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Avatar ImageGamer Limit Review: LittleBigPlanet 2
By: | February 21st, 2011 | Playstation 3
PS3 |Review

Aww, Sackboy. Your woollen charms were enough to sway millions of budding level designers into the enchanting world of LittleBigPlanet, a pinnacle platformer that set the benchmark for user generated content in the YouTube generation for consoles. It may have taken a while to truly take off, but LittleBigPlanet remains one of the most ingenuous and unique titles of this generation, allowing players with unbridled imaginations and too much time on their hands to “Play, Create and Share” custom designed levels with the online community.

It was certainly an ambitious concept, and one that finally gave Sony a mascot character for the PS3 in the form of Sackboy, an infectiously cute mass of cloth and stitching tailor made for ample merchandising opportunities.

Developer Media Molecule was always adamant that LittleBigPlanet’s incredible depth meant that a direct sequel would be highly unlikely, but this was soon quashed by the surprise announcement of LittleBigPlanet 2 last year. Does it suffer from sophomore syndrome or can LittleBigPlanet 2 once again turn legions of gamers into masterful creators?

A common criticism of the original was that the single player Story felt tacked on with no real semblance of a plot or purpose. Thankfully, LittleBigPlanet 2 improves on this aspect by contextualising the campaign with a narrative complete with animated cut scenes and intelligible voice acting, once again casting you as the loveable Sackboy (now referred to simply as the genderless ‘Sackperson’). The loose plot centers around the Negativitron, a supersonic vacuum cleaner intent on causing untold terror to the habitants of Sackboy’s home planet Craftworld.

As a noble Sackperson, you soon become part of an elite academy on a mission to defeat the Negativitron. Side scrolling platforming remains the order of the day as you guide Sackboy through all manner of weird and wacky worlds in a variety of superbly executed levels designed by the talented team at Media Molecule.

Each world sports a vibrant visual style that retains the same charming, handcrafted aesthetic of its predecessor, along with a suitably dreamy soundtrack that perfectly characterises the contrasting environments. I must say, however, that hearing the Finnish heavy metal band Nightwish in LittleBigPlanet 2 was an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise for this self-confessed fan.

There is no end to the sheer variety and innovation throughout the wonderfully crafted campaign. One level set in a cake factory, for example, mounts a rapid cake firing gun to Sackboy’s head to dispose of confectionery enemies – only in LittleBigPlanet could such a concept be feasible.

Beyond its charm, LittleBigPlanet 2 remains a solid and ultimately fun platoforming experience, particularly when played with up to three other Sackpeople either offline or online (yes, you can still play happy sack slapping with each other for no apparent reason) – the only problem is that the slightly cumbersome physics of the original remain intact, meaning that jumping can sometimes be more problematic than it needs to be.

The addition of a grappling hook is also a welcome addition to Sackboy’s inventory, allowing you to cling onto objects in order to solve puzzles – it can be a little tricky to work with the physics at times, but this gadget adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment to navigating levels.

LittleBigPlanet 2 expands the original’s platforming roots by introducing a number of levels involving arcade style shooting and vehicle navigation: one standout scenario has you piloting a nanomachine through a character’s blood stream to defeat an infection, while another tasks you with riding a caterpillar along some trees. While these novel diversions don’t always mesh with LittleBigPlanet 2’s core platforming merits, they do help to introduce some diversity to the proceedings.

Comprising of 30 levels including bonus mini challenges that clock in at around five hours, it’s a shame that the story is so disappointingly brief, as there are some genuinely fun, clever and invoking levels on display. As with the original game however, it mainly serves as an appetising template for the ever-expansive Create mode, which provide the very same tools that the developers used to construct the Story.

While these tools previously felt finicky and unnecessarily complicated, LittlebigPlanet 2’s are notably more streamlined thanks to the addition of some time-saving tools. Chief among which is the Controlinator, allowing you to assign button inputs to any item you desire – it’s a technique that is especially useful when creating racing games for example, compared to wiring the components manually like before.

Sackbots add another new element, as it is now possible to program enemy AI and set their patrolling patterns. I can’t help but feel that this aspect feels rudimentary at this stage however  – enemies waddle along robotically without a shred of personality and are limited to following linear paths that seldom follow Sackboy.

Other notable assets include the Grabinator and Creatinator, which allow you to pick up or fire large objects from a head-mounted gun respectively. Then there’s the advent of Microchips, a useful device that can connect switches together whilst saving space on an object.

I’ve barely scratched the surface to be honest: in addition, it is now possible to import PS Eye photos, direct cut scenes, record voice acting, design custom menus and HUDs and compose music, to name a few. If that all sounds overwhelming, fear not: the insightful Stephen Fry is once again on hand to deliver a set of warmly narrated tutorials covering each aspect profusely. The scope for creativity is staggering, and there’s now an emphasis on creating whole games rather than throwaway levels as you can now string custom levels together.

So far I haven’t been able to muster anything particularly extravagant, mainly due to laziness and lack of imagination, but it’s fair to say that if you invest copious amounts of time then you will certainly reap the rewards, and even newcomers shouldn’t feel too disheartened due to the simplified system. It is, after all, the active community that has kept LittleBigPlanet alive, a fact that holds very true for the sequel.

