Among the early PS3 exclusives, few were as well acclaimed as the original Little Big Planet. A whimsical platformer, it traded in the harsh-edges of a first-person-shooter for cloth and fur. It had a decidedly hand-made feel, like an overstuffed toy box. In effect, that’s what Little Big Planet was, for after the original adventure was completed you could play any number of custom levels created by players of the game online.
With this customizability it seemed almost redundant to release a sequel to Little Big Planet, as the community levels have only increased in quality with time. However, Media Molecule (now a Sony-owned company) has risen to the challenge, offering not only a wide variety of new play mechanics, but also much better tools to assemble them into levels.
Little Big Planet 2 is simple. You control a small avatar made of cloth (Sackboy), which you can then customize with any number of costumes that you collect throughout your travels in the game. This turns out to be a necessary step, as playing with up to three other players at the same time leads things to get confusing very quickly if you do not each have your own distinct look.
The actions in the game are varied. You can jump (of course) and grab onto objects with soft surfaces. This grip lets you swing across chasms, or drag other objects around. On top of this, certain levels have their own special enhancements, like a grappling hook that lets you swing all over the place like a puppet on a string, or a glove that lets you pick up most objects (including your fellow players).
As a single player exercise, the game is an amusing diversion, but certainly not an intellectual or motor challenge. The real fun of the game comes with playing with others. Rather than getting to the end being the goal, in many places the goal comes from the playing itself, doing ridiculous things like trying to hit your fellow Sackpeople with a gun that shoots giant cupcakes.
In the first Little Big Planet, levels incorporated every available trick in novel ways, but there was no way of inventing new mechanics. In Little Big Planet 2, you now have the ability to change the perspective of the camera and construct different behaviors together to make entirely new experiences. One of the more popular online variants was a top down shooter, with another being a reimagining of Capcom’s Resident Evil.
This is also possible due to being able to assign simple AI behaviors to Sackbots, a new component of this sequel. In the single player game, you are often herding this Sackbots through the level, with greater rewards for the more you save. In the online variations, the Sackbots can take all manner of forms. Yes, there are zombie Sackbots.
With these new behaviors coupled with the new mechanics possible in the level editor, Little Big Planet 2 offers a lot of replayability, as there is quite literally an endless stream of levels to play, even if you are not interested in making levels yourself. Thankfully, Media Molecule also offers various ways that you can filter the levels so that only the very best ones are available to you.
For owners of the previous game, all of their prior content that was acquired in the first game is made available in the second. Your original Sackboy is even imported into the game just as he was the last time you played the original game. It makes for a seamless experience.
For those who have not played or own the original, find a friend who has this and give it a try together. If you don’t like this game, you don’t like games.