LittleBigPlanet 2 Review: It’s Sacktacular

LittleBigPlanet 2 is the sequel to one of the PlayStation 3’s most beloved games. In the original, Media Molecule won our hearts by introducing the adorable protagonist, Sackboy. The second game continues in the same thread – it’s a platforming game in which Sackboy must play the hero and save the “world,” as it were. But in addition to all it has to offer by way of the single player, they’ve also expanded their multiplayer – in the first, you could make your own levels; now, you not only make your own levels, but you can even link them together to create entire games – and more. LBP2 touts itself as “not just a platforming game, but a platform for games,” in which you can make twin-stick shooters, shoot ’em ups, racers, and even first person shooters. But bringing such a huge amount of content to the table doesn’t come without pitfalls.

Platform: PS3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Media Molecule
Genre: Platformer with Elements of Creationism (no, not that kind)
Release Date: January 18, 2011
ESRB Rating: Everyone

LittleBigPlanet 2 feels a lot like the first game. The “sackdoll” physics are still there, hurtling you through space; the platforming is just as cunning, and the levels are cute and quirky. The story mode itself is, as before, charming – Stephen Fry narrates you through the beginning, in which it seems that Craftworld is in danger of being devoured by the Negativitron. (Yes, it does sound a bit like the plot to the Neverending Story.) You then platform your way through the levels, encountering some boss fights as you go, collecting prize bubbles and “pins” which are in-game rewards similar to trophies, and learning about all of the new features available. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself grinning widely at how adorable and delightful this game can be.

The grappling hook is one new addition, which allows Sackboy to grapple onto any object he can grab and then swing from it. By using the analog stick, you can not only swing side to side, but also change the length of the rope, allowing you to pull yourself up as well as get a wider swinging range. I found this feature to be both frustrating and rewarding – it’s often difficult to get Sackboy positioned just right, and even when you do, if you try to swing, you end up pulling in the rope if you’re not careful with your handling of the analog stick in the direction you want to go. More than once I found myself swinging and suddenly falling short of where I was trying to land because I pulled the rope up and lost my momentum. But when you can get it to work just right, it’s an amazing tool that changes the way platforming works in the realm of LittleBigPlanet.

There’s also the grabinator, which allows you to grab large items and toss them around. This is something I had way more fun with than I expected. From tossing cakes to use as platforms, to carrying around a big heart to get Sackbots to follow me, I loved this new feature. Also fun was the creatinator, which is a tool used by the creator to allow Sackboy to shoot whatever they can think of. There’s an area in the game that has been set on fire, and in order to put it out, you’re given a “splashcannon,” allowing you to put out the fires and kill meanies. And don’t get me started on the Sackbots – you spend some time liberating them in the Factory of A Better Tomorrow, and I completely loved watching them follow me around with their little heart eyes.

Avalon’s world held a brand new surprise as well – robotic animals I could ride, each of which had unique attributes. The first was a bee I got to fly around which let me grab and move Sackbots. After that, there was RoboBun, the hopping and stomping bunny; MechaPup, a dog with a sonic bark that could move barriers out of his way; and Hamstertron 2000, a fast-moving rodent with a “boosting burrow” that let him smash through walls. But the final – and my favorite – was the spitting camel, who you could use to take out baddies. All of this – and other items, like the bounce pad and the neat little segway that let you ride on the ceiling – made for a lot of fun.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the single player was the fact that it was much shorter than I anticipated. I finished the main story in about six or seven hours, and even after going back and playing all the unlockable levels, that still only put me at about 10 hours. This was the same complaint I had with the first game – I wanted more Media Molecule levels. A LOT more. Like, twice as many. Back in 2008, I couldn’t stand the community levels – I’d spend an hour playing them and only one or two would even be even remotely worth playing. Sure, Media Molecule had picks on their website, and there was a rating system, but I don’t feel like looking up levels – I just want to play. And as for the rating system, often players would rate levels that had free prize bubbles or allowed you to unlock trophies quickly – levels with little to no substance at all. All of this made me wary about diving into the community levels on LittleBigPlanet 2.