If the infamous giant calculator contraption from the first game bewildered you, then the mindfield that is the online community of LittleBigPlanet 2 will absolutely astound you. Think of the most ludicrously ambitious idea and it will in all probability be worryingly possible to vitalise in LittleBigPlanet 2.

The eccentric community has already managed to compile over three million levels (plus the 5m-strong back catalogue from the first game which is compatible too), but it’s the creations that mimic existing games that seem to be the biggest crowd pleasers, with standout achievements including eerily accurate renditions of the original NES Legend of Zelda, the PS1 classic Mico Machines and the therapeutic PSN title Flow doing the rounds on the leaderboards.

New search criteria filters such as Media Molecule’s very own handpicks also make it easier to find high quality levels with ease – you can spend literally hours just marvelling over LittleBigPlanet 2’s comprehensive library of gems.

And therein lies the beauty of the series: whether you want to be a bedroom-bound designer slaving away for hours on end, delve into the millions of online user-created levels or simply concentrate on retrieving every last unlockable in the Story mode, LittleBigPlanet 2 caters for everyone. Considering how far the community has come already, it will be very interesting to see what will be lurking in LittleBigPlanet 2‘s toy box in a year’s time.

Rating Category
9.0 Presentation
There's still no other game like it visually: LittlebigPlanet 2's vivid visuals are detailed and oh so charming.
How does our scoring system work?
9.0 Gameplay
The platforming is still as solid and fun as ever, and the ambitious forays into other genres showcase LittleBigPlanet 2's sublime depth. Creating is advanced yet streamlined for less confident players.
9.0 Sound
Any game with Stephen Fry as a narrator is an instant win. The soundtrack is also loaded with infectious tunes that compliment the game's wacky design.
9.5 Longevity
With collectibles to find in the Story, a deep level designer and a vast array of user generated content, there is no questioning LittlebigPlanet 2's lastability.
9.0 Overall
Littlebigplanet 2 is a triumph in user generated content that expands the original in ways previously thought to be impossible.

  1. What I like about LBP2 is that even though it greatly expands it user generated content, it stands up much more on single player alone. Great writeup!

    • Yeah absolutely, I really enjoyed the Story this time if you couldn’t tell! Shame it was so shortlived, but then the game still wasn’t really made for that.

  2. avatar A.W.

    eh, the big thing that kills it, is it always feels so pointless. I might try to create something that will create some umph.

    the craftworld aesthetic is sometimes charming,but it drains purpose out of it, because its hard to pretend its something real.

  3. Martin, your link to the Flow level brings me to a Jack Black article from 2009. :P

    Besides that, thanks for the weekly recap, Martin!

    Wait, that’s not right…

  4. avatar here

    Little big game.

  5. avatar Tiago

    BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE GOTY EDITION Play, Create, Share that’s the LBP motto and, unlike most matnkrieg empty slogans, Little Big Planet is more than up to the promise. The Game of the Year edition includes all the paid content made available online since the initial release and more see below: – 18 user-created levels developed especially for the GOTY, good but not always up to the polish level of the professional levels – 3 sticker packs some paid for these to download, include here – 16 new costumes see above – the complete Metal Gear Solid set of levels that includes trophy levels and never-seen-before weapons such as the Paintinator – the key to access the online beta of ModNation Racers (after December 3, I believe) All of this on top of what turned out to be an already incredible game that stimulates creativity, cooperation, curiosity and celebrates the players themselves, proud creators of over one million levels, published and accessible by all. I don’t play the game so much but, when it comes to the kids, this is by far their number one game and they have quite a few to choose from already. They are proud of their creations and they seem to have what seems to be endless fun playing other people’s levels online. REVIEW Since this is about the GOTY, I will not write a full review of the game itself. I understand that many are new to the Little Big Planet universe but, it turns out, great reviews of the original game have been written by others so simply click on LittleBigPlanet to get an idea of what the game is about. Suffice it to say here that LPB takes advantage of just about every feature and peripheral that the PS3 has or supports and its online interaction is simply unparalleled. For example, you can go to a friend’s profile and not only play his or her levels but see what other players levels your buddy liked and get to try those out. Or, you can create some awesome weapons. You can include that weapon inside the prize bubble of a level you create and whomever plays your level can earn the object that you created and use it somewhere else the fun is endless. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE Play, Create, Share and, in our case, a lot more. I am not only a (casual) LBP player but also a parent and, to my delight and unlike what some’ claim, this game has, in fact, made better, smarter kids. And I’m talking about my two boys. They took the create’ part quite seriously and, after staging duels with custom-made awesome weapons, they began working on their own levels and, to my surprise, they actually asked me to help them learn computer programming which we are doing now. And their grades have actually improved the reason they are getting the GOTY is because they’ve done well in school so far this year. EVALUATION AND RATING If the regular’ edition was a 5-star in my book, then add 50% to the initial evaluation. It’s a definite must have’. For anyone who doesn’t own the original LBP, the GOTY is without a doubt the way to go. For owners of the original edition I don’t know if everybody does this but we were able to sell our used’ (it was in mint condition, actually) copy of LBP for about half of the original price and we used the earnings to partially finance the purchase of the GOTY.

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