possibilities and a strong incentive to create mini-games outside of the restraints of the platform genre.
The campaign is way more action packed than before and every level is full of pace. The story could have been scrapped, as it really doesn't add much in terms of motivation. Instead your motivation comes courtesy of the beautifully crafted environments and the physics puzzles - cause this is where Little Big Planet 2 really shines, regardless of whether you've designed it yourself or if someone else has been creative. 2011 is off to a great start.
Note: The Playstation Move enabled Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves comes included with Little Big Planet 2. It is also available for purchase on Playstation Network.