Review: Little Big Planet 2 (PS3)

Review: Little Big Planet 2 (PS3)

The release in 2008 of Media Molecule’s first Little Big Planet warmed the palette and broke the mould of PlayStation 3’s repertoire.

The niceties gushed even from the most hard to please critics, and it’s metacritic rating still sits at a gargantuan 95%.

The reason for its triumphant reception was that it exploded the 2D platformer genre from the inside out by gearing it toward a user generated, peer rated, and multiplayer orientated experience. Even the campaign presented strange concepts that were original and endearing and were great to play in co-op.

So it was with baited breath, when MM announced back in the summer of 2010, that we would be seeing a sequel to their platform masterpiece before the start of 2011.

Alas, it was not to be, and the developers pushed back the release date stating that they wanted to work harder to finish a game that would ‘allow players to make whatever kind of game they want’.

This statement characterises the community that has grown around the first game and it is what drives the developers to share the control with the players over the type of world they plug into.

It was by highlighting the “huge emotional investment” players put into LBP that shows it is a world with a pulse, and it is with this mentality that LBP’s heart continues to beat.

The seemingly endless possibility presented in LBP gave rise to up to a stonking 2.5 million user-generated levels.

In the interest of sharing, a philosophy well established in the LBP world, those ’emotional investments’ have not been put out to pasture and are fresh and ready for a whole new audience to experience in the second iteration.

However, nothing sits still in the world of LBP, and even prior to release there were flourishing user-generated offerings employing the multitude of new tools MM have shared with their community.

Marketed as a ‘platform for games’, LBP2 presents the opportunity for the player to create on a much grander scale.

No individually customized backdrops on a hurdle jumping, rope swinging, get to the finish line type game (although there’s nothing wrong with that), but actual stand-alone games.

A recent addition to the “cool levels” tag under the community page is a replica of the ’70s arcade game, Breakout.

You can also take a few minutes to shoot a bunch of penguins for points whilst trying to avoid a point deducting Kanye West look-a-like.

All this and there’s not a sackboy to be seen! The madness doesn’t stop there,  as even in more traditional, sackboy-centric outings, the rules are being broken.

A demo for a detective game called Lost has its own internal game menus and you play a sack-detective on the trail of a kidnapped lady.

Even though its style and direction are borrowed from Heavy Rain, it’s a wonderfully charming  and refreshing creation that manages to pay homage to its influences at the same time.

When finishing a user-generated level you get the chance to heart it, tag it, and review it. I went for cinematic for this one.

The new animation recording option allowed this designer to create their own full-motion cut-scenes, add and edit their own sound effects to create truly original content, making the Lost level a chief proponent and a shining example of these new tools.

LBP2 also uses microchips to combine the sticky-tape approach used in the first game to set movements and characteristics for objects in the game world. Add a micro-chip to an object and then place modifiers on the circuit board to programme its characteristic. You may find yourself creating a flaming, floating carrot – on purpose.

You were warned.

Our review copy gave us the chance to get to grips with a small proportion of the 50 tutorials,  lovingly administered by narrator Stephen Fry. The bonus is that, in contrast with the first games’ tutorials, on the tutorial screen is the ability to find the advanced stuff more quickly as all the tutorials are open to you from the beginning.

Please let us not underestimate the importance of the tutorials. For the experienced, they are the gateway drug to the all the hardcore game design shennanigans you can get your hands on. Or for the novice – as am I – they are a remedy and an inspiration.

It’s early days in the rebirth of the LBP world and some have asked if there is a need for a second game when the first had produced so much brilliance.

The survival of those levels in LBP2 is testament to that brilliance, but the  daunting task of creating something entertaining and fun hindered those less invested in their creations.

MM seem to have addressed those qualms by implementing a coherent creative process and an exhaustive tutorial system.

For those who loved the concepts of the first outing, but weren’t experts, LBP2 is a more considered and accessible game.

For the creators and inventors who flooded the LBP world with wave upon wave of new levels, LBP2 has enough new original creative combinations to justify a purchase.

It would be surprising if MM’s second outing managed to produce the same quantity of levels as the first but the quality and variation of those in exisitence using all the logic switches, creatinators, micro-chips and sack-bots  is staggering for a game that has just been released.

It’s one thing to hand someone a sandbox game and ask someone to play in it, but it’s another to share with them the tools you use to build your sandbox and see if they can do better.


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