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LittleBigPlanet 2 Review


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On 03/16/2011 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

This game's a tool.
RECOMMENDATION:

While the game is impressive for what it can do, it's not all that much fun. Give it a rent and see if it clicks – it didn't for me.

I have to hand it to MediaMolecule, developers of LittleBigPlanet 2. They've created something truly amazing – a game that makes games is a pretty wild idea, and when you see what some people have made, it's only that much more impressive. Here's the thing though: while LittleBigPlanet 2 makes for an impressive specimen, it doesn't make for all that great of a game. The majority of the main levels are uninteresting and anything community produced, while potentially impressive, is just a one-time affair.

I don't mean to knock the game so hard, because it honestly is an impressive product. I'm completely blown away by what I've seen – one person completely recreated the first dungeon of The Legend of Zelda from the NES. That's mind-blowing. I was speechless after seeing it, but I own the original Zelda probably four times over, and at any point I can grab it out of my closet and play that dungeon in exactly the way it was supposed to be played, with the exact right assets and controls. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Because the tools of LittleBigPlanet 2 aren't built for anything in particular, everything feels kind of hacked together. It's hard to describe without seeing it for yourself, but things just aren't right. Textures and objects pop in and out, collision detection isn't quite right, and in general things aren't perfect. Of course, no one is expecting it to be either. It's not like a developer was working on it, making things look and act perfect, and augmenting the functionality of the engine if it wasn't quite prepared to handle what was to be thrown at it. Herein lays the issue of LