After numerous updates and over three millions user created levels, Media Molecule
gave their “platform for platformers” a much-needed a shot in the arm. With a revamped community system, a new tool set and a host of other tweaks, they created something much larger than the original ever hinted at. The arrival of LittleBigPlanet 2
sparked the imagination in the way Facebook and YouTube once did. This is a social network for video games: a portal into games, interactive stories and films that are relatively easy to make and a pure joy to experience when crafted with diligence and vision.
As with the first title, Media Molecule created a short but excellent campaign that highlights what is possible within the game’s tool set. Which is to say, a lot. From side-scrolling shooter levels to puzzle mini-games, the new engine merits a retake on the original’s slogan. This is now a platform for games. Although the presentation, ideas and pacing of the campaign are top-notch, it lacks the challenge and cerebral puzzles that made the original’s campaign outshine most of the user-created content that followed. This is a much more deliberate display of the tool set, sometimes to a fault.
After a visually stunning opening cinematic and clever credits sequence (narrated by Stephen Fry
), it’s clear how much effort has been put into improving presentation, or, rather, the ability to. Sackbots (non-player controlled characters) can now populate the world and be controlled through a plethora of options by the level designer – the lifeless, awkward cardboard cut-outs that halted the story in the first game are no more. Additionally, lightning and camera control now lend designers the ability to make a spooky level (see: the awesome tribute level “Little Dead Space”) or a bright, gaudy music video. Most will be playing and building levels, but LittleBigPlanet 2
’s capability to produce compelling video content shouldn’t be overlooked. Visuals and animation on par with early-Pixar films can be created with ease. This is the way you want to give your next class presentation.
While the additions to the tool set opens the door to new possibilities (crude attempts at first person shooters and role-playing games), the game is still held back by many of its precursor’s limitations. Online play is practically unreliable; connecting with other players online leads to constant crashes, prolonged load times and disconnections. The first game’s physics and depth perception – every level has a back, middle and front path you can go between – remain cumbersome. It has been stated by the developer that it’s a necessary evil in order to keep the millions of levels created for the first game intact. However, players can tweak these things in their own creations if they are patient enough.
Initially, it’s hard to believe that laser-beam shooting camels and shooting giant cupcakes, from a gun attached to a helmet, at evil monster cupcakes in the campaign are only hint at what lies in store online. Media Molecule has overcome the first game’s biggest fault and has made organizing, recommending and reviewing user-created content a breeze. In addition, you can search for new content by trends and tags, while adding levels to your queue at the website LBP.me. With so many level designers getting jobs in the game industry for their beloved contributions to the first game, this is the perfect way to build a community to highlight the awesome, wacky and just plain weird (i.e., virtual Wynona Rider shrine).
After several years, LittleBigPlanet 2
is still filled with so much promise. Not many will commit to watching the 50 video tutorials and perfecting their craft with the given tool set, but for those that do the possibilities are almost endless.