Little Big Planet 2 review

Review of Little Big Planet 2 video game for the Playstation 3 rated 8 out of 10
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When it first came on the scene, Little Big Planet took the PlayStation world by storm, breathing new life into the 2D platformer genre and showing Mario and co what it was all about. So for the sequel to the first game, many gamers (myself included) were expecting something very special indeed. Fortunately we weren’t to be disappointed.

Not that I realised this when I first started playing that is! No, on playing through the first levels of LittleBigPlanet 2, I would have to say that I was somewhat ‘underwhelmed’. This is because at first look, the game looks to be basically the same as the first one, just with new levels. Okay, so on the first world of LBP2 Sackboy does get to use a new grappling hook-type item, but it basically just feels like a variation on the jetpack from the first game. ‘So far’, I remember thinking, ‘so what?’ Had I stopped playing the game there and just got on with writing the review, then the basic content of it would have essentially been ‘more of the same‘, and ‘slightly disappointing‘. Which is weird, since I loved the first game, so you’d think I’d have jumped at the chance even just to play more levels, right? But as I said already: my expectations were high.

However, I didn’t stop playing there, because like any half-decent reviewer I knew I had to play through a fair proportion of the game be able to give it a fair analysis, and as I did so, I realised that I was wrong in my initial assessment - this game isn’t just a ‘more of the same‘, it’s ‘everything that was good about the first one, and then a whole lot more‘. There you go, that’s an advertising quote for you right there! Not that it’ll ever get used, seeing as the game’s been out for about a week now - sometimes I miss the old days when I used to write for magazines… sigh.

Enough navel gazing from me - on with the review! Now… if you’re one of the (very) few PlayStation3 owners who hasn’t yet ventured to the environs of LittleBigPlanet thus far, then the concept is fairly straightforward: it’s essentially traditional 2D platform gameplay with a little ‘depth’ added, both literally and figuratively. As well as moving left/right, up/down, you can also move ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the screen to some degree, and all the levels are beautifully designed so that they appear almost like solid claymation-style 3D models. Oh, and they’re absolutely jam-packed with all kinds of devious puzzles, tricks and traps. Oh, and absolutely everything about the game is customisable.

The central character, Sackboy, initially just portrayed as a basic figure constructed of sackcloth material (hence the name) is like a latter-day Mr Potato Head, in that you can change his eyes, his hair, his hats, his hands, his clothes… you name it, you can transform it, using the items which you collect throughout the levels, or earn through score challenges. And for those who really care how their Sackboy looks, for the first LittleBigPlanet, you could pay to download costume kits from other well-known games like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid.

The story levels themselves can be ‘redecorated‘ using virtual ‘stickers‘, as can the hub level, Sackboy’s ‘pod‘ spacecraft, and a built-in level editor allows you to create whole new worlds to play in, worlds which can then be shared on online to challenge other LBP enthusiasts around the world. Which brings us to the sequel.

In LBP2 you pick up where you left off in the first game, exactly where you left off in this case, because if you’ve got a game save from the previous title on your hard drive then you have the option of importing all your stickers, costumes and pod décor, etc. Once into the game itself, then as with the previous title, there are a number of tutorial levels to introduce you to the world of Sackboy and friends, complete with the now familiar dry-witted voiceover courtesy of everyone’s favourite factmeister, Stephen Fry. Then there’s a Story mode, online community access and, of course, the chance to create your own levels. So basically: everything that you had before. But what, you ask, is new? Well, there’s a whole separate bonus Move-compatible game, Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves for one thing, but we’ll come to that in a bit.

Storyline-wise, this time around there is actually one. Now I might be wrong, but I don’t remember the last game actually having a storyline as such, it was more that each world had some kind of objective set for Sackboy by a particular Creator (the odd individual’s who have created the LBP ‘worlds’), but there was no overarching narrative that ran through the whole game (like I said - I might be wrong). This time around though, there’s a plot: a massive, scary monster-type thing called the ‘Negativitron’ is threatening the LBP universe, tearing chunks out of the worlds and corrupting the inhabitants, and it’s down to Sackboy, with the help of just a handful of eccentric Creators, to set things to rights.

