10th February 2011 - Whatever you thought of LittleBigPlanet (LBP) when it was released in 2008, few could deny that it was a fresh approach to gaming. Media Molecule had managed to create a fantastic platform where young and old, male and female alike could find something to draw them in. LBP was a creative world with a great art style and the ability to customize your sackperson drew in many (including my wife). Importantly the gameplay was fun and collecting items gave reason to replay. All this was good, but what really made it stand out was the unprecedented level of community involvement. Being able to make your own levels and allow others to play and rate them has led to literally millions of extra levels being made and extended the shelf life considerably. Now LBP2 has arrived with new features and even more stuff to collect. The question is - do these additions improve it, or is it a case of “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it”?
In case you never played LBP, you and up to 3 others (either locally or online) control a sackperson through a series of platform levels. You collect items along the way which can then be used to either customize your character, decorate your pod (your home essentially) or build new levels. Two things are noticeably different in LBP2. Firstly, it's gone more hardcore. The difficulty level and speed of gameplay has moved toward a more traditional game rather than the slightly more casual friendly affair that was LBP. It by no means makes it inaccessible to a wide audience, but I do think it has narrowed its' focus more. There seems to be less easing into the first few levels, which didn’t bother me but will challenge some casual gamers. Maybe the developers assumed most people who are going to play it have gone through LBP first, which is probably a fair assumption.
There is more of a story this time around (although still pretty shallow) and a darker one at that. It does allow for a bit more flow between worlds as LBP was a fairly random collection of characters and environments.
The other big thing to notice is that the variety of gameplay has improved. Although with its' own niggles (I'm looking at you foreground/background movement) the platforming in LBP was solid but a little limited. In LBP2 the creative juices have been flowing and there is a whole host of new gameplay elements.
A couple of examples are shooting and riding animals. Although shooting with a paint gun was thrown into LBP, it didn’t feature much. In LBP2 you will use a water cannon to douse flames and kill enemies, shoot grappling hooks to swing and climb, shoot enemies riding animals, and even pick each other up and throw yourselves. It's great fun (unless you are the person being thrown) and adds variety to the platforming. It makes it feel like a whole new game and not simply more community levels from LBP.
The other main change as I mentioned is your steeds. There are a variety of story levels and bonus levels where you get to ride things like bees, camels, caterpillars and rabbits, all with their own special abilities. This completely changes the game again and really breaks up the running around in a positive way. Both of these elements are sure to be used in all manner of ways in the coming months on the community levels which will pop up.
Speaking of which, designing levels is as big a job as ever with the virtually limitless combination of materials and items. Levels are pretty much limited only by your imagination and your patience. It’s satisfying to have others play and rate a level you have created, but make no mistake - to make a decent one you will need to pour some hours into it.
I was curious how the Move was going to be implementated in LBP2 and was a little disappointed that it wasn't part of or an option in the main game but merely part of an extras section. This consists of a download on the disc called Prehistoric Moves which is a mini-adventure with a dinosaur theme. Unfortunately the use of the Move is horribly gimiky and doesn't add to the gameplay, instead making it more awkward. A shame, but seeing as it's an extra and not part of the main game it doesn't matter too much.
LBP2 is full of colour and and despite a darker story, the character designs and themes of each world are beautifully created. Lighting and textures are a joy and effects such as fire and water run without a hitch. Frame rates take the occassional drop when people drop into the game but otherwise everything is smooth and the game is as nice to look at as it is play.
The music in LBP consists of some well known songs and other tunes which are easy on the ears as you jump from platform to platform. The sound effects are done well with slapping, burning, explosions, electricity and anmal noises all produced with the LBP flare. There is a lot more talking from the characters in LBP2 and they are over the top and all unique as you would expect from Media Molecule.
The main campaign has a few dozen levels with plenty of reason to go back through with friends to pick up all the items and ace the levels. The amount of time you can spend creating your own levels is virtually limitless and you can be garanteed of finding some great levels over the coming months in the online community. This is a game that you could happily pick up for many months to come.
LBP2 had big shoes to fill. LBP was a unique and fresh take not just on the platform genre but on game design and the gaming community. Fortunately what has been produced is a great game with new gameplay elements, new cotumes, tools and even more freedom to create the kind of levels you want. The pacing and tone of the game has been changed a little and is more focused on traditional gamers but all the elements that we loved from the original are still here. There are some nice nods to different earas of gaming in the level design and in general this is just a well rounded game with plenty to offer.
AAG SCORE: 9/10
+ Same great recipe that made us love LBP
+ More items and tools to cutomize with
+ More gameplay elements to add variety
- Pacing not as friendly to new comers or casual gamers
Reviewed and Written By Khye Davey