Luckily, many of those complaints have been addressed in the sequel. When you launch the community levels, there’s an option for MM Picks, levels chosen by the developers themselves. Those were the first ones I opted to play, and many of them were top notch. I also utilized the “Dive In” feature, which randomly chose a level and allowed you to play with other people online. This seemed to be randomly buggy – sometimes I would have connectivity issues and be stuck on a loading screen for over five minutes, listening to the level music play – and sometimes even hearing the people I was with going into a new level – in the background. But the worst part was when I chose to “Dive In,” ended up in the same level I’d just been in but with different people, and had them kick me out for no reason. To get kicked from a level in LBP? I felt like a monster.

With all of that under my belt, I decided to check out the tutorials. I’d done most of the tutorials in the first game, and even tried to create my own level, but after about an hour of wrestling with the controls and falling flat, I gave it up. I’m not much better with these controls, frankly – I comprehend everything, I ace the tutorials with flying colors, I even get crazy thoughts in my head about how this is going to be when I make something awesome and everyone loves it, and then I crash. When faced with a blank canvas, I do what I usually do – I panic and start filling it with cute things that make no sense whatsoever. I did watch – or I guess I should say I listened – as Mike Gutierrez played with the music sequencer for a few hours, which was amazing. My favorite is the Percussion 8-Bit Kit, which was exactly as awesome as it sounds.

There’s more than just the music sequencer, though – there’s also a ton of new tools and materials as well. There’s a level link which turns one level into a series of levels, potentially allowing people to create their own world within LittleBigPlanet 2. There’s also a feature to help creators simplify the flow of their creations – the Circuit Board. Complicated structures can be placed on these and hidden away, simplifying the process. The new materials are too numerous to list, though I did have fun trying out the new material glass (which is as slippery as it sounds) as well as some of the cool holographic material. And did I mention that you can now add cinematic cut scenes? These were a little strange in the story mode at first, but they add another dimension to the game and bring depth to the characters.

I’m not trying to skimp on the create aspect of the game – the sequel truly has a lot more to offer for the creative, or those aspiring to develop games. But that part of the game just isn’t for me. I don’t have the time or patience to sit and make a level. I respect the people who take the time out to build them, though – I played several that were amazing. I went into a versus basketball game several times, dunking in low gravity; chased pandas around; and even started the first chapter of an RPG someone is working on. Has Media Molecule failed because I haven’t made any levels? In my opinion, no. While it’s true the game is supposed to make it easy for people like me to make levels, well, if there’s no interest on my end, there’s no failure on theirs. For many, this will be the main reason they purchase the game, and if that’s what you’re into, this is definitely the game for you.

One extra note before I wrap things up: both the regular and collector’s editions indicate on the box that they are “PlayStation Move compatible.” LittleBigPlanet 2 is not fully compatible with the Move. There’s Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves, in which one player controls Sackboy with a Dualshock, and the other player controls him with the Move controller, but there is no other functionality that I could find that utilizes the Move controller with the nav controller. I was hugely disappointed by this fact. Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves is a standalone PSN title that also comes with the collector’s edition, but it is little more than a tech demo. Don’t go into LittleBigPlanet 2 expecting a “Move”-ing experience – you’ll be disappointed.

Despite its shortcomings, LittleBigPlanet 2 is more than just an expansion of the first game – it’s a re-imagining of all of the creative and clever aspects of its predecessor. It gives Sackboy and his fellow creatures a depth that couldn’t have been allowed in the original. While the story mode was much shorter than expected, the way players interact with the community levels has been completely overhauled and is much easier and more convenient to navigate. Anyone who loved LittleBigPlanet and wants a bigger, grander adventure should definitely pick this up. Players new to the franchise will love it, especially since they’ll have access to all the levels created for the first game as well. Don’t go into this expecting a game fully compatible with the Move, though – you’ll be disappointed. What it lacks in story and functionality it makes up for in creativity and new features, so anyone with a hankering for building things – or in the mood for playing some truly unique levels – will love LittleBigPlanet 2.

Review Disclosure: A retail copy of LittleBigPlanet 2 was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.

This entry was posted in PS3, Reviews, Top Story and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
Nicole Kline is Warp Zoned's Senior Editor. She first began preparing for the job by climbing a milk crate to play Centipede in an arcade. You can find her on PSN under the name toitle or you can email her at nicole AT warpzoned DOT com.

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