Little Changes, Big Smiles: A Review of Little Big Planet 2

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Chris Pranger’s recent article on Fanboyism brought up some very valid points. If a game is exclusive to one particular console, regardless of how good or bad it is, your opinion of that game is bound to be drastically swayed in one direction if you have already sworn your allegiance with or against said console. Then you will proceed to pick at all positive or negative elements accordingly to justify your opinion. As I made perfectly clear, I’m an advocate for Sony. In fact, that was a vital quality that got me hired on this site in the first place. With that said, I could very easily sit here and rave about how much I love Little Big Planet 2 after playing it all week long and how asking whether or not I liked it would be like asking Chris if he liked Super Mario Galaxy 2. And you know what, guess I did just that, just now. But like all things, there is a method to my love, and I intend to make it perfectly clear why. So let’s hop to it.

Ha! “Hop.” I see what you did there Sackboy.

I’ll be perfectly honest; the first Little Big Planet was the third game I got when I first bought my PS3 back in 2008 (the first two were Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank Future), and after I completed the story mode of that game, one of the first thoughts that came to me was “There’s NO WAY this game is getting a sequel. It’s too complete and replayable just the way it is.” And you know what, for quite a while I was pretty much right. Media Molecule never did intend on making a sequel and merely wanted to use the game as a launch point to just add more content over time. Over the next two years, we were given oodles of goodies that kept us coming back, including a set of level and costume kits based on Metal Gear Solid, Pirates of the Caribbean, and even Marvel Comics.

Then, somewhere down the rabbit hole, Media Molecule discovered that the tools they created still had a limit to what they were able to accomplish. Thus a sequel was born: new story, new characters, and a whole mess of tools that allow the players to create and share all new game types. I wish I could tell you all about those new game types, but to be perfectly honest, I spent the whole last week just completing the story mode, and afterwards I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of what the game is capable of. But gosh darn it, I’m going to try anyway.

So much to love. So little time.

The story mode in LBP2 involves Sackboy (now called “Sackthing” as not to be gender specific) once again on a carefree stroll through Craftworld, a land where the ideas and thoughts of all humankind gather to take shape. But danger is afoot as an embodiment of selfishness, insecurity, arrogance, and fear (and anger, hate, and suffering while I’m at it) known as the Negativatron descends upon Craftworld to suck it all away. And I do mean that quite literally as the Negativatron is in fact a giant inter-dimensional vacuum. Lucky for you, your everyday scientist made of paper mache named Larry Da Vinci whisks you to safety and prepares Sackthing to join the Alliance. (The good Alliance. Not the Alliance from Firefly. Those guys are jerks.) As you meet each new member of the Alliance, each of them has their own themed levels that you must traverse in your mission to snuff out the Negativatron’s influence.

That may sound very similar to the structure of the first game’s story mode, and once you start playing through the levels, it pretty much is. Yet you will quickly notice that the sense of story telling is light-years ahead of its predecessor. It’s not deeper or more intricate by any means, but there is a huge overhaul in characterization. Each member of the Alliance you meet is bursting with personality. There’s a good chunk of voice acting now, and some of the Alliance’s interactions are laugh-out-loud hilarious! Unlike the first game where I felt like I was forced to get involved with the moderator’s troubles, I actually care about the supporting cast this time around.

So that’s the biggest change. All the other changes seem very minor in comparison. The graphics get a slight upgrade. The platforming has improved a bit too, yet it’s still a game based around physics, so the floaty and slippery nature of jumping will take some getting used to for newcomers. From there it’s all about the new items that have been added into the mix. There’s the grappling hook (pretty self explanatory), there are iron gloves that allow Sackthing to now pick up and throw a variety of objects. There’s the addition of Sackbots which can be programmed to run away from you, follow you, fight with you, or even heaven forbid, fight you if that is your will. There are legions of animals to ride, all with their own unique abilities: Bunnies that jump high and ground pound onto enemies, Caterpillars that ride up walls, and a Camel that, I kid you not, spits lasers (FTW!). If that wasn’t awesome enough, there’s the Creatinator: a helmet that can be modified to fire almost anything you can imagine. Just name it; Water, Fire, Electricity, Plasma, Cows, even baked goods. So yeah, while all of these seem like very little changes, in hindsight, they all combine to create a big amount of innovation for the series.

The Cakeinator is not a lie.

Hidden in the story mode is also a huge variety of unlockable multiplayer minigames that pay homage to tons of classic arcade games of yesteryear, plus several new ones. To name a few: Snake, Buster Ball, Pool, Bumper Cars, as well as a QTE button challenge and a battle royale with Creatinators fueled with missiles.

Difficulty-wise, the story levels are fairly simple and can easily be accomplished in 5-6 hours. Yet if you intend on Acing every level (I.E. not dying once) and finding every hidden prize bubble, that’s a whole other story. This game will keep you hardcore players busy for quite some time indeed. Yet no matter how committed you are to the campaign, the big emphasis for this sequel is definitely in the Create category. Anyone who’s ever wished to be a game designer, or has simply had an amazing idea for a game they wish to share, now is your chance to take a crack at it. There is an extensive list of short and sweet tutorials that will tell you anything and everything you need to know to get started.

Or, if you’re like me and not much of the designing type, you can still enjoy the fruits of other player’s labor in a vast user-created network that you are free to explore to your heart’s content.

Think of anything in the world. There’s someone out there who’s bound to make a level for it. And if they haven’t, don’t be afraid to be the first.

As a cherry on top of all of this, it is completely backwards compatible with the first Little Big Planet. Every item you won in the first story, every bit of downloadable content you bought, and the entire community of Two Million+ levels, have all transferred to this game and are looking better than ever before. Seriously guys, Little Big Planet 2 is huge, a breakthrough in fun, class, and versatility. I genuinely feel this is a game for anyone who is comfortable enough to express themselves in the most pure and fundamental way imaginable. And the best part is, it’s only getting started. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out.

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