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LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3) review

"Todayís play session lasted several hours, but I could have just as easily have devoted weeks to the same endeavor. There are literally thousands of options left for me to explore. Iím not sure that I would have believed just how much there is to the LittleBigPlanet 2 community if I hadnít had the chance to experience it for myself. The people at Media Molecule and Sony have the right to be proud of what they have accomplished, and so do the creative gamers who have become a part of it."

I spent several of the last 24 hours playing games developed by people who I imagine are much like me. My choice of games included one called Dragon Slayer, which currently consists of around six side-scrolling stages set in a lush fantasy world. Then there was a Donkey Kong clone that allowed me to climb up a series ladders while dodging barrels, almost exactly like I would if I were playing Nintendoís classic title in the arcade (though I donít remember the flashing white girders, and none of the barrels ever rolled down any of the ladders that I chose to climb). More impressive still was the completely functional reproduction of the first dungeon in the NES classic, The Legend of Zelda. The person who developed the new version even included a sub-menu so that I could equip bombs and blast my way through a wall to find a shortcut. I eventually ditched the bombs for a boomerang.

During those same few hours, I also played a Micro Machines clone and then another game that more closely resembled Super Sprint. Yet another game that I tried fell within the tower defense genre. I was able to purchase flame throwers, lasers and standard gun turrets to prevent several groups of enemies from reaching my secret base. That experience kept me amused for around 15 minutes and (unfortunately) ended well before it ever had the chance to get old, so I found myself searching again for other worthwhile diversions. Finding them didnít prove difficult. Options included a dual-stick shooting game that allowed myself and three other players to battle asteroids while competing to blast apart their precious cores, plus I enjoyed another sci-fi title that had me racing along a vertical corridor, dodging left and right to avoid walls while collecting emblems that added to my score.

Some of the games that I experienced were ambitious and well-executed. Others were obvious copies of something better and I wouldnít care to play them again anytime soon, despite the slight temptation to try for a higher ranking on the attached leaderboards. Whether I liked a given title or not, though, I always came away impressed. Each and every one was developed by someone like me (or if not by one person, then by a small team of like-minded individuals). Playing those stages reminded me of the feeling I get when I find myself staring at a blank sheet of paper in a typewriter, about to start writing a novel and realizing that nearly anything I might want to do, I can do because all of the right tools are at my fingertips. No game has ever made me feel that way in the past. Not a single one has been quite like LittleBigPlanet 2.

Todayís play session lasted several hours, but I could have just as easily have devoted weeks to the same endeavor. There are literally thousands of options left for me to explore. Iím not sure that I would have believed just how much there is to the LittleBigPlanet 2 community if I hadnít had the chance to experience it for myself. The people at Media Molecule and Sony have the right to be proud of what they have accomplished, and so do the creative gamers who have become a part of it.

Exhilarated by my experience with the game up to that point (which by then also included around eight hours spent playing the single-player campaign, which Iíll discuss in a moment), I decided to try my hand at creating my own content. As I started exploring that mode, I learned that I had nearly 50 tutorials left to view. I watched several more of them and they walked me through the art of placing objects, setting up dynamic camera angles and so forth. Subsequent tutorials discuss artificial intelligence routines, harmful objects and a bunch of other stuff that I didnít feel any particular inclination to watch. The projects that others built had shown me just how much the engine could do, after all. Clever though they were, the tutorials were getting in my way. I didnít have the hours that it would probably take to watch all of them (and to revisit those that didnít quite stick in my mind). Besides, the interface seemed simple enough.

ďI can do this without the stupid tutorials,Ē I told myself after that handful of tutorials, and so I tried.

Sackboy, the generic and irresistible protagonist, stood in an expansive arena environment. A press of the ĎSquareí button allowed me to dive into my toolbox menus and start tinkering with a few available functions, but an on-screen message advised me that a lot of resources werenít available to me just yet. The helpful pointer suggested that perhaps I should view some more tutorials. Clearly, the game didnít realize that Iím an artist. An artist!

