LittleBigPlanet 2 [Extended review] User Review
Spoken with the delicate tones of Stephen Fry's softly spoken voice, against the backdrop of bright, colourful images of people – babies, children, adults, anybody - thinking their thoughts, & even the most vile, hardened b****** will scream giddily about the brilliant possibilities this game presents.
With it's picturebook-esque visuals, a cute little character named 'Sackboy' and it's lack of a dark, gritty, ‘realistic’ game direction, you could be fooled into thinking this is a children's game. However, do not allow yourself to be deceived; if you look deep enough, you will find one of the most exhaustively comprehensive, the most intuitively inventive, & most intricately thought-out creation tools on a console. Tools that, fortitude prevailing, will allow anyone to create whatever they want, be it a traditional side-scroller, a sci-fi space shooter or a level where you take revenge on a monkey who set his army of bananas on the cavemen people & destroyed their village (hey that’s my level!) - LittleBigPlanet 2 is the ultimate platform for your wacky imagination to be let loose.
To put it in a nutshell, LBP is the embodiment of lucid dreaming; if you can imagine it, you can make it happen. Of course, not everybody can lucidly dream their envisagement perfectly – and likewise, not everyone will be able to perfectly incorporate their game ideas into LBP. But, for the few who can, it opens up, quite literally, a LittleBigWorld of opportunity.
In LittleBigPlanet 2, you control a cotton-stuffed sack called ‘Sackboy’. He’s a nimble little thing, and is able to run, jump, grab and bounce with somewhat flawed accuracy. You see, the average LittleBigPlanet level was intended to be created by your average level designer, so Media Molecule decided to give the jumping mechanic a bit of leeway, so that obstacles don’t have to be meticulously made to be passable, which resulted in a ‘floating’ feeling when jumping. It has received some criticism from critics, but really, it’s something you get used to and is not necessarily a flaw, at least in my estimation. In the graphics department, nothing has being fundamentally overhauled, because of the strict policy of ‘backwards compatibility’ with LittleBigPlanet 1.
Despite this, lighting has received a significant upgrade, and it is absolutely pivotal to the atmosphere that you can create. Some other tweaks to the rendering engine are greatly appreciated, with every colour standing out more and everything is seen through a seemingly sharper lens. Elsewhere, the audio has received a whole lot of new Foley, creating some new real-life sounds that are again, pivotal to the atmosphere. The new music is just as fantastic as last time, & with such a clash of genres, it’s hard not to find a tune that you’ll find yourself humming to yourself throughout the day. In addition, the new music sequencer has also been introduced, but I’ll delve into that later.
So, to look at the game from a basic perspective, there is a "Play, Create, Share" ‘menu’ that serves three distinct game features in the form of a starter, main course & dessert: The story mode, the creation tools & the community. Beginning with our Entrée, the story mode acts as a 5-7 hour play through - depending on how long you spend searching for the games many hidden 'prize bubbles' – to whet your appetite. It also acts as an example to inspire the people who play it - the same people who will be essentially creating the game. And though platformers in general can be classed as pretty much dead now, the levels in this story mode have world-class level design & art direction, putting you in some truly ingenious situations, such as gadding about the workshop of ‘Larry Da Vinci’ himself, using the new ‘Grappling Hook’ to good effect; rescuing ‘sackbots’ from a American diner/Russia propaganda-styled factory; & getting downsized to the size of a white blood cell, fighting an infection inside of the rather hilariously named character “Herbert Higginbottom”.
Suffice to say, LittleBigPlanet 2 has got it ALL.
Moving on, we come to the create mode of the game. This is the place where you create – or recreate – your dreams. This is also the place where LittleBigPlanet has made the biggest change; although you had a wide array of tools at your dispense last time around, now you have even more. The expert creators of LittleBigPlanet 1 will be well acquainted with the games concept of ‘logic’ – where you would use magnetic keys and switches to activate various functions - but it has been completely re-done. Now, it has been fashioned into real-life electrical circuits. Before, you had to make a ‘contraption’ to make something as simple as an ‘AND gate’, but now it would be as simple as literally putting down an ‘AND gate’ out of your popit, wiring up the two inputs – say, one where you have to bring a key to a door and the other input to turn the lock – then wire the output – in this case to activate the door opening – and there you have it, an ‘AND gate’!
These ‘gates’ closely resemble real-life expectations, so you won’t need a degree in electrical engineering to understand them or anything, but the developers of this game have included thinly-veiled secrets that the community just love to figure out. Apart from this, you get the obvious improvements: More objects, more stickers, more…everything, really. New things like sackbots; new ‘movie-style’ cameras to bring your inner Spielberg out; a music sequencer which lets you create your own musical scores (albeit with limited memory), allowing you to even further ‘personalize’ your atmosphere; the ‘Direct Control Seat’, allowing you to map any of the Dualshock buttons to actions in the game, allowing you to create a level that doesn’t even involve Sackboy, among many other improvements. It’s all you’d expect from a sequel, and more.
Okay then, you’ve created your masterpiece. You want the world to see it, right? Then publish it!
This is easily the best part of the game: The community. The feeling you get when publishing a level and waiting for people to play it is like being a child again (if you weren’t already). Even if making levels is not your forte, don’t fret – there are many people who will spend long hard days and nights, striving to create fantastic user-generated levels for you to experience. Even now, well over a year after it’s release, the levels people are churning out just keep getting better and better.
Of course, with almost 7 million levels available, you need an extremely well implemented User Interface to tidy everything up. Thankfully, Media Molecule has listened to the clamoring for the need of a better system, and has acted admirably. You never get confused or ‘lost’, even though there is a wealth of menus to wade through, and this is essential because it is – in this game especially – part of the game experience.
So it’s settled then, is it? LittleBigPlanet 2 is the greatest game ever made. Well…not quite. There are many things which irritate me: How crappy levels always manage to get a-top of the ‘Cool pages’, how playing online is ruined by the seemingly indefinite loading screen, & how the process of creating can be utterly soul destroying; you can spend months and months on a level, publish it and only get 10 plays, with feedback like “OMGZZZ THIS LVL SUK!1!!”. This is usually ensued by a 10-minute soulless wall-stare to compensate.
But to be honest, these things are truly minute in the scheme of things, and I absolutely cherish games of this nature. It’s a wonderful break from all these games that seem to be shooting-oriented, where the primary focus is to kill someone/something. I value this game as something completely unique, and I feel will go down in gaming history as a classic of the PlayStation’s library.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.