Giant Bomb Review

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LittleBigPlanet 2 Review

5
  • PS3

The variety afforded by LBP2's more sophisticated tools allow creators to build levels that are exponentially more complicated and interesting than what was possible in the first game.

Avalon Centrifuge is one of the creators you'll encounter during the story. 
Avalon Centrifuge is one of the creators you'll encounter during the story. 
On the surface, you might not think that LittleBigPlanet 2 looks vasty different from its predecessor. And, if you're looking at the single-player "story" side of the game, you're right, it's not a huge shift. But all of the underlying bits have become significantly more sophisticated, allowing players to take the level creation tools and create some incredible things. Those tools mean that levels that fall outside of the standard platforming genre are now easier to create, exponentially expanding the sorts of levels that an average person with a ton of free time can make. On top of that, LBP2 is better about getting you into those levels, with a lot of great filters and options that make finding the best stuff easier than it's ever been. It's an intensely charming and engaging game that really stands out as one of the smoothest examples of how to handle user-generated content on a console.

The story mode is structured a lot like the first game's, and it serves the same basic purpose. There's an evil force out there, and you'll work with a batch of "Creators" to right the wrongs and get things back to normal. It feels like these levels are largely designed to introduce you to the new mechanics of LBP2, like a grappling hook that you can use for swinging and climbing, or the grabinator, a pair of gloves that let you pick up and toss objects. You'll also start to get a sense of how you might use these new things in your own levels. You'll also get a user's-eye look at the controllinator, which is an in-game device that can be hooked up to allow you to use the DualShock to control objects other than Sackboy. This is what allows you to control cars, play dual-joystick shooters, fly lunar landers, or just about anything else you can come up with. It's a big part of what makes LBP2 so much broader than its predecessor.

The single-player is a brief romp that, as before, is practically required since you'll unlock a ton of objects and stickers for use in the create mode. Interacting with the level creation tools hasn't changed a lot since the first game, though there are plenty of required tutorials to go through before you can really start creating your own levels. You'll still shuffle objects back and forth along the three usable planes, and you're still represented in the creator as a floating Sackboy, as opposed to a mouse cursor or anything, well, "tool-like." While the tools are pretty easy to use and are usually explained well by the 50+ tutorials, getting in there and creating something awesome isn't an especially fast process. It seems like a mouse or a PlayStation Move controller would make things happen more quickly, but the game doesn't currently support either. Word is that a patch is on the way, though.

The official levels will introduce you to the basic concepts.
The official levels will introduce you to the basic concepts.
Let's face it: Most of us are never going to put in the time it takes to build a world-class LittleBigPlanet 2 level. But there are plenty of people out there giving it their all, and the game is superb when it comes to sifting through these levels and getting the best of the best into your hands. The community section has plenty of filters that let you look at the highest-rated levels, the newest, or ones that are marked with specific tags. So if you want the newest levels that employ the controllinator (which is my current favorite way to sort it all), you can do exactly that. You can also do all of this while you're away from your PS3 via lbp.me, the game's official site. The site has a great database of user-created levels, along with all of the review, rating, and tag data that comes along with them. If you feed the site your PSN login credentials, you can even add any levels that look interesting to a queue. When you fire up the game, it'll immediately notice the list of levels you lined up and let you dive right into those without any more work. It's one of the best ways to integrate a website with a game that I've seen so far, and it's become my preferred way to find and share user levels.

There's an awful lot of wonder and joy to be found in those user levels. It starts by being fully compatible with levels created in the first game, giving you a great base to start with. But a lengthy beta and a collection of busy creators have been putting LBP2's improved tools to great use, resulting in goofy fighting games, better basketball games, multiplayer shooters, bootleg versions of The Legend of Zelda's first dungeon, a zillion levels with unlicensed Mario elements, and that's only scratching the surface. Some players are just building machinima-style movies with the level tools and telling their own stories. Even the music levels that just play MIDI-like versions of real songs are better thanks to a rebuilt music sequencer.  The sheer number of levels can be a little overwhelming, but with the great level-sorting tools, it becomes easy to spend hours just checking out and rating the work of others and leave you wanting even more.

What you do with those basic concepts? That's your business... and Nintendo's business, now that I think about it. 
What you do with those basic concepts? That's your business... and Nintendo's business, now that I think about it. 
The only downside is more a matter of taste than a genuine issue: the platforming action of the core LBP gameplay is largely unchanged. Considering the backwards compatibility, it's easy to understand why Sackboy still moves and jumps the way he does, but it never feels like it's quite responsive enough. Granted, that's sort of a perception issue that comes from me spending so many years playing platformers, and well-designed levels (like the official levels) aren't built in a way that makes this a glaring issue. I guess I just wish that Sackboy jumped a little higher? Regardless, if the way Sackboy moves turned you off two years ago, it's still going to bother you in LBP2.

The tool upgrades given to creators in LittleBigPlanet 2 are enough to make the game feel pretty fresh, making the game worthwhile even if you never actually delve into the creation mode yourself. But if you've got a great level idea burning a hole in your brain, and don't mind putting in a grip of time to get it just right, you'll find the tools to be pretty accommodating once you learn how they all work. Me, I'm perfectly content with just surfing through the lists of levels, picking out the craziest examples I can find, and losing myself in a world of twisted Mario clones, shooters, and levels loosely based on feature films. So get out there and create some more of those for me, cool?
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+