I wish I could say now that I spent dozens more hours watching tutorials and tweaking my little fantasy world, massaging it until it gradually morphed from a lifeless gray arena into an incredible racing game or a robust tower defense experience or a thrilling shooter or even a light-hearted platformer that would give Sly Cooper a run for his money. I simply donít have the time to pour all of that effort into such a project, though, not now and perhaps not ever. In the immediate future, I can only experience what the game and its community have pre-packaged for me: a slew of intriguing mini-games designed by people with more time than I haveÖ and an interesting platformer experience to nicely round out the package.

To clear what I suppose you might call the ďmainĒ game (which likely accounts for the tiniest fraction of the time that you will spend with LittleBigPlanet 2), you must explore six unique regions. That will probably take you anywhere from seven to ten hours. Each region is divided into roughly seven stages--some optional and some not--that you explore in a linear fashion. Grabbing keys will unlock bonus stages that you can play against other players on the side, which leaves around five actual stages within one environment before you move onto another one. Progress is clearly marked by boss encounters and by dialogue from a variety of interesting characters. My favorite ally was a morose fellow with what looks like a desktop calendar for a face and a ridiculous mustache. Thereís no shortage of colorful friends to meet, though, and Sackboy himself is animated so well (and customized so easily, once you collect the numerous trinkets from each zone) that itís hard not to find oneself drawn into the absurd affair.

Levels show reasonable creativity, both because of the presentation (which is vibrant and lively on a high-definition television and accompanied by a rousing soundtrack that you can later use in your own creations, if you choose) and in the actual execution. Most of the early stages consist of fairly straight platforming sequences with some rudimentary puzzle solving mixed in for good measure, but later stages show more creativity as you are required to flip switches, spray heated platforms with water, grapple from hanging orbs to cross spike-lined pits and so forth. There even are shooter scenes, including one where you ride on the back of a hairy camel and pepper your enemies with laser shots. Riding giant rabbits as they glide through expansive corridors is also a riot.

I run out of accolades when the time comes to discuss the gameís general physics, however. Sackboy seems to float as much as he leaps, which can make it difficult to aim for solid ground when youíre hopping along a series of precarious ledges (as happens late in the game). The grappling that I mentioned also tends to be irritating, since itís often quite difficult to swing in the pendulumís arc that the protagonists in so many other games from the 8-bit era and beyond managed so effortlessly. There also are places where youíll need to jump between the foreground and background, which never really feels quite natural and sometimes can leave the player wondering how he might progress. That particular issue goes away once youíve cleared each stage, however.

If you like platformer titles, rest assured that you shouldnít have much trouble overcoming any of the gameís few weak points. Besides, the social opportunities make up for most of the inconvenience. When you begin each stage with an active Internet connection, itís easy to start playing with other folks who are also tackling that particular stage. You can join an existing party, or perhaps someone will check to see about joining yours. I donít have any friends nearby who I could talk into local multi-player, but I was able to play online with a number of different parties that sometimes consisted of as many as four players. Though the experience isnít always handled perfectly (you have to wait awhile to re-spawn if you die and the other players arenít near an on-screen checkpoint, plus there are instances where itís easy to get left behind and lose a precious life on some of the treacherous final stages), the process works reasonably well. The biggest drawback is that sometimes itís difficult to tell which character on screen is yours when things get especially hectic. I had great fun solving puzzles with other players, right up to the moment when we tried to conquer some of the last few stages together. The difficulty level undergoes a severe spike right at the end and that just didnít work for us at all.

Thanks to a robust community that likely isnít headed anywhere for a while, a deep game creation system and an engaging single-player campaign, LittleBigPlanet 2 represents one of the very best values available on any gaming platform. If youíre looking to spend $60 on a PlayStation 3 game anytime in the near future and youíre willing and able to take your console online, thereís perhaps no finer candidate.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 02, 2011)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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