Build a gamer a level, and he plays for a day. Teach him to build, and he plays for a lifetime.
I like to think I’m a pretty creative person. I mean, I’m no Leonardo, but I’m sure I could give Dan “DaVinci Code” Brown a run for his money. Level editors, though, are just something that never clicked for me. I’m not sure why – maybe because the best of them have always felt like computer programming disguised as user-friendly interfaces. Maybe because I feel the designing should just be done by the professionals. Or maybe it's because "Why can’t I get this stupid block to stay in the air?! Argh, that’s too high up! No, I don’t want to rotate it! SCREW THIS I’M GOING BACK TO CAMPAIGN MODE!!!"
So you can understand my trepidation when faced with a game like LittleBigPlanet 2
. If you have any experience with the first one, you are already well aware that the story mode is less of a game in and of itself and more of a way to illustrate the potential of the level creation tools. More so with LBP2
in fact, considering that the dev team built this game entirely using the same level editor that any Joe Schmoe will have access to.
Unlike my usual long-winded self, I’d like to blow through the meat-and-potatoes of this review quickly, because the fun part will come after. The story mode in LBP2
has about the same sophistication and nuance of Katamari
(which is to say, virtually none). There’s a big bad thing called a Negativitron destroying your Sackboy’s world, and you need to stop it by platforming through a bunch of levels filled with all manner of bizarre
objects that come in all shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and varying degrees of sentience.
As far as the platforming goes, it’s pretty much like the first one. There are some amazing set pieces to traverse, now with the added additions of powerups like grappling hooks and “creatinator” guns that shoot ridiculous items, like cupcakes or cows. Overly floaty physics still pervade the story mode, however, which makes the platforming significantly less precise than your average Mario
. The multiple planes comprising the fore, middle, and backgrounds also get in the way almost as much as they add to the charm of the game. Nothing like missing the safe spot you were jumping to because you accidentally slid into the foreground.
There are new versus levels to unlock, which have genuinely exciting challenges for multiple players, like racing, button sequence minigames, and high score competitions. The bosses are very cool, despite being on the easy side (like the rest of the game). And of course, a cornucopia of stickers, decorations, and other prizes hide in every level for your customization pleasure
, many of which can only be accessed with multiple players working cooperatively.
All in all, the story mode is an entertaining piece of work, but not one that would necessarily be worth a purchase by itself. It’s a good thing, then, that LittleBigPlanet
is always first and foremost about the creation aspect. The tools this time have been greatly expanded – instead of just being able to create your own platforming levels, you can now (with the right experience and knowledge) create levels and whole games based on other genres.
While that sounds amazing (and it definitely will be once the community gets rolling), you will need to spend a long, long time playing with the level editor to be able to do such incredible things. LBP2
does its best to appear intuitive and simple, but the complexity of the creation tools will quickly dispel that illusion. Media Molecule does the best it can and should be commended for it, but if you’re serious about level creation you cannot underestimate the effort the game requires on your part.
Watching all the tutorials will take hours. Rewatching them over and over to try and understand all the things you missed will take many more. And actually using the tools to the point where you’re comfortable with all of them will take weeks. Is it worth all that effort to be able to build your own RPG, fighter, or shooter starring Sackboy? That’s a question that can only be answered on an individual basis. This is undoubtedly a community-driven game, and on that front it will provide limitless sharing of ideas and a meeting-of-the-minds that’s all too rare in this industry. But because of that community factor, LBP2
will mean something different to each person who picks up the controller.
So it’s on that note that I’m going to take this review in a radical direction. LBP2
is just about the toughest game I’ve ever had to score. You’ll only get as much out of it as you’re willing to put in. So now we’re going to play a game called “Pick your own report card!” For each of the following questions, give yourself 2 points for every “a” answer, 1 point for every “b” answer, and 0 for every “c”. Ready? Go!
1. With whom do you most closely associate yourself in the video game industry?
a) Peter Molyneux
b) Shigeru Miyamoto
c) Marcus Fenix; Kratos; Master Chief; that one soldier guy in the war game with all the guns
2. Does the old adage “gameplay over graphics” still hold true for you?
a) Absolutely; pretty graphics are nothing without a foundation of strong gameplay
b) Most of the time, yes, but graphics still count for something
c) Gameplay? What’s that? Go away, you’re distracting me from my shiny interactive movie!
3. Do you continue to play after a game’s ending to collect everything?
a) Yes, collectibles are just as important as the main storyline
b) Sometimes, if there are decent rewards for it
c) Is this a trick question? There’s nothing after an ending!
4. You run into a particularly tough puzzle. What do you do?
a) Keep trying until I figure it out myself, and revel in the glow of the satisfaction
b) Try for a while, then ask a friend for some help
c) Hop right onto GR and look for cheats or walkthroughs
5. You have the ability to build and decorate your character’s home. What do you do with it?
a) Spend my spare time pimping the place out with all the furniture I find in my adventures
b) Mess around with it a little bit, then stop caring after 20 minutes or so
c) No time to stay home when there are hordes of zombies out there to kill
6. What is your preferred method of dispatching an enemy?
a) Dodge it; you don’t always have to kill things
b) Jump on its head, the old standby
c) I can’t hear you over the sound of my avatar smashing your face in
7. You find a glitch or level design flaw. What do you do?
a) Come up with a bunch of simple ways it could have been corrected
b) Smile, enjoy the mild amusement (or annoyance) of your discovery, and move on
c) It’s a finished product, right? Must be working as intended
Add up your points. If you have 11-14 points, see Report Card A. For 5-10 points, go to Report Card B. And if you scored 0-4, scroll down to Report Card C.
Report Card A
Report Card B
Report Card C
Hope you had fun! And hopefully you were able to figure out where you fit on the spectrum of gamers, cause LittleBigPlanet 2
will elicit a wide range of responses from those who play it. Anyway, on to the “real” report card, because the powers that be demand it of me.