Tuesday, February 8, 2011

LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3) Review

It's about time we kick things up a notch as the great Emerill Lagasse would say. BAM! That's another one. Regardless, it's time for a big game to start off the month of February, and we're doing so in style with LittleBigPlanet 2 for the PlayStation 3. The original title won the Best Game of 2008 award at the SPC Best of 2008 Awards (sponsored by Taco Bell and Mountain Dew). Could we see a repeat of 2008 with the sequel? Bah. It's too soon for GotY talk anyway!

RE: All Happy Gadders!!!
All screenshots by SuperPhillip

In 2008, Media Molecule took the entire build-a-game concept and revolutionized it with easy-to-learn, tough-to-master creation tools, simple Sackboys and Sackgirls to use as avatars, and levels built to teach players proper level design. It was then that only the most hardcore and ingenuity-filled players could create something outside of the platform genre. In LittleBigPlanet 2, Media Molecule has made it easier to create games from other genres such as the shoot-em-up, third-person action game, and even over-the-head Zelda clones. Are these new tools worth the price of admission to LittleBigPlanet's new galaxy, or are you better off sticking with the original game?

If you possess data from the previous LittleBigPlanet, you can immediately jump in and take all of your downloadable content, levels, costumes, prize bubbles, etc. into LittleBigPlanet 2. Even your pod, the in-game hub in where you access all of the game's content, will be designed the way you had it in the original game. The process takes less than a few minutes to do, and it's a great way to get re-accustomed to life in LittleBigPlanet.

Your pod is yours to design, so design away!

Now more aspiring level creators will want to dive immediately into the new create mode where new options abound such as the ability to program Sackbots. These bots can be customized to your every whim, and its these Sackbots that allow you to make more interesting games. The new movie camera gives your levels a more cinematic feel to them if you so desire. Everything from the first LittleBigPlanet is already available to you to access. By exploring the dozens upon dozens of tutorials, you can access even more content to tinker around with. The problem though arises with tutorials as they try to be more entertaining than actually helpful. That's fine and dandy with Stephen Fry narrating-- you'd probably expect dry humor, but when it's at the cost of properly describing what a certain part does, you're doing something wrong. I had to go to various message boards asking questions that the in-game tutorials should have already covered but didn't.

Creating levels is fun, but creating a good, capable level is a challenge. There's thousands of materials to build from-- from soft, grab-able materials to iron, metal, steel, glass, cardboard, and wood. By pressing the square button, Sackthing's pop-it opens up. This is where all the maestro's tools are located from the different types of bolts to stick platforms to walls to rods, elastic strings, and pistons to hold up and/or move walkways. You can alter materials with a click of a button, making previously walkable platforms turned into deadly gas, shocking electrified platforms, or walkways on fire. There's also a whole variety of checkpoints to select from including regular four-tries-and-it's-game-over to double checkpoints to infinite checkpoints where you have an unlimited amount of continues in case you continuously fail. Modifiers include a way to change the water level in a given world, lighting, special effects, fog, etc. You can add a multitude of music, even create your own using the game's synthesizer tool this time around.

As they say, birds of a feather...

Once your level is to tiptop shape and standards, you can publish it. Players can give it a thumbs up or thumbs down after playing it, write reviews, take photos, and otherwise share their thoughts about your newest creation. My concern with this process is that with so many levels being and already published (it's in the millions easily), there's little chance for your own levels to be viewed by the gaming public. What's the point in creating an intricate level with no way to promote it? That's one of my littlebig problems with this game. It was already a difficult process in the original LittleBigPlanet, and now it's even larger in the sequel.

Of course, creating levels is but a part of the LittleBigPlanet 2 experience. The real fun for those without a creative bone in their body is the story mode. The evil Negativatron is consuming entire portions of Craftworld, and it's up to your personally-made Sackthing to join the resisting squad, the Alliance, prove your mettle, and shoo away the Negativatron in one of many worlds. In the previous LittleBigPlanet, all dialogue was relegated to text boxes. Not so this time. In fact, there's entire levels dedicated to pure cinematic scenes featuring full, well-done voice acting.

Behold-- the Negativatron!

The levels pre-made by Media Molecule show off their greatest creators' work in the in-game level creator. Every level, every bit, every nut, every bolt in the story mode can be remade in the level creator. Quite impressive, no? When you consider multi-tier boss battles, shmup levels, creative mini-games, and other non-platform-eccentric displays of creation, it's very astounding that the tools of LittleBigPlanet 2 are so deep and complex. You start out as a cadet for the Alliance, trying to impress Larry Da Vinci, the leader of the Alliance, through a multitude of levels. Once you bash his boss creation, you are officially a member of the Alliance.

