Little Big Planet 2

These days it takes something special to make a game unique. There are so many games that are similar to others in many ways that it seems like originality doesn’t always enter into the mind of developers when they put games together. With so many carbon copies flooding the market, true originality is becoming more and more rare.

That counts for games that fall into defined genres, but do things differently too. Take Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet as an example. It fell into a defined genre: it was a platform game. But the approach that the developers took was unique, putting the title into a world fuelled by imagination, and populated by a lovable character called Sackboy. In fact, the whole imagination-thing within the game came with an almost child-like innocence. The levels were built out of every day materials – like cardboard, wood and sponge – and made to look like other things with decorations that spoke more of the mind of an innocent than a hardened gamer. The end result was absolutely captivating.

Media Molecule went further along the originality stakes, by adding a rather complex physics system to the game. With this system, things reacted the way one would expect. Metal was heavy. Sponge floated in water. Cloth surfaces could be grabbed. Then, just to add a hefty dose of icing to an already alluring cake, they went and included a rather good level editor, allowing players around the globe to create and upload levels for others to enjoy. The resulting community was massive, and strong.

It’s no wonder, then, that Little Big Planet got a sequel. That, of course, knocks the originality of the franchise a little bit; as soon as single titles become franchises, originality takes a back seat, out of necessity. But it doesn’t take away from the novel approach and overall imagination that is present in these games. Little Big Planet 2 is pretty much more of the same thing. The single player game is comprised of numerous themed levels that the player needs to traverse, unlocking new items to use in decorating and level building later.

The levels have sections that need to be completed cooperatively, and each one has a high replay value, thanks to unlockable sections that can only be accessed by placing the right sticker in the right place (and the right sticker is often only found in later levels.) If you enjoyed the game dynamic of the first game, you will likely enjoy this one… but don’t expect a hell of a lot of new stuff.

There are new things to the single player game, though; first off, it has a story now, rather than just being a bunch of imaginative levels. The camera does a lot more, too, showing the player more dramatic angles at times. And there are also new tools and toys to be used.

In addition, sections of the game take on an entirely different feel, sometimes becoming a top-down shooter, or a side scrolling shooter. There are even “mini-game” levels that allow the player a one-life shot at getting a high score in a variety of different challenges, ranging from races to puzzles. So, as much as it is more of the same, there is a certain freshness to the single player experience. But where LittleBigPlanet 2 truly shines is in the level creator. And so it should. The longevity of this game – and its predecessor – is based on user-generated content. If it wasn’t for the community keeping the game alive with new content, created by users around the world, it would be a very short lived game indeed.

However, the level editor in the first title had a few issues. We’re not talking about unoriginal levels… those are the fault of the people creating them. What we mean is that there were certain tools that were difficult to work with, and certain things that just couldn’t be achieved at all in the previous level editor.

Media Molecule have addressed that in this new game. The level editor is much more powerful this time around, with many more tools allowing the player to make a massive variety of different levels. Old tools have been tweaked as well, with added functionality and control over the tools meaning better control and precision over the levels created.

There are new materials to be unlocked, of course, and many new objects. Additionally, materials and objects unlocked in the previous game can be used in this new version. This places even more variety at the player’s disposal. Additionally (and something which people who have tried their hand at building levels will be thankful for) the limit on level sizes and objects has been increased quite dramatically. Also, creators can now link levels together, resulting in longer challenges for those who download their work. All of the features – which include the player being able to build effective AI characters – are extensively covered in a series of tutorials. For a refresher, the player can even run specific tutorials, related to the tools they want to use, right out of the tool menu.

Imagination is key here, and creating levels or downloading the creations of others is fun. But that’s the real crux. If you’re going to draw the most out of Little Big Planet 2, you’re going to want to either build levels, or download the levels that others make to play. Playing this as a single player game only, or even as a co-op with friends, won’t give the player the full experience. More so than ever, Little Big Planet 2 is about the community that supports the game, and not so much about the game itself.

This is evident in the fact that the single player game is shorter than before – this time around, the player will breeze through the game in a day or two, excluding replays to go and unlock all those extra unlockables. And the only real reason to do that is… you guessed it, building.

Unless you’re planning to take your experiences online – whether it’s to play the campaign, the versus levels and the co-op sections, or to create and download stuff to and from the community, your enjoyment of Little Big Planet 2 may be short lived… intense, but short-lived. The real joy (at least, in my opinion) is constructing nefarious levels to challenge and excite others. This is a very rewarding experience (particularly when everything works just right).

No matter how you choose to enjoy Sackboy’s new adventures, they are fun. Don’t let anyone dissuade you by saying “it’s the same as the last one.” This new title is as deep, engrossing and enjoyable as the first outing of the franchise, if not more so.

At A Glance:

Little Big Planet 2 is the same as the original, but much better…especially for level-building.

Developer: Media Molecule

Publisher: SCEE

Distributor: Ster Kinekor

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