February 4, 2011

Review – LittleBigPlanet 2

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 9:09 am

LittlebigPlanet 2
With the release of LittleBigPlanet 2, one might fairly ask precisely why a sequel was necessary—considering that the selling point of the original game was an infinitely expanding game world of community created maps and game-types. It delivered, with inventive creators forging a massive library of fantastic games. The sequel, however, builds impressively on the possibilities of the original entry, and brings critical new tools that expand what’s possible, with palpable results.

One could probably argue that the raw, base amusement of the campaign is designed primarily to tease players with what those game assets can be leveraged to create. However, there’s an element of charm and adventure that elevates what could have simply been a tech demo to perhaps the ultimate example of the party game. In that respect, the ideal environment is to play with friends in the same room, though online co-op is also a workable solution. Playing alone, however, noticeably diminishes the experience—it’s always more fun to laugh out loud in a group than it is sitting alone in your basement.

LittlebigPlanet 2
Out of the box, LBP 2 offers a vastly expanded array of gameplay options, nuances, and experiences, ranging from the standard platforming adventure to eight-bit space-shooters and pong imitations. The result is that, far more than the original, the campaign provides an exciting variety and pace that feels like more than a string of simple platforming levels.

New abilities—like the grappling hook, or gauntlets that allow players to throw objects (and even each other)—deliver not only variety, but add a previously absent twist to gameplay; they allow players to puzzle out solutions to problems in a more free-form manner. Players can now create dynamic strategies, building towers of cake to reach items, hurling their allies at enemy weak-points, and creating player-linked grappling chains to whip themselves to new areas.

With all the new tools the campaign slings out, it’s easy to get carried away and forget about the game objective entirely. When my group was supplied with the preposterous cake cannon, that was more or less the end of coherent, goal-oriented play. Instead, we became a mass of sack-idiots, frantically firing cake everywhere and anywhere, even when simply running to the next location. Pointless as these moments were, they were some of the most entertaining and memorable of the experience.

Controls are still loose; sackpeople have floaty jumps and can sometimes bound unpredictably between planes, occasionally creating confusion—especially when other players are on screen. Equally, multiple sackpeople attempting to interact with puzzles or platforming elements can complicate matters, but this usually feels like part of the chaotic charm of the game; it’s hard not to laugh when a sackperson is accidentally dragged to his death by the misfired grapple of his ally, or when one sackperson is inadvertently hurled at the boss by another.

LittlebigPlanet 2The campaign secrets away a wealth of items and prizes (primarily for use with the creation tools), but also a selection of hidden versus levels. These brief mini-games are a blast to play, and going toe-to-toe with other, emotive sackpeople is an important part of the appeal; defeating an enemy and watching him flail his arms in frustration offers a distinct kind of satisfaction. The keys to these levels—along with the other items—are often held in hidden locations within the maps, and since it’s nigh-impossible to acquire everything on a single playthrough, they add an element of replayability to the campaign.

The meat of LittleBigPlanet, though, is still the creation tools. Whether these tools are used merely to make pods and sack people look absurd (this is my personal strategy), or to unleash terrifying custom games, the options are numerous and powerful.

For example, AI characters can now be created with complex behaviors, useful as actors or even to torment players by launching cakes at them. Combined with new camera tools, cutscenes much like those found in the campaign can be crafted for inclusion in custom scenarios. Also notable is that stages can now be linked together to form longer, more involved games.

The rule from the first LittleBigPlanet holds here, which is that anything Media Molecule does, the player can do. The possibilities are vast, and almost immediately overwhelming—thus, there is a comprehensive suite of tutorials explaining the entire toolset. The result is that the tools are relatively easy to learn and use, however the limitations of the controller mean that precision can be tricky; players may wish they could use a mouse for more careful details.

LittlebigPlanet 2
Although taking the effort to learn this admittedly complex science will not interest many players, the wealth of community creations made possible by this expansive system is the lifeblood of the game, especially after completion of the relatively brief campaign. As a bonus, everything featured in LittleBigPlanet is fully compatible with LittleBigPlanet 2, resulting in a community library filled with literally millions of creations right out of the box. Such value is unprecedented in the current market.

The community tools are robust; community-created content can be sought out, searched, and organized in a variety of ways, and this is useful for avoiding duds. It’s a simple matter to find the coolest, most interesting games the community has created, and then provide your own opinion for the benefit of some other wanderer. Media Molecule also picks out favourites to guide players on their way.

A nice touch is that a player’s customized Earth—which hangs outside the pod window, waiting to be stickered, decorated, and reformatted with new materials—is seen by anyone browsing that player’s created content. It’s a simple thing, but it provides a window to the personality of these creators, increasing the sense of community so that one is not merely downloading a level from some anonymous gamer across the globe.

LittlebigPlanet 2
Ultimately, what Media Molecule seems to channel is an ability to leverage every element of the experience toward making the player smile. Whether it’s the emoting sackperson, the charming characters, or even the way cake bursts into hilarious pastry sludge, there’s nothing in the product that isn’t fun to watch, listen to, or interact with. From this accomplishment, the eclectic design achieves a purity and unity that defies the apparent randomness of the elements; that is to say, though it may seem that Media Molecule has simply thrown in everything (and the kitchen sink) with reckless abandon, every nuance has been crafted with a care and consistency that makes it inevitably and unmistakably LittleBigPlanet.

The universe presented to the player is unique among many games in that the enjoyment received is equal only to the amount of effort invested. This is not a game where one can expect that everything the game offers will be funneled into a linear campaign experience, brought directly to the player. Instead, the ready-made offerings are but a sampler, with the true meat of the experience awaiting the player who digs into the community and creation tools, employing those resources for maximum gain. The greatest experiences LittleBigPlanet 2 offers depend on how much of yourself is put into it.

Media Molecule

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation 3

Singleplayer, Multiplayer, Co-op

Release Date
January 18, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. I couldn’t get into the first one but the improvements made here could make me buy it later in the year once price goes down and more levels are available for download. With all the tools available for gamers the depth of the levels created is just astonishing.

    Comment by EdEN — February 6, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

  2. Yeah, I didn’t like the first one at all… just seemed like a cheesy collectathon platformer with floaty controls. However I didn’t have any friends over to play it with… so maybe you’re right about being a better experience with others… but still not sure I’d overlook the controls. I’d grab LBP2 for $10 in a bargain bin I suppose… but no interest otherwise.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — February 7, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

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