Play through the first series of levels
to prove your mettle to join the Alliance.

The story mode of LittleBigPlanet 2 does a great job of introducing new tools and gameplay mechanics throughout its duration. With great tools come great responsibility, or something like that. There's loads of new tools in Sackboy's (or Sackgirl's) repertoire including the paintinator (from the MGS4 level pack DLC from the original LBP) which fires paintballs at targets to destroy them, the grappling hook, the grabinator which allows your Sackperson to chuck light objects at enemies or throw them to use as platforms to cross an electrified floor, for instance. There's also the creatinator which shoots out delicious cupcakes that weigh down platforms for you, topple over ledges, and help you through levels. Finally, there's a hat that shoots out water to douse fiery platforms into safe havens for your Sackperson to walk on. All-in-all, these new tools are mostly excellent, and there isn't a stinker in the bunch. Using these in your own created levels expands the limits of what you can and can't do in LittleBigPlanet's creator mode.

The boss battles are very satisfying with one having you being chased by a giant chicken, one which is a multi-tier battle where you must toss projectiles into the eye of the boss using the grabinator tool. Then there's the multi-stage final boss which uses tricks never-before-seen in a LittleBigPlanet game. I don't even want to spoil it for you.

This first boss uses electrified yo-yos to take you down.

Going back to your customizable Sackperson, there's plenty of prize bubbles hidden in the various game levels that Media Molecule made. In fact, there's probably near one thousand individual prizes to collect. These house stickers, decorations, contraptions to use in your own levels, and costume pieces for your Sackperson to wear. After all, your Sackperson is your in-game avatar to show off and kick Negativatron butt in. There's millions of possible combinations to select from-from Sackperson color to hair to makeup to accessories to torso outfit to pants to headgear to gloves to footwear-- there's a lot to consider here. You can also earn prizes for clearing a level without dying, collecting all prize bubbles in a given level, or simply by completing a level. Mini-games now offer prize bubbles, too. The better your score, the more prizes you accumulate.

Meet SackerPhillip!

Speaking of prizes, there's certain areas of the story mode that are only available to two or more players. Up to four players can dive in together and play the story mode's levels. As long as there's a host (the person who selects the levels whether they be from the actual story or from the hustling and bustling community), there's a medium through each of the game's intricacies. One cooperative puzzles demands teamwork as you pull levers, shifting the direction of a wave of electricity to open a door housing a quartet of prize bubbles. However, with a wireless connection, things can get sporadic. You can get kicked from the game via your connection, you can constantly see loading screens, or you can just not be able to join any games at all. Media Molecule is working on this as I type.

Join up with friends (if they allow you to).

Meanwhile, the mini-games show off gameplay that LittleBigPlanet just couldn't provide such as a mirror puzzle where you control two Sackthings with the goal of getting them onto the green space at the same time. Of course, platforms and perils stand in your way, and timing is everything. There's races where you grapple hook your way through electrified currents, spinning grab-able wheels, and lightning-conductive enemies or swim through a labyrinth of puzzles to reach the opposite side of the screen in as fast a time possible. There's even a third-person shooter where you use the left stick to move around and the right stick to aim and shoot in a circular arena where enemies come from all directions. Case in point, there's lots to see and do in LittleBigPlanet 2, more so than the previous installment.

Things get tense in a hurry when
you're bombarded with enemy fire.

Presentation-wise, LittleBigPlanet 2 updates your levels from the original game. You can clearly see a difference. Fire is much more visually striking, gas has more particle effects to it, and electrified floors and walls are all the more... ahem... electrifying. The new backgrounds feature impressive visuals, and with all the action that goes on, there's nary a case of slowdown to speak of (except online). The soundtrack is appropriate, and gives players a wide assortment of tracks from trance to disco to classical to opera. The story mode's voice acting is quite good and adds a new element to the otherwise bare bones storytelling.

But still there's more to mention about LittleBigPlanet 2 even in this conclusion. You can take pictures, and share them with friends, build racing levels, shmup levels, adventure game levels-- heck, any type of level you want with the overwhelming amount of creation options. Perhaps there's TOO much in the way of tools to make games. The casual LBP player will love going through the story mode multiple times whereas the more hardcore of hardcore will enjoy making and sharing their prized level and object creations. To make it clear, there's something for everyone in LittleBigPlanet 2 whether you're young or old, part-time gamer or full-time gamer, Sackboy or Sackgirl.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.5/10]

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