Why does the PlayStation 3 need a new LittleBigPlanet when users of the first game continue to flood it with new content? The creatively unchained LittleBigPlanet 2 and its broad set of new tools answers that question easily.
The second LittleBigPlanet expands upon the "Play Create Share" mantra of the first, giving wannabe level creators and game designers all new ways to build playgrounds for themselves and others. LittleBigPlanet 2 makes making your own video games easier, whether you want to make a platformer, side-scrolling shooter, sports game, whatever. The PlayStation 3 exclusive also packs in fun new tools, like a pair of power gloves (the Grabinator), a grappling hook that seems impossibly fun, and a new gun for Sackboy that can launch cakes, cows, fireballs and myriad other projectiles that should spawn from a hat.
Of course, there's also a really cute adventure for our stuffed hero, Sackboy, to embark upon. So let's embark.
Ideal Player The PlayStation 3 owner with a thirst for creating games, without the desire for learning proper game design or computer programming. Fans of the first should obviously sign on, for there are 3 million levels from the first game (and many more coming) available for your amusement.
Why You Should Care People make amazing things with LittleBigPlanet games and you can benefit from their hard work. Thanks to the sequel's simplified game creation, you may find you like creating and sharing your work as well.
So, just how easy is it this time to make levels in LittleBigPlanet 2? Easier than before, indeed, but you'll still need to put in the hours to make something fun and interesting (and not another recreation of Super Mario Bros. level 1-1). There are ample tutorials, more than 50 of them, that will walk you through nearly every aspect of LittleBigPlanet 2's Create Mode. They're amusingly narrated by Stephen Fry and will only occasionally let you down with their vagueness. Even if you shrugged at user creation in the first game, creating is worth a second look.
Well, what's so great about creating? Programming Sackbots, for example, which is simpler than one might think. Commanding an army of automata, bidding them to do your will, may not be as fun as designing new uses for the Creatinator, the hat that shoots whatever you choose, but it's still a thrill to get little 'bots working. And if you've ever struggled to make other aspects of LittleBigPlanet bend to your will, the Controllinator makes things a lot easier. With it, you can assign various functions to the DualShock controller, meaning less time jury rigging complex solutions. There's a long list of things made easier in 2, but these tutorials are in the game for a reason.
What else can that Creatinator do? During the main Story mode, you'll use it to launch pastries at bad guys and help Sackboy overcome obstacles, but you'll also use it as a fire hose to extinguish burning platforms. The Creatinator can shoot fireballs, electricity, any object you choose, making it a powerful tool for competitive play.
What if I just want to play? There's plenty here for you too, lazybones. LittleBigPlanet 2's story mode is whimsical and easy to dash through. There are six main chapters, each led by some inventive character, and each offers plenty of branching side missions for you to explore. Story Mode is gorgeously designed, but better serves as a showcase for all the odd things one can build this time. You'll take part in races on the backs of fuzzy caterpillars; you'll take part in a side-scrolling shooter on the back of a bee; you'll hop and jump on spring-loaded bunnies and find out just how much fun a grappling hook can be.
What's the best thing about Story mode? It's not technically limited to Story mode, but playing this aspect with others cooperatively is a sack full of fun. Players can easily hop in or out of levels, whether they're on the couch with you or online—starting up each level, you'll be asked if you want to join games already in progress—and there's some great chaos to be had. Sometimes, that chaos can be a bit too much, especially with LittleBigPlanet 2's detailed levels, which can make things visually confusing. But co-op is also a great joy, with some hidden areas and collectibles available only to those who play in groups.
Cooperative? How about some competition! There's some of that too. LittleBigPlanet 2 has unlockable Versus levels, which include activities like air hockey, pool, basketball and puzzle solving games.
How about the sharing? How do I download those 3 million levels? Grabbing content made by other players is easier, more enjoyable than before. Since only a small percentage of those 3 million-plus user created levels are worth seeing, LittleBigPlanet 2 lets you separate the wheat from the chaff by looking at user ratings, popularity rankings and tags that indicate whether a level is long, short, hard, water-based, sporty, a racing game, etc. Finding and diving into a user-made level takes no time at all.
Now for the bad news? Yes. If you didn't care for the floaty, loose, sometimes sloppy brand of platforming in the original LittleBigPlanet, you're probably not going to like it here either. With so much freedom in these games must come concessions. LittleBigPlanet 2 takes in the form of broad range of content that's not as tightly designed as games with more rigid parameters.
The Bottom Line Developers Media Molecule have made a much improved platform on which to design fun, bite-sized games, expanding the possibilities of LittleBigPlanet with a set of new and exciting tools. Even for the creatively bankrupt (or simply lazy) PlayStation 3 owner, LittleBigPlanet 2 offers nearly limitless content and enjoyment, provided you like playing in this soft and sweet place. The improvements this go round make it worth reassessing whether you'd like to design video game levels once more. Even if you don't someone out there is making it worth your while.
LittleBigPlanet 2 was developed by Media Molecule and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, released on January 18. Retails for $US59.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through Story Mode, a dozen community made games and all tutorial levels. Created a handful of terribly designed games of my own, still hopeful that my Demon's Souls levels will be finished someday.