Essentially this just means that with every level you’re introduced to new hazards, new enemies and - this is the best bit - new gadgets. Because in addition to the aforementioned grappling device, there is a positive cornucopia of other awesome appliances for Sackboy (or ‘Sackthing’ as Larry Davinci, one of the world Creators, constantly refers to him) to use. These include a fire-fighting hat, a wall-climbing caterpillar, another hat that shoots cakes, exploding jam roll dispensers, a laser-equipped bee, a slam-dunking rabbit and a heavy-weapon-toting camel. You’ll note there are a fair few odd creatures in with that lot, and this is because the ‘creatures as modes of transport’ aspect of the previous game (which used to be limited more-or-less to simply standing on something and perhaps pulling a lever to make it move) has been massively expanded for the sequel, with Sackboy taking direct control of all manner of whacky beasts of burden as he pursues his quest to save the LBP universe.

The result of this is some very different gameplay at times, where the action switches from the standard 2D platform style to a variety of other types, many of which pay homage to classic videogame titles, including R-Type, Breakout, Smash TV and even the old Nokia mobile game Snake. For some, this might not suit, if you’re addicted solely to the quirky platform action of the first game, but for others (including me), the change of playing style has been balanced perfectly so that it breaks up the platform-hopping sections of the game and thus prevents any possible chance of monotony.

As with the first game, all the Story levels can be played either solo, or with up to three other players, either at home with multiple controllers or online. Teamwork is actively encouraged, and so as you play through the game, you’ll find certain sections which can only be accessed with the help of one (or more) extra players, and there are also plenty of multiplayer minigames to be unlocked too. The entire game in fact does seem to be, if anything, even more geared towards teamwork than the last one, and this includes the storyline, the ultimate moral of which, when you finish (spoiler alert!) is that ‘everyone should work together’ (okay, so not really a spoiler). This is all well and good if you’ve got a top-notch Broadband connection, or lots of friends/family who are up for some multiplayer action, but if you haven’t then you’re missing out on a large part of the game. So what I’m basically saying is: this game is going to be less fulfilling if you’ve not got any friends. But then if that’s the case, you’re probably used to disappointment, right?

If I had to criticise something about LBP2, it would be that the solo, offline game is perhaps just a tad short, coming in as it does at six worlds long, each world containing five or six main levels and a varied number of bonus ones. But then as anyone who’s played LittleBigPlanet knows, the Story mode is just a fraction of what’s on offer. I’m talking, of course, about the fact that the game comes with it’s own user-friendly level creator, which allows you, using content which you unlock through playing the game, and other stuff you can download from the PlayStation Network, to create your own devious levels and then upload them for anyone to play, taking the number of levels available from 50-odd to… well, to just about limitless. That’s not to say that all gamer-created levels will be anywhere near as good as the ones that come with the game, but if even a fraction of them are, then you’re onto a winner.

And of course there’s the bonus game, Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves. This is a completely separate game on the disc which installs to your hard-drive and then offers gameplay which sees one of you (or at least one) playing as Sackboy, and other(s) using Move controllers to manipulate the environment and help our sackcloth hero past the various puzzles and hazards. Again, this game is aimed far more at multiple players than at the solo gamer, as you need to use both the normal controller and the Move remote in order to make any progress at all. I can tell you however, after a bit of experimentation, that it is possible for just one person to control Sackboy and the Move remote at the same time, albeit not as easily or as effectively as with two of you… it’s basically a form of multitasking, so presumably female gamers will be better at it than their male counterparts.

So, all in all, what’s the score? Well, needless to say, if you hated the first game, then this one’s unlikely to convert you. If however you loved the first one, then you’re going to love this every bit as much, and probably more. Doubtless there will be oodles of downloads over the coming months along the lines of themed level kits and yet more costumes for Sackboy, so if you’re a fan, you’ll have lots to keep you amused. I’d give it an excellent 8 out of 10. If you missed out on the first game, then you’re wasting your PS3′s potential if you don’t get this. And that’s yet another advertising quote right there…

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Related: Little Big Planet Xbox 360 version, Little Big Planet PSP review

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