When I saw my first glimpse of LittleBigPlanet back in 2007, I knew that Media Molecule had something special on their hands. The concept was arguably the most original thing I had seen in many, many years. Even though I received a ton of ridicule from many of my gaming-friends, I held firmly onto my opinion; LBP was going to be something special and would change the way that many people look at games. Sure enough, once the game finally saw a release, all of my reservations about the game proved to be true. LittleBigPlanet was a certified hit and it did in fact change the way a lot of people look at games. The first game gave its players a chance to do more than just “play” a game; once people get comfortable with the interface and tools involved, the possibilities would be endless. LBP players ended up doing more with the original game than anyone expected them too... and now that Media Molecule and Sony have released a new package with even more powerful tools (both in description of ability and quantity), I have a feeling that things are going to see it taken to levels beyond all of our imaginations.
I will be honest with you, I don’t even know where to start when it comes to reviewing a game like LittleBigPlanet 2. On one hand, you can approach it like a straight forward game but I fear that judging it solely as a gaming experience cuts both the game and potential players short of the title’s true potential. On the other hand, I could look at it solely as a set of tools but the truth is that not everyone will get into and use the create features. I think that you have to look at LBP2 from all angles and judge at on its package as a whole; you have to take everything into account and consider it a package deal. Under normal circumstances, I don’t feel that you should judge something based solely on its potential, but in the case of LittleBigPlanet 2, you really don’t have any other choice.
There is a “story” mode, or campaign, of sorts in LittleBigPlanet 2, but you should know going in that this mode isn’t the focus of the game and you shouldn’t judge it solely on its contents. Just because it isn’t the primary mode of the game doesn’t mean that its not important or enjoyable. In LBP2, Sackboy is being recruited by an organized group of heroes that call themselves the Alliance. This group, led by Larry Da Vinci, is a rebel group organized for the purpose of taking down the evil Negativitron which is wreaking havoc across the world. Da Vinci and the other high-ranking members of the faction will run you (Sackboy) through a series of levels meant to put you to the test and see if you are up to the challenge. Before it is all said and done, you and the Alliance will face off against the Negativitron and hopefully take it down.
The levels of the campaign serve a purpose above and beyond entertaining you with a tale. All of the levels are meant to introduce you to the concept of the game world, it’s objects, give you a chance to stock your tool kit with items and stickers, as well as give you ideas for crafting your own creations. Each level is set up with a theme of sorts. One may focus on appropriate use of the grappling hook tool while another may focus solely on different environmental dangers or perhaps the physics of the game’s bounce pads. It is all meant to be a learning experience. The gameplay changes quite a bit through the course of the adventure as things don’t focus solely on platforming as the series has done in the past. Since the game allows you to create more than just platforming levels and games now, Media Molecule makes sure that you get a taste of more than just platforming in the adventure. You will still spend quite a bit of time running and jumping through the environment but players will also experience some racing / driving style courses and even a couple of well-designed shooter style stages involving a bumble bee. As I said before, this is all intended to provide you with inspiration for your own designs in the game’s create mode. Everything that you experience in the game has been created using the game’s tools; keep that in mind if you play through the game.
Just like the original game, the stages are littered with a variety of prize bubbles which, when collected, add additional resources to your toolkit to use in the creation mode(s). Additional prizes are awarded for such things as completing the stage(s) without losing lives, collecting all of the prize bubbles within a stage, and occasionally for setting a high score on the leaderboards. Collecting all of the prize bubbles isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds; many areas of the various stages require more than one player just to even reach them (physically). The game encourages you to bring friends along with you for the ride or perhaps join in with other players all across the world whenever you play. Multiplayer is seamlessly integrated into the game and you can join in with other gamers at the beginning of every stage and you can have anyone join you at any time. Media Molecule wants gamers to play together and they make it easy for us to do so. Joining or allowing someone to join your game is purely optional; you don’t have to do it but it is great fun and extremely easy to do.
A new addition to LBP2 is the concept of collector’s pins. The game gives you an opportunity to collect hundreds of collector’s pins that you can use to decorate your profile and show off you accomplishments in the game. Pins are awarded for a wide variety of reasons; it seems as though you are always unlocking another pin. Pins are awarded for playing at certain times of the day, consecutive days of the week, completing levels, and spending different amounts of time in the game’s various modes. The pins are a nice feature that seem to give another reason to always go back for just a little more.
