LittleBigPlanet 2, from start to finish, is an absolute joy. Not that the finish is particularly well defined, of course, because anyone familiar with the first game (or indeed, the PSP iteration) will know all too well that more than half of the experience is the ability for the player to dump hours upon hours of time into the Create portion, long after you’ve beaten the story mode.
And the sequel, despite being mostly similar to Media Molecule’s initial PS3 release, goes above and beyond with regards to opening up the flexible engine to all manner of user-generated content.
You’ll know the basics, naturally, from the recent beta and demo, but the story mode goes well beyond your expectations within just a few levels, the much improved camera and lighting controls meaning that the game now plays host to ‘proper’ game-like cut-scenes and animation sequences that feature close-ups and snappy editing more akin to regular console titles. It’s actually startling what you (and the developers) can do with the Create mode now and although the current pick of downloadable levels concentrate on playable games (some of which are amazing already) there’s no reason at all why you couldn’t use LBP 2 for machinima of all descriptions.
But back to that story mode which is, thankfully, mostly wonderful. There might only be a smattering of chapters but each is nicely populated with their own levels (of varying sizes and complexity) and they’re as widely individual as the first game could offer. More so, perhaps, with the sequel – there’s some real highlights here and because there’s a concurrent plot running through the game it all seems to make a little more sense, especially as you’re now playing through levels that are linked together; the characterisation is top notch, the difficulty curve is nice and smooth and as a single player experience it would win the heart of any platformer fan without breaking a sweat even if some portions throw up the same kind of tricks as the first game did.
Naturally, though, Media Molecule haven’t just built in some new levels and called it a sequel – there’s some brand new gadgets (such as the grappling hook and the ability to grab objects and throw them around) and the introduction of Sackbots is a masterstroke that we’ll leave you to discover for yourselves. In addition, the slick way the game practically invites multiple players into the fray improves the whole thing even further – entering the action is simply a case of tapping the PS button on a spare controller and whilst there’s still a few sections that only open up with a friend it remains an unrivalled joy to play through LittleBigPlanet 2 with a buddy or two, the interaction between the Sackboys a delight (try attaching your hook to a friend as he attempts to leap over a chasm for an easy giggle).
As with LittleBigPlanet, you’ll collect items, stickers and materials as you progress, the game’s handy percentages next to each level on the world map a compulsive device to ensure that you won’t be leaving any fluffy bit of sponge unturned as you spend far longer than you’d ever think in each area desperately hunting out each and every last trinket. All of which will mean that your time in the Create mode is more richly rewarded – the more things you have to create your own concoctions with the better, although by the time you’re through the first themed world you’ll be more than ready to start dabbling with whatever you’ve got.
Your milage, as they say, will vary, but this time around Media Molecule have given you the tools to effectively create anything. Yes, you’ll need time, patience and a huge amount of imagination (unless you’re riffing on another existing game or movie, of course) but those of a creative persuation with adore what LittleBigPlanet 2 allows – it’s literally staggering what’s already out there in terms of content built just from the beta and once those players get their hands on the full version we can only guess at what’s going to be available online. Cleverly, LBP 2 lets you filter your searches for either or both games, so you can happily flog your first copy and just pick up this one without fear of losing the ability to get the best levels created in LittleBigPlanet.
There’s a bigger emphasis on the player himself, too, with a section dedicated to your online profile which includes a comments area and the ability to adorn your avatar with a small selection of badges, additional commendations achieved during the game that aren’t necessarily Trophies – they’re cool, and hopefully grabbing the most exclusive badges will be a substantial challenge to warrant their inclusion in the available slots. The idea’s been done before, but not with this amount of charm and interconnectivity – LBP 2′s online portion is considerably more substantial than we’d have imagined and – yes – finding the best levels is now much easier.
Visually it’s a little richer – whether Media Molecule have managed to wrangle more out of the PS3 or whether they’ve discovered new tricks isn’t really relevant, the game again looks wonderful throughout and although there’s a slightly fussy look to the game it’s all in keeping with the character – a few rough edges certainly don’t harm the overall sheen and although some levels don’t feel as perfectly crafted as others, they’re all great fun. The particle effects are beautiful, though, and the gloopy liquids are nice to play around in. Likewise, aurally it’s superb, with the return of Fry giving the voiceovers some gravitas which are nicely acted from all characters throughout and genuinely funny in places.
We’re impressed. LittleBigPlanet 2 might not be perfect (a few minor bugs surfaced in our build, those that the first game alienated won’t find anything to change their minds and some levels often feel like tutorials for those wanting to dive in and make their own) but it’s pretty much one of the best games this generation for PlayStation 3 owners even if by virtue of its ridiculously expansive Create mode. With that, the developers have built something that, once again, has shown everyone else how to make a videogame that shatters all boundaries and transcends anything else on the market for those willing to invest the time.
- Breathtaking user-creation tools
- Compelling, inventive story
- Multiplayer is wonderful
- Integrates nicely with your LBP content
- Controls are still a little tricky, Sackboy’s jump still occasionally frustrates
- Won’t entice anyone not a fan of the first
- Create mode still needs plenty of time to get the most out of it
Reviewing a game that will effectively evolve and grow with the user content (much as the first did) isn’t as tough as you might think – the game comes complete in terms of on-disk content and although the online creation aspect will flourish rapidly, it’ll only ever improve the experience. There’s a wealth of entertainment to be had with LittleBigPlanet 2 – it’s a game like no other and with no equal in terms of the flexibility it offers to gamers. It boils down to this: if you liked the first game and want more, get the second – it’s bigger and better in every way and absolutely deserves a place in your PS3.