merzalof's LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3) review

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Little Big Planet 2 Review


Platform: Playstation 3
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: SCEA 
Release Date: January 18, 2011
 
Gather your ball of yarn and silly putty because it is time to get crazy in the world of Little Big Planet 2.  My relationship with Sackboy since the original Little Big Planet is one of love and hate. I loved the world, design, and content creation but I hated the platforming, controls, and gameplay.  With Little Big Planet 2 I cannot help but have that exact same feeling this time around except the parts that I loved have improved drastically. The parts that I hated, however, have stayed almost the same but my feelings have been diluted by the overwhelming amount of gameplay variation and style that Little Big Planet 2 presents itself with.  Let’s take a closer look at the two components of the game, first the ‘single player’.  
 
Strength in Numbers
I started off playing the game co-operatively and I have to note that this time around Media Molecule has allowed you to play the entire ‘campaign’ with up to 3 friends, making the experience much more palatable.  The single player acts as both a tutorial for the new toys and gadgets as well as a collect-a-thon for all the bells and whistles that one will be using when designing their very own level.  Some of the new contraptions you will get to play with are the grappling hook, which allows you to manipulate the environment and be your own little bionic commando and the Grabbinator, giving you the ability to pick up and throw objects.  Exploring each of the worlds packed in with the game is awe-inspiring and most of my satisfaction came at the wonder of how much work when into building such a wonderful world to explore.  The clever thing that Media Molecule has done in the campaign is created a stage for players to experience their new gameplay styles. 
 

The gameplay of the first LBP did not make me happy
 
I would not be doing myself any favors if I didn’t address the disdain I had with gameplay mechanics of the first game.  Little Big Planet 2 still has the same old clunky jumping and the ridiculous three planes of frustration that you need to fumble through.  I can understand that this is the basis for the whole level design but the controls still do not feel tight enough and the platforming is still a low point for me.  Sackboy still jumps like a ragdoll and I’m always battling to find where I am in the foreground/background of each level.  The saving grace for me was the pacing of the game and how it sporadically changes from a platformer to something entirely different when you are thrown into a racing game game or top down shooter.  Breaking up the platforming gameplay in this manner gave me a breath of fresh air and boosted me through the few low points I had in the game.  Being able to house almost any type of game whether racing, jumping, or shooting made my experience with Little Big Planet 2 exceedingly better than the first and demonstrates what Little Big Planet really should have been.  
 
Going through the single player levels with friends beside you is a great addition as Little Big Planet 2 is a dish best served with a couple friends on the couch.  It may not be the best platforming you have played, but the sheer amount of style that comes in this cute package cleared the bad taste I had in my mouth from the first game.  Little Big Planet 2 drops you into a bizarre masquerade guided by crazy characters in their own stylized storybook. You get to experience an abundance of settings that are so charming you will feel bad for leaving them behind to move on to the next area.
  
More Content Than You Can Stuff In Your Sack
I cannot deny the style and charm that Media Molecule has infused into Little Big Planet 2 and that is what kept me playing.  However the meat of the game comes from the infinite amount of user generated levels, which is where I spent most of my time exploring.  The toolset provided for creators has expanded ten fold and while I will never embark on a journey to make a level in LBP2, the creations that are born from the people dedicated to this art and design is awe-inspiring.  The sheer amount of ‘thingys’ you can put in your level is one thing, but being able to make a Lunar Lander clone or even an RPG baffles me.  It is astounding what people can do and I’m scared to even think of the time that went into making some of the beautiful levels I played.  What it comes down to is that you are provided with a tool set that contains infinite possibilities - for those that are dedicated enough to use it. I will never use it but I thank those that do because I was able to experience some pretty awesome stuff from Mario rip offs to Tron-esque racing levels; none of which I had seen in the first game.  That being said, all of the levels created for LBP can be played via Little Big Planet 2.  A nice touch indeed. 
  
What I really appreciate from a design standpoint as well as a user is the implementation of Media Molecule’s finest contraption - the Controllinator.  This essentially allows creators to hide the guts (what makes the level work) behind the scenes and users will no longer see bits of string and  coming from the background. It makes the user-generated levels appear much more professional and the whole experience is much more streamlined and appealing for the player.  What I failed to mention was the fact that the Controllinator can do almost anything, from playing the background music to having a flying machine you can pilot near-flawlessly - it really is quick a catch all machine.    

You can build almost anything with the tools provided.
 
Creation is still intimidating and difficult to pull off as you need to invest a serious amount of time before you end up with something playable.  This is the same case as the first game, but there is a catch - Media Molecule is patching in both PS Move and mouse and keyboard support which is a blessing to anyone making levels in LBP2.  Not something everyone is going to use, but definitely a welcome improvement at that. 
 
One of my favorite additions that comes with Little Big Planet 2 is not part of the actual game. 
LBP.me is the site where you can navigate all this great content and queue up levels for you to play.  Feel like playing all the games related to dragons?  Sort by ‘dragon’, pop a dozen levels into your queue and the next time you log into the game it will ask if you want to play all your selected levels from LBP.me - you will be slaying or riding dragons in no time.  The interface is slick and seamless  This alone is a great improvement over the first game and is one of the first proper steps into website-to-game integration.  

A whole world ready to be built and explored.
 
I thought that LBP2 was going to be the same thing over again with a new coat of paint, but I was pleasantly surprised. The single player-turned buddy campaign is a wonderful fantasy ride best enjoyed with friends and the user generated levels will keep you satisfied and guessing for the rest of the year.  There is so much content you will be bursting at the seems and even though Little Big Planet 2 is made up of strings the experience is seamless. 
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