Little Big Planet 2ESRB:
Players: 1-4 (Local and Online)
PlayStation Move Compatible (Demo Only)
Little Big Planet 2, the latest release from developer Media Molecule and publisher Sony Computer Entertainment, marks the return of Sack Boy to the PlayStation 3. Like its predecessor, Little Big Planet 2 is a creative, three-dimensional platformer at its core with this installment allowing players to create not only their own levels but their own games, ranging from sports games to side-scrolling. Little Big Planet 2 also features a greater emphasis on the creation of a cohesive storyline for its campaign. This storyline follows Sack Boy as he (and his new friends in the Alliance) tries to save their world from the evil Negativitron, which is laying waste to everything it gets near and has captured and brainwashed innocent sackboys. It is up to you to help put an end to the Negativitron before it's too late to save Craft World and its inhabitants from its destruction.
Visually, Little Big Planet 2 is a treat, especially when combined with the amazing HD graphics the PlayStation 3 produces. The visual style is incredibly unique with extremely detailed and colourful graphics. Levels and worlds are filled with unique designs, dynamic colour choices and off the wall character designs. Most of the characters animations (as well as their looks) are exaggerated in some way, which leads to a lot of humour. The only negative aspect visually is that the games frame right which for the most part was quite stable however I did end up noticing some minor hiccups.
Adding to the humour created by the game's visuals the game also has some incredibly clever writing and excellent voice acting. To say that this game's characters are unique is an understatement, and the voice actors do a phenomenal job of bringing them to life. The narrator, voiced by Stephen Fry, a well-known and popular British actor also does fantastic work bringing the main storyline to life.
The script writers also deserve praise for their humorous spoken dialogue as well as what pops up during speech bubbles inside of the levels. Rounding everything out, the game features an excellent original soundtrack which fits into the comical theme that permeates throughout the game.
The game's campaign contains levels in six different worlds that span throughout Craft World. These locations (each with their own creator who factors into the storyline) include a sackbot factory, a mental institution made up of foliage, and a world of science known as Avalonia. Each location has its own distinctive look, feel and different gameplay changes, making it a pleasure to progress through the campaign because you never know what is around the corner.
The game begins by teaching you the basics through levels like those seen in the first game, but it doesn't take long before you're traveling on a train, rolling across rollercoaster-esque rails using pastries and even riding an assortment of exaggerated animals, each with their own abilities like a bee with a honey cannon. Each world is made up of seven main levels and culminates with a final boss battle.
Hidden in each level are two different types of collectible bubbles - regular and prize bubbles. Regular bubbles are found in large quantities and give you points and potential multipliers depending on how quickly you pick them and prize bubbles which tend to look similar to the regular bubbles are larger and contain prizes. The prizes range from clothing, hairstyles, stickers, materials, and other customization items. The clothing and hairstyles can be used to customize your Sack Boy character (which is completely customizable down to its gender, material style, eyes, teeth, clothing and hair.) The other prizes can be used when you create your own levels. Stickers can be placed throughout the levels in the campaign as well as those that you create and you can even create your own stickers in the creation area, by snapping an in-game picture or by taking pictures using a PlayStation Eye camera.
At the end of each level, players are shown where they rank in comparison to all of the other players who have completed the level with the rank being based on their collectibles earned, whether they aced the level by not dying as well as other factors.
Although the campaign may seem to start off a bit slow it will start to pick up as you progress through the game and especially when you get to the third world Avalonia where the game becomes more creative than just a basic platformer. Some of the story missions are completely different types of games, with a great emphasis on side scrolling space shooters. Not usually a fan of these types of games, it was these levels that I found to be the highlights of the campaign. Each game is different in its own way, some taking on a traditional design, whereas others such as the one where you're riding the bee include more creative abstract visuals, enemies and colour schemes. Races are also included in some of the missions and you are rated based on your completion time and the amount of collectibles that you pick up along the way.
The campaign has quite a few side levels (which are unlocked by finding keys in their adjoining story levels.) These are predominantly made up of versus games, score attack modes and races. When players complete score attack games, they are awarded prize bubbles based on the amount of points that they acquire in the game.
