The original LittleBigPlanet was released just over two years ago and came with a fully featured creation mode that allowed you to create your own platforming levels, and, if you had the patience and skill, even more complex games like side-scrolling shooters.
Many new features were added over the last couple of years, giving players the opportunity to create more varied levels. Additionally some of the downloadable content brought new mini story lines, like for example the Metal Gear Solid pack released in late 2008 or the Pirates of the Caribbean Pack in August of 2009.
Today there are well over 3 million user created levels. While only a small fractionof these are really enjoyable, this number is still pretty impressive.
Considering all of the above, could LittleBigPlanet 2 really bring anything new and interesting that would justify it or should they have just added more and more content through updates and add-ons?
The answer is, without a shadow of doubt, yes to the sequel - which is fresh enough and packs plenty of new content to fully justify its existence.
Story mode has essentially remained the same since LittleBigPlanet. You still jump and swing through several different themes and collect point and prize bubbles. (Yes, the jumping behaviour is still as it was. Not broken, just different.) However there are now cutscenes within the different levels as well as between the different themes. Essentially that means that this time around you won’t have forgotten why you are running through all these different themes in the first place. It also makes the new characters in the game a lot more interesting and gives them quite literally all a unique voice.
The whole story will probably take you no longer than 5 or 6 hours. Just like it was the case with LBP1, however LBP2 packs a lot more deployability value since most if not all levels are now playable in a sort of time trial mode. You activate this mode by placing a sticker you’ve collected at some point during the story at the beginning of the level. A racing gate than appears and some elements of the level are changed to allow for faster traversal. Additionally, previously unreachable prize bubbles become reachable.
Levels are now also longer since there is a new feature called Level Link (which can of course use in create mode) that directly links together two levels with minimal loading. Usually only a couple of seconds. On the downside if you run out of lives in linked level you will return to the very beginning of the level you started out from. This can be a bit annoying, but generally the levels are a few minutes long.
The majority of the levels are still relatively straightforward platformers, but especially towards the end they become more varied. There are some side-scrolling shooters and levels where you are in control of a rabbit or even a caterpillar. One of the later levels would even make Jeff Minter proud.
Just like the prequel, LittleBigPlanet 2 also features survival and score challenges aside from story. While I haven’t played all of them, they are more varied this time around and you can also win prizes here if you reach certain scores. Additionally there versus levels, where you can play against your friends.
While the story mode is very nice, the core of LittleBigPlanet 2 is still the create mode. Now, I could go into endless details about it because I spend far too much in it during the beta and since I got the final version, but I won’t. Instead I will just quickly over the biggest improvements.
One of the first things players of the previous game will notice is that there are a lot more tools to use. The biggest and probably most important improvement is that there are now proper logic gates (AND, OR, NOT etc.). While they may seem daunting at first they are essentially the same as the ones most people build by hand in LBP1. Except a lot more stable and easier to use.
You can pack as many of these logic gates as you like on so-called microchips. This will allow you to fit logic that would have previously filled up the whole level (and not to mention thermometer) into one small square that you can stick on whatever you want.
Another great addition is the Controlinator. This new tool allows you to map each button of your controller to anything you can imagine. This really enables you to build pretty much any kind of game you like, without even having to use Sackboy as the player character.
These two additions alone, the logic gates and the controlinator, make it possible to recreate games like Pacman, the old Zelda games, racing games or pretty much any flash game you’ve come across. Of course the real challenge is to come up with something new and creating great levels is still time consuming. Though, all the new tools really sped up the creation process. What would take days in LBP1, usually only takes a couple of hours in LittleBigPlanet 2 once you know how to use all the new tools.
Don’t worry this won’t take long. There are again several tutorials, all voiced by Stephen Fry, that explain all the basic that you need to know to make full use of everything new and old. If you prefer not to sit through the tutorial again, you won’t have to. There is an unlock button that just gives you all the content you would normally unlock by doing these tutorials.
New with LBP 2 comes the ability to create your own music in game. While I found it rather difficult to work with there were several players in the beta phase who created some pretty impressive pieces. Whether my difficulty is down to just not having any musical talent whatsoever or the tools themselves, I can’t say. Probably the former, the tool itself is pretty easy to use. In principle all you have to do is choose from a range of instruments and then simply place dots and lines until you hear something good. At the moment many of the instruments you can choose from a pretty 8-bit like. That is say there are more electronic sounds than lets say pianos, trumpets and strings.
Aside from big, new additions there also several smaller tweaks that make the whole process of creating levels or games a lot more enjoyable. It is for example now possible to hide objects with a press of a button and edit objects behind them without have to cut holes or carefully moving stuff around. It is also possible to glue things together more precisely now simply by clicking on the objects you want to glue together instead of pushing them. Furthermore you can select and tweak multiple objects at once now.
Another small change with big impact is the ability to change gravity. It can be set from anything to 0% to 400%. At 100% everything behaves as you know it from the previous game and most story levels. Set gravity to zero and you can jump through half the level and at 400% all the floatiness inherent to LBP is gone. The later will surely make a lot of people happy.
There is of course a lot more than just the above, but it all essentially boils down to this: If you liked the create aspect of LBP1, you will love this. It’s easier, less time consuming and a lot less restricted.
A big part of LittleBigPlanet is the sharing of levels. In LBP1 it was rather difficult to find good levels. For LittleBigPlanet 2 MediaMolecule has created a web portal (www.lbp.me) where you can share your levels directly with anyone on the internet. If you allow the game to display your levels there, anyone can queue them up directly from their computer. The levels will then instantly be added to your in-game queue, so that you can jump right into them the next time you play the game.
They have also made some changes to the rating system, but whether this will lead to good levels being getting the attention they deserve remains to be seen. It’s likely that there will still be loads of trophy levels, especially in the first few weeks.
What else is there to say? The story levels still retain their hand-made charm, even though the later levels add more sci-fi elements to the mix.
It is still LittleBigPlanet, MediaMolecule have just added a whole lot more. The create mode in particular has really evolved and finally gives you the freedom to build whatever you want.
If you liked the previous game, you love this. It’s better in every imaginable way.
It’s not just a sequel like FIFA 11 is to FIFA 10. The changes are really a lot more far reaching.