LittleBigPlanet 2, much like its predecessor, takes a democratic approach to game design; power to the people with the belief that they will use this power to shape the world around them. For better or for worse, LittleBigPlanet 2 works a bit too much like democracy in the real world, and the power inevitably ends up in the hands of a select few. This makes LBP2 a hard game to review, because different perspectives have to be factored in. If you fall among the multitudes that will play out the single player campaign and dabble in a few user-created levels before calling it quits, LBP2 may not feel like the step up you would expect from a sequel.
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The game looks almost exactly like its predecessor and you won’t make out the subtle improvements in graphics without obsessing over it. Even the controls have been carried over from the first game, which is a bit of a let down. It’s something you compensate for over time, but it’s hard to shake off a sense of heaviness in Sackboy’s movement and jumping, especially the latter. The seven-hour long campaign introduces the player to the alliance, led by a bunch of quirky creators, which battles against Negativitron, an all-consuming foe that is every bit as sinister as its name. The clever level design that is the hallmark of Media Molecule is back, ensuring that you’ll have a blast as you progress across the varied worlds of the campaign. The difficulty ramps up as you progress, but never to a level where it’s restrictive or frustrating. The campaign proudly shows off all the new additions to the game, such as the Sackbots, AI characters introduced in the Factory of a Better Tomorrow, and the wide range of controllable gadgets and vehicles in the futuristic Avalon. These do a great job of bringing about variety to the gameplay.
The recurring characteristic that brings everything together is the charm, which is literally bursting at the seams. It is literally impossible to play through the campaign without a smile on your face, and the smiles can turn into howls of laughter if you are playing with a buddy next to you. It is the simple pleasures of gaming that Media Molecule has mastered so expertly. The game even throws in player vs player levels through the campaign (with many more being created by the community as we speak). Online co-op, however, can be a little iffy, especially on single player levels, and it doesn’t take long for things to turn into outright anarchy.
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The game lacks immersion and depth of story-telling, something we have come to demand from the single-player components of games. In most games, that would a sure-shot deal breaker, but in LBP2, it does not matter, and that is where the other perspective kicks in. You see, the campaign of LBP2 does not need to be memorable because it serves no other purpose than to show off the world of possibilities that lies beyond it. Here lies the biggest progression across sequels. With a greatly expanded set of creation tool at your disposal, LBP2 is quite simply the best open-world game ever made, limited only by your creativity. It cuts across genres – platformers, RPG, shooter, racing games – you name it, and it’s possible in LBP2. Immersion, mood, and story-telling, all the hallmarks of a great single-player game, are left to the imaginations of those among us, who will utilise the game to its full potential.
The dedicated LBP community has lived up to the promise of the game. From the brooding moody environments of Omicron – Neon City (an RPG in the making) and Vile Anchorage, to the fantastic art-style of Black & White Planet 3, to the recreation of the classic Zelda games, and even a charming and challenging take on Nathan Drake’s adventures titled Unhearted: Drake’s Misfortune, the community will keep delighting us with levels and full blown games (made possible by level links and the ability to create fully-voiced cutscenes). That, in my opinion, is a far greater pull than the single player campaign. It’s easier played than done though, as the creation tools still come with a steep learning curve. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the comprehensive set of tutorial videos, and any budding creator will have to invest a considerable amount of time in learning the ropes.
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If you are willing to do so, however, LBP2 strives to make your imagination come to life in every way. Let’s take the example of the aforementioned Sackbots. Should you choose to have them in your level/game, everything from the way they look to the way they interact with the player (follow you, flee at the sight of you, or patrol a given area) and the manner in which they fit in with the level (whether they can jump, or are afraid of heights/dangers and even if they use the objects that you place in the level) can be adjusted to your liking. Go deeper and you can record a specific behaviour by performing it and program the Sackbot to do the same. This, combined with the likes of the creatinator (for shooting projectiles) and projectile sensors, and the controlinator (for designing the manner in which players will control the objects such as vehicles), ensures that the game can breathe life into anything your imagination throws at it.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is the epitome of user-generated content done right. It doesn’t try to immerse you into an intense world, or hook you with an especially deep story. It doesn’t try to revolutionize gameplay and controls, or do anything particularly innovative. Rather, it does something which is a lot simpler, yet rarely explored. It gives you a world where your dreams come true.