Make It Your Own: LittleBigPlanet 2 Review

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LittleBigPlanet 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Media Molecule
Systems it’s available on: PS3
ESRB rating: E
System reviewed on: PS3

It was hard not to like the first LittleBigPlanet game when it came out in 2008. Media Molecule’s award-winning effort charmed you with its loopy meta-premise, construction-paper aesthetic and the plummy narration by British actor Stephen Fry. It didn’t hurt that floppily emotive mascot Sackboy melted hearts and that sufficiently motivated players could make their own whimsical levels, too.

But the problematic wrinkle in LittleBigPlanet was, ironically, one of sameness. For a game centered on the idea of creativity, LBP only really delivered one style of gameplay. Most of the action was that of a Mario-style 2D platformer–run, jump, swing, etc–and most of the user-generated content delivered action in the same vein. Sure of some of those player-created levels had shooting aspects, but it took a lot of doing to pull off the amount of deviation found in such instances.

LittleBigPlanet 2 solves that problem with in a few different ways. It offers some clever power-ups. Your Sackperson gets a grappling hook, a jacked-up throwing arm and a series of too-cute animals that you can ride through parts of various levels. The upshot of all these changes is that instead of going from jumping left to right over and over, you’re climbing up huge structures, shooting (gently, mind you) through hordes of enemies and brain-teasing puzzles. Usually, Media Molecule’s personality comes out in their level aesthetics and design, but LittleBigPlanet 2 offers much more of a story than its predecessor. Your SackPerson gets recruited into the Alliance, a group of inventor/creators who’ve banded together to battle the evil Negativitron. Granted it’s not much of a narrative, but it does give Media Molecule room to inject some of the studio’s quirky vision into characterization. (More on Ten Video Games for Fighting Holiday Flab)

The series’ motto of “Play. Create. Share.” already alluded to a social aspect in the game’s core philosophy. LBP2 realigns the franchise even more strongly around community. Every time you start up a level, you’ll see a number that indicates how many people are playing it and will then get a prompt as to whether you want to join other people. Your fellow Sackpeople are randomly chosen and there can be a few problems syncing things up but it’s a great way to blast through challenges and tackle the co-op specific parts of certain levels. Of course, the thing that really makes LBP games stand out from other releases are the robust creativity tools they’ve offered. Over 2.5 million user-generated levels came out of the first game and LBP2‘s backwards-compatible with all of them. Making a level in LBP1 wasn’t for the faint of heart but now populating your LBP world with a unique look and feel gets ridiculously easier this time out. Three quick button presses can pull up random looks from the stickers and decoration you’ve collected. You can now create little Sackbots, AI companions that follow you around, and assign them different behaviors, too.

When you consider that each level in the game could be recreated and/or expounded by a hobbyist designer, factor in the new level of variation in LBP2 and then consider the level of experimentation yet to come from people yet to get their hands on the new tools that LBP 2 offers, the artistic possibilities seems almost infinite. LBP2’s a celebration of sharing and creativity that does more than show off how talented the title’s game-makers are; it lets others find as much creativity in their own selves.

Official Techland Score: 9.2 out of 10

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