LittleBigPlanet 2 PS3
While this will admittedly come across as rampant hyperbole, LittleBigPlanet 2 could well be the finest platformer available for the PS3; a game of such breadth, charm, invention and delight it surpasses its predecessor with such ease that it makes knocking a point off for sheer overt braggadocio all the more tempting.
Beneath aesthetic improvements lies a much more varied game than its predecessor, substituting the repetitive platforming sections of old for something more audacious. Rarely does the game sit still; at any point you could be scaling a wall on the back of a caterpillar, aiding a platoon of sackbots as they raid an enemy fortress, hurling jam at a giant on the top of a speeding train, playing bumblebee-based shoot-‘em-up pastiches or shooting winged creatures on an epic on-rails camel sequence. It never stops giving; masterfully taking a multitude of genres and gameplay styles and weaving them into an ouevre entirely its own.
As of February 2011 over three million community created levels have been made available to download. As a loving tribute to the art of self-expression, 2008’s LittleBigPlanet was nothing short of a phenomenon, allowing players to utilise an intuitive but powerful set of tools capable of bringing the creations of gamers – however daft or lunatic of origin – to life. User levels may be rife with inconsistencies, for every immaculate construction saw dozens of poorly conceived Super Mario Bros. tributes. But regardless of quality, each level is built out of a love of gaming, the desire to see a project through and the willingness to express oneself through an interactive medium.
It’s true that, cynically, one could argue that the established mode of digital distribution set up for LittleBigPlanet makes the concept of a traditional sequel superfluous. If new mechanics such as the ‘Paintinator’ from the Metal Gear Solid pack could be easily introduced then why must a LittleBigplanet 2 exist? Did Sony fear the stagnation of the franchise?
The simple answer is this: it’s so we get to play more levels by the developers themselves. The single player frequently threatens to steal the show, encompassing more ideas, jokes and memorable characters than the first game ever managed. We also get to hear more of Stephen Fry’s narration. This is no bad thing.
Amidst new challenges come new gameplay mechanics; the grapple hook in particular being a fantastic early addition, serving as a means of salvaging a mistimed leap and forcing the player to master momentum to reach otherwise unobtainable prize bubbles. Each new mechanic serves two vital functions: exploration and puzzle solving. A lot of thought went into the implementation of these new devices, and it clearly shows.
They all serve to tease what’s on offer in the upgraded Create mode, with every conjured set-piece designed to influence the player’s own creative drive. As such, Media Molecule have put plenty of work into making Create mode more approachable. Every tutorial is now available from the hub screen, which also keeps track of those yet to be attempted. This serves as an effective mentoring scheme to aid new players, or those no longer accustomed to the basics. Perseverance is paramount, and the tools Media Molecule left behind are more than enough to produce something truly impressive.
And it’s an even more challenging beast. With new mechanics comes new level-building strategies. Players will want to learn how to incorporate the new techniques into new projects or even to improve their LittleBigPlanet levels by way of allowing players to import their old profiles, keeping every level, DLC pack, sticker, object and photo intact – a phenomenal design decision.
There’s a wealth of options here rarely seen in a console game, literally hours could be spent waxing lyrical over the intricacies of the new system. The largest and most significant new feature is the Controlinator, allowing players to create an object and turn it into vehicles capable of flying, walking or equipping them with weapons, the controls of which can be mapped to the face buttons of the PS3 controller. As such, they much-touted shoot ‘em up stages are now easier to execute than ever before. Media Molecule clearly pay attention to their community, making the complex machinations of devoted players easier to build for the layman.
Other excellent features include the ability to string levels together seamlessly, creating dense levels loaded with variety. The Creatinator gives the player the ability to utilise a multitude of projectile weaponry; water projectiles in particular can extinguish flames, creating an effective gameplay solution to the most trigger-happy of gamers. Thirdly, Sackbots can offer a co-operative element even whilst playing alone, resulting in levels which can reward teamwork and add depth to puzzles. This is a mere snippet of what’s on offer and a testament to the sheer scope of the game. The only thing limiting the player is their imagination, proving that even aeons-old clichés can still be true.
There are definitely missteps. For all of the new additions, LittleBigPlanet 2 remains a game built upon uneven foundations. The story is mostly throwaway, whilst imposing a rigid structure upon the single player mode. The ability to tackle levels in any order – minus unlockables and end of level bosses – would have made a great addition. Worse still, collision detection can be a little off and the often maligned control scheme remains untouched, occasionally presenting death-defying leaps that the sticky jumping controls cannot justify. Their presence is now less common, but the sense that Media Molecule are masking flaws rather than correcting them lingers unfavourably in the air.
Familiarity has diminished some of the awe, but LittleBigPlanet 2 remains a fantastic game. The games I love constantly have something new to offer and refuse to repeat challenges without offering a different twist or new approach. Games like Bayonetta andResident Evil 4 do this gloriously. Whilst LittleBigPlanet 2 doesn’t quite ascend to such heights, that fact does not make the game any less brilliant.