If you are going to judge the game solely on the story mode content, you will be greatly disappointed. The heart and soul of any LittleBigPlanet game is the create mode. In the previous installments, the game(s) has allowed players to created their own platform levels but this installment takes things to whole new level by allowing you to create more than just single-platforming levels but entire games from varying genres. Granted, it does take quite a bit of work to create something solid, but the tools are there and very easy to understand. The game has an extensive library of tutorials which go into detail about all of the various creation mechanics which should teach you the ropes. The bulk of your learning is going to come from practice though and learning from friends by creating cooperatively. It will benefit you to run through them all though as each lesson awards you with items for your creation toolkit.
The create mode of LBP2 is an incredibly elaborate toolkit that will reward players who take the time to explore and learn all of its ins and outs. The possibilities provided by these tools seems endless. The game allows you to make whatever your heart desires. There are simple tools included that will allow you to create and produce your own machinima / cut-scenes, puzzles games, racing games, shooters, RPG’s... you name it. The only limit that seems to exist is your own imagination. Creation takes time and dedication but it is all worth it when you release the result of your hard work and dedication to the public. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment in seeing something that you created, from start to finish, acknowledged by even one other person in the world. You can’t put a value on the feeling or quantify it in any sense. It is that aspect that makes this such a hard game to label with a “score” in terms of a review.
Thankfully, all of the time and labor that you put into the first game won’t go to waste with LBP2. The game allows you to import your save from the original game into the new one, bringing with it all of your customization options (of your hub) and anything you have unlocked during the campaign of the first game. All of the stickers and objects that you worked so hard to get the first time around is still there for you to play. The same thing can be done with any and all work you may have done with the first game; the millions (literally) of levels created with the first game are still there for you to play. The process of importing your original save data is supposed to be seamless and simple but my personal experience was anything but. The game failed to recognize my save when I first booted up the game, so I figured that I would just import it at a later time. I ended up putting a couple of hours into the story mode and unlocked quite a bit of stuff, only to have it all erased when I went back and imported my original save data. Take that as a word of warning, if you have a save from the original game, make sure that you import it before you start unlocking stuff in the new game. Thankfully, I enjoyed the story mode levels enough that playing through them again wasn’t bothersome, especially when I started allowing other players to join into my game.
All of these modes tie into one thing which seems to be the underlying theme of the series: community. It seems that you get the most out of the game by getting involved with the community that has evolved as a result of Media Molecule’s creation. The developer is attempting to take it to the next level with not only in-game tools but also a variety of web tools and resources that will keep you in contact with the ever-growing community wherever you go. There are two major “resources” that have been created to help keep you in contact, the official LBP wiki and LBP.me. The wiki, which can be found at http://www.lbpcentral.com/wiki, is a good resource for learning the ins and outs of the game above and beyond what is taught in the game’s tutorials. The content of the site, just with any wiki, is provided by the members of the community in addition to the crew at MM. The site has become the ultimate resource for learning about the game from every aspect imaginable.
The other site, LBP.me
, is a website that keeps you linked to the LBP community at all times. Once you log onto the site and link your PlayStation ID, you can track the statistics related to your own creation as well as browse and queue up creations from other community member. Thanks to these tools, you are linked to the community even when your console isn’t turned on. The community features within the game have been streamlined as a whole. It is much easier to publish and share your content with the world thanks to simple menus and options. The rating system used for shared content has also been simplified, relying on just a happy or sad face this time around and allowing you to tag community submissions with preset words and descriptions. As easy as it is to browse and access the community submissions, it will take you some time to get into them. Due to robust options available to creators this time around, the community levels are often much larger in file size and the resulting load times can be quite lengthy. Don’t expect to be bouncing in and out of community levels quickly as it will take some time but it only takes one incredible creation to make it all worth the wait.
Millions of people will and have played LittleBigPlanet 2 and they each have had a different experience. Some people have found it to be a lackluster platforming game that is too complicated for its own good and others have found the one game that they can (and will) leave in their system for the rest of their console’s lifespan. Those two experiences, and the millions of shades of gray in between that correlate with the other experience(s) people will describe make it impossible to judge the game for someone else. In my experience, the game is worth every bit of praise it has received. There is a charm to the LBP world’s simplicity that is hard to put into world; it is impossible not to smile when you see a group of Sackboys knocking each other around on even the simplest of stages. If you are willing to put in the work, LBP2 will pay you back in spades with nearly unlimited replay value and a steady stream of fresh content that stems from both community and developer support. I don’t think you can go wrong with the world of LittleBigPlanet 2.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is an incredible package assuming you know what you are getting into. This is a game where you are going to get more out of by putting more into. If you are going to put the work into it though, you won’t regret it as the possibilities are endless. If you have even the smallest creative bone in your body, you should definitely give this game a try.