I also liked the way that they integrated some real-time strategy elements into the levels that take place in the sackbot factory. Within those levels, you must rescue sackbots who have been captured by the Negativitron and have been imprisoned within various cells inside of the factory by stomping on a button to release them. You must utilize the rescued bots to activate certain switches and pathways in order to progress. They may even form a chain from the ceiling to help you grab on and swing across a gap. The end of each level requires a certain amount of sackbots to have survived, but you can usually go back and get more without much trouble. Real-time strategy is a genre I've always had a hard time getting into, but these levels were boiled down to a simple unit control format which was fun for me.
To help complete the levels there were a few major item additions to this sequel include a grappling hook and what is essentially a fireman's suit that allows you to shoot water (which is very helpful in the asylum world, where you have to put out fire enemies who are setting the world ablaze.) The grappling hook plays a large part in the game's campaign and may take a while to get used to. An especially frustrating aspect of the grappling hook was getting Sackboy to swing perfectly with lots of momentum in order to gather collectibles which was very hard to do. The water suit, on the other hand, works very well. These are available in addition to the creatinator and the grabinator gloves that allow you to pick up heavy objects, which both make a return in this sequel.
Each level in the game is playable in co-op, for up to four players at any given time. Players can work together to complete puzzles and accomplish goals, or just have fun playing the level(s) the way they want to. Playing co-op may even open up some secret areas in some levels. These areas include side games and collectibles that you cannot get while playing single player, and it takes at least two people to be able to access these areas (the number required is painted on the wall by the entrance.) It is incredibly easy to play online with another person or a friend - before each level starts; you are given the option to try to join someone's game or to play alone. However, there is currently an issue referred to as an 'infinite loading glitch' where the game sometimes fails to load multiplayer games and it essentially locks up at the loading screen, requiring you to quit the game and restart it, or turn off your controller, which some say works too.
The world in Little Big Planet is three-dimensional. What that means is that you aren't limited to just a two-dimensional plane to traverse, which is typical in most traditional platformers like the Super Mario Brothers series. Instead, players are able to press the left thumb stick up or down to toggle between planes. This is often necessary in order to complete puzzles, reach new areas or avoid bosses. I found this feature to be somewhat frustrating as it was sometimes difficult to tell which plane your character was on and as a result, you could find yourself accidentally get stuck on objects. There were also some inherent control issues, which made it a bit cumbersome to switch planes. These issues were more of a minor nuisance as opposed to an overall game breaking experience.
In general, the game controls quite well. The default control scheme utilizes the left joystick for movement, with the right joystick serving as camera control. Both joysticks are also used to re-size, rotate and move objects and stickers that you place in the game world. The X button is your jump button and occasionally serves as a boost or fire button if you're in a vehicle or riding an animal. The R1 button is another multi-use button that controls your ability to grab, drag and throw things, as well as your grappling hook. It also serves as a fire button for weapons and vehicles at times, as well as the button for some animals' secret abilities such as the jack rabbits smash attack. Overall, the controls are easy to get used to and there aren't many issues inherent in the design, except that on a few occasions the jump button wouldn't register properly and I would fall to my death.
The main selling point and possibly the most popular aspect of the Little Big Planet games is the fact that they allow players to create their own levels with tons of different designs, items, backgrounds, materials, and stickers at the creators’ disposal. Little BIG Planet 2 builds upon the success of Little Big Planet by further allowing players to create their own game types. The developers allow players design and publish their own creative games by utilizing the same tools that were used to create the core game. The creativity that is present within the game's community is already amazing and there is plenty of community content available as levels made in the original Little BIG Planet carry over to this game. Players can search for levels based on certain criteria and can review their fellow gamers' work by selecting a happy face or a sad face, or by 'hearting' the level. There is also an option to write a text-based review, complete with tags (listing what type of level it is, whether it's challenging or easy, etc.)
The game offers 52 in-depth tutorials for players to watch or take part in, that show you every aspect of level creation. These tutorials are accessible through the main menu and can be viewed over and over again. They're incredibly helpful and they are an excellent addition as there are so many intricate details that Media Molecule has added into the creation aspects of their game. It is truly amazing how much the engine allows them to do.
You cannot go wrong picking this title up, especially if you were a fan of the original. One of the best aspects of the game is the various unique game types that are found within the campaign and the community levels. I cannot wait to see what the community level designers come up with in the future. If you like platformers or if you are looking for a unique experience; make a point to try this game because you won't be disappointed.
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