The Art of Sacks-Appeal
This game makes me want to be British. Unapologetically, I lay down arms and embrace Stephen Fry's sweet, sweet smooth as water voice. This, is fortunately a good thing, because just like the first game, you'll be hearing A LOT of the guy, especially if you choose to wade your way through Create mode (more on that later).
The story is a more cohesive experience all and all. Instead of a hazy string of text boxes to guide you along, the sequel makes use of new tools to give you fully designed cutscenes at the beginning and end of each chapter with complete voice over work. The story line is also more focused this time, sending your sackperson on an epic quest to stop the negativitron from destroying craftworld, throwing you in the mix with some much more memorable characters such as "Larry da Vinci" voiced by John Cleese and some of the best crazy person script I've seen in gaming given to "Dr. Herbert Higginbotham".
The music is just as catchy and they've included even more audio tracks, including the very catchy "A Fifth of Beethoven" which is a 70's upped rendition of the classical piece. The physics, to much dismay remains quite the same, with the very
acceptable excuse that all the millions of user created back levels have been imported into this one. Honestly, I've always held the belief the game is more puzzle than platformer and the game's physics does a great job to accomplish that task. The story is quite lengthy, much like the first, especially if you have that not-so-rare OSS (Oh, something shiney!) completionist disorder that will compel you to chase down every last costume piece and sticker each level has to offer. And of course you'll be chasing down those bubbles with the latest of gadgets including the grappling hook, a pair of power gloves coined as the "Grabinator" and the coveted "Creationator" which is a helmet the level designer configures to shoot out whatever he damn well pleases... like cupcakes... yes, cupcakes.
However, one of the very few downfalls of this game has to be that some of those prize bubbles require multiple sackpeople to reach, who must be very co-ordinated to work together, and sometimes requiring up to the maximum of four of them. This shouldn't be strange to people who played the last one, however the multiplayer seems to be a step backwards in my experience so far. If you want to group randomly with someone, you load a level and are asked "Join Us" or "Play alone". Simple enough, however, if you click "Join us" the game is going to throw you into a random game, even sometimes with people who clicked "Play alone".
Of course, those people are then going to refuse to let you join, which will throw you, alone, into the level you wanted to play and NOT by yourself, requiring you to back out and restart the process until you find someone who is actually wanting a companion. Imagine the frustration of needing three more participants for certain challenges with the difficulty of getting just one. The only way to change your play to not allow a join mid game is to actually adjust it in the game's setting which most people you'll get refused by, obviously haven't done. That isn't even including the glitchy loading screen you get by joining someone's game from time to time, which you'll be stuck at indefinitely unless you know the workaround someone happened to discover. I won't go in to detail about the workaround here, but it does work for the time being and I do expect Media Molecule to fix this issue in due time.
But then there is Create Mode. If you have any interest in creating your own level / game / music video / story / whatever, I can fully recommend this game on the spot. Everything the first did, this sequel does better. All the neat secret tricks people found in the first game? Incorporated as tools in this one. Remember all those music levels that required you run through at a certain speed or take a trolley and that was the extent of the level? All of that can be effectively minimized and put into a Music Sequencer the game now gives you as a tool. Slap it in the beginning of the level and you've created your own soundtrack. Need a group of friends who will follow direction flawlessly? Put in a few programmable sackbots. Want to make a level inside a level? It's possible.
The game however, does not just throw these tools at you and tell you to enjoy. There are 52, FIFTY-TWO, two to three minute tutorials detailing every single iota of new and old tools that are at your disposal, all narrated by Stephen Fry's beautiful beautiful voice. And by a clever design decision, you get the common materials from the first game in the second game, through said tutorials. This seems overwhelming at first, but keep in mind that you can create anything from platformers to puzzlers, fighting games to first person shooters. Even if crafting your own little slice of gaming isn't your cup of tea, the media filters have been refined even further to allow you to sift through the junk effectively and fine the prime material everyone has been playing, even levels the Media Molecule themselves have acknowledged as above par.
I think most of the skepticism over LBP 2 as a purchase is because LittleBigPlanet allowed you to do SO much in such a tight package, it's hard to imagine the next in the series bringing much more to the plate. However, looking over the sequel, the first one seems an ancient restrictive platform. Overall, this game is a step up in nearly all-directions from LittleBigPlanet, sadly however, I cannot possibly detail all the new features and tools in one single article. Suffice it to say that nearly every addition Media Molecule has made to this game has improved it in one shape or fashion and directly allowed creators to generate even more imaginative uses than the game designers themselves haven't thought of. This game is worth a pick up to any who own a PS3 and have interest in games outside of genre "shoot things that move".