I never thought the world would need a sequel after the gaming community created and shared well over three million levels for the original, but after a week with LittleBigPlanet 2, I can’t imagine going back. It helps that all of those levels are backwards compatible and freely available in this latest iteration of the famed-PS3 platformer. It isn’t just a shiny coat of paint on old levels that takes this game to a new dimension, though; it’s the new tools, and the brilliant ways to innovate and make something more unique with far less effort. For the non-creative types, that means community levels have a lot more to offer.
The game has been out for such a short period of time, yet already individuals have managed to create everything from first person shooters to role playing games, real time strategy, and, arguably most-importantly, top-down space shooters. The Controllinator tool has been quite revolutionary in that respect, allowing gamers the ability to reprogram what buttons do what in the levels that they build. This totally blows open what is possible, as it’s no longer necessary to conform to the control scheme or character of the game.
I was three hours deep into the music synthesizer when I realized just how far this game allows you to innovate. What would be an afterthought in any other game is instead a fully-featured music creation tool that allows you to not only create a series of songs for your level, but lets you make them fully interactive and connected to the levers, moving platforms, flashing lights, and even the enemies you design.
The story campaign is sadly quite short, but the same is true of the first game. This time around, there are short cut-scene story levels that give deeper context to the story than found in the original. The story is cute and often hilarious; it follows Sackboy on his quest to rid Craft World of the evil Negativatron. While it is kid-friendly, there is plenty to enjoy for all-ages. More importantly, the balance of levels is spot on, with a great balance between long, tough levels and fresh, light ones. It’s easy enough for a child to make it through, but hard to ace the levels or find all the secrets, which skilled gamers are rewarded for accomplishing with hundreds of stickers, costumes, and tools for the editor.
The multiplayer is great, but with a few hiccups. There are few better experiences than running through your favourite creations with a friend or two. Specific versus and cooperative levels add to the pure joy of multiplayer, ranging from low-gravity rocket-tag to a half-court basketball game complete with bounce pads. Unfortunately, online multiplayer often features significant lag. The constant invitations to join online matches grow annoying as well. Another downside is that although the new grapple hook is a fantastic addition, despite being hard to master, it can become frustrating in multiplayer as the hook has a habit of shooting towards other players instead of at the grab-points intended. The Grabinator, meanwhile, gives multiplayer a new layer of hilarious possibilities, as it allows Sackboy to pick up any moveable object, including other players, and throw them across the screen.
There really is so much to this game, including the Creatinator, which allows players to shoot any object, or the Sackbots, that have programmable AI. Micro-chips allow far more programming within a level, while level badges allow linking within levels this time around. There are also new ways to find community levels, including the website LBP.me which gives each level a specific webpage with comments, ratings, and photos. Players can queue up levels from the website and find them ready to play next time they load up the game. With these additions, LBP 2 improves in every way, with a fine level of polish so rarely found in games today. It truly has something for everyone.