Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet 2 is a sequel that never feels as if it’s attempting to top its seminal and inimitable predecessor. Some fans of the first LittleBigPlanet questioned whether a sequel was even required at all, and to their eternal credit, the Guildford-based development squad have opted simply to gently expand everything. It’s a shrewd move; the original game was a marvellous House Of Cards-style construction that would have toppled if each aspect wasn’t treated with the same amount of care and attention as every other. On that score, this sequel works just as impressively.
The opening few minutes of LittleBigPlanet 2 make you feel right at home. Stephen Fry’s affable tones have returned, things kick-off with a brief rolling tutorial, and you are given instant access to all of the user-created levels that were crafted using the toolset provided in the first game – of which there are now well over three million. As brilliant as a truly bewildering number of those levels still are, the new possibilities that are offered by LittleBigPlanet 2‘s much-enhanced new creation suite frankly boggles the mind. Not only can you now direct your own cutscenes or enlist AI-controlled BOT enemies, you can also create games that span multiple genres, and multiple levels.
Series aficionados won’t need to be told this, but newcomers are encouraged to play through the entirety of the single-player campaign first – if only so that they can nab all of the mode’s many valuable unlockables. The campaign is also a fantastic introduction to the sheer wealth of new creative opportunities that are present, and homemade levels are no longer restricted to variations of platforming games. The campaign doesn’t fail to get your creative juices flowing early on, and a suitably batty narrative – something that was largely missing from the original game – ties everything up rather nicely. In addition, the entire campaign allows for co-operative play for up to four people simultaneously; locally or online.
In addition to the airy, unusual platform gameplay that was present in the first game, here you can also create racing games, old school shoot ’em ups, or even top-down RPGs; or broad amalgamations of all of the above. Even so soon after LittleBigPlanet 2‘s release, the most impressive user-created content often contains elements and ideas that aren’t present in the single-player portion at all – and as such, are examples of extraordinarily inventive trial-and-error experimentation. That was the best thing about the first game, and it’s the best thing about this one; if you can picture it in your mind, chances are you’ll be able to build an approximation of it here.
Even if you already consider yourself to be a skilled designer, the new tutorials are completely invaluable simply because so much new stuff has been wedged onto the disc. You can import your old profile (including all of the objects that you collected in the first game) and the enhanced lighting and particle effects are applied to the first game’s user-created content too. There is also a brilliant new batch of two-player levels – although they definitely can’t be described as ‘co-operative’. One of you manoeuvres Sackboy through a series of ten treacherous levels, whilst the other uses a Playstation Move controller to trigger traps and manipulate background hazards.
Anyone who fell madly in love with the original definitely shouldn’t feel as if this sequel is a needless enterprise, or a glorified piece of downloadable content. The fact that it’s overbearingly charming was to be expected, as was the fact that the single-player component was only designed to be the tip of the iceberg, but what’s most astonishing is that Media Molecule have made a game that isn’t only more ambitious than its ground-breaking predecessor, it’s more technically accomplished and user-friendly to boot. And if you’re the kind of person who judges games based solely on value for money? Forget about it.
Watch the LittleBigPlanet 2 trailer here: