I remember the first time I saw LittleBigPlanet and heard about its exciting concept of co-op creation and gameplay. But after several delayed features and a lack of variety in gameplay out of the box, it just didn’t grip me like I hoped it would. LittleBigPlanet 2 is here, hoping to improve on its predecessor in many ways, and after spending hours upon hours with it, we’re ready to issue our verdict.
LittleBigPlanet did a great job of creating a platform for its content, gameplay, and style; LittleBigPlanet 2 takes all of that and cranks it up to 11 adding a coat of polish for good measure. Every moment of the game, whether you are spending time in the interface creating worlds, browsing online content for the latest user levels, or playing through the game’s story mode - they all just ooze with style. The story itself is the first place this is incredibly relevant, players are given a clear goal from the beginning of a journey that takes them through incredible looking settings like a Sackbot factory, an insane asylum in a jungle, a futuristic training ground, and a quirky bakery. Each location is filled to the brim with Tim Burton-esque characters and oversized objects that bring the world to life, and each location has its own music that is as catchy as it is weird.
While the first game had a forgettable story mode, LittleBigPlanet 2’s is anything but. Zany characters like a self deprecating notebook, a bubbly cupcake maker, and a psychologist with a bird cage on her head all fill this world and provide the story. Each one has a distinctive voice in both the cutscenes with actual dialogue, and then in a sort of jibber-jabber language during the levels themselves. The aforementioned environments aren’t just for platforming and collecting stickers/objects/outfits for your Sackboy and creations - instead MediaMolecule have mixed up the pacing of the game to show off its content creation tools. The levels themselves can vary greatly - some play like a top down shooter, others are like a racing game, others yet act like the classic game Arkanoid. You’ll find yourself playing basketball, climbing a tree as a caterpillar, and putting out fires with a water cannon. The style of the levels themselves can also be altered, one such level looked like a classic 8-bit side scrolling shooter. There’s a ton of variety here and it doesn’t feel like any of these mini-games are repeated throughout the campaign itself.
But it’s not just the mini games that have changed the gameplay, its the way you’ll traverse the platforming levels that have also gotten an upgrade. Tools like the grappling hook change the dynamics of numerous puzzles while the Grabbinator allows you to pick up and chuck objects great distances at enemies. Other levels play out a bit like the classic game Lemmings as you are required to lead an army of Sackbots to specific locations and hopefully saving them from certain peril in the process. On top of these gadgets are a variety of vehicles like a flying bee that shoots honey, a giant bunny that slams into enemies, and a hamster that rolls and jumps like it overdosed on coffee.
For co-op gamers, all of the features of the previous LittleBigPlanet game make a return - and there are several improvements to boot. The biggest, and most welcomed change, is that the entire story mode can be played in co-op with great ease with not only friends, but anyone online. The world map now shows how many folks are playing which levels and when starting a level, you can request to join someone. On the flipside, someone can request to join you as well. Of course if this is something you don’t want to do, you can disable it, but you may miss out on several unlockables and sections in the game. I had a few minor connection issues during these games, mostly with random loading screens appearing mid level, but I’ll chalk it up to pre-release online functionality.
Throughout the game you’ll find areas marked with giant x2,x3, and x4 labels denoting the number of players required to enter that area or unlock the piece of content hidden behind it. These aren’t always just gateways to another area, some are puzzles that require teamwork and timing. One puzzle had a player and myself alternating switches on opposite sides of a tower that had electricity running up it. We needed to time the presses so the electricity could snake its way up a wire all the way to the top, doing so yielded us more collectibles. Media Molecule really did a good job of making sure all the players had something to do while playing, no co-op player will sit idle - like in one mission you’ll ride a giant camel shooting lasers from its back. Each player gets a seat on the camel’s and their own cursor to fire. There’s little touches and improvements all around for co-op that just make it feel like MediaMolecule really paid attention to how people were playing and where the nagging areas were of the first game.
The other half of LittleBigPlanet 2 is its creation tools, and this is where the game has gotten the biggest upgrade. New tools like logic boards, gravity effects, programmable Sackbots, and the music sequencer help give designers a much easier time creating that gameplay mode they so desperately desire in LBP. There’s even a cut scene creation tool if you want to add story to your custom level. Out of the box players are able to invite other Sackboys onto their moon to help them create and design levels in co-op fashion. Objects can be packaged as collectibles for other players that can be earned when they play your level.
I was honestly shocked to see that all of LittleBigPlanet 1’s custom levels are playable in LittleBigPlanet 2. According to Sony this means that almost 2.5 million user levels are available at the launch of Little Big Planet 2. Luckily you won’t need to wade through all of them to find the gems, there’s both community rated top picks and MediaMolecule top picks to help you in your decision. There's also a new website, LBP.me, that gives each level their own webpage.
I guess if I had to gripe about something in LittleBigPlanet 2 is that it doesn’t feel so much like a sequel, as it does the game I felt LittleBigPlanet 1 should have been. Though I think its safe to say that a lot of the features in LBP2 wouldn’t have been present without the community feedback the first game provided.
LittleBigPlanet 2 honestly came out of nowhere for me. It’s not that I didn’t know it was coming, I just didn’t realize I could have so much fun with it. From its style to dialogue and gameplay, to music and characters - everything about it charmed me. The story mode isn’t incredibly long, but it gives you a great taste of the variety of things the LBP2 engine can do. We saw some pretty amazing creations in the first game with some limited tools - with all the new creation options on people’s finger tips it’s going to be quite the ride to the next 2.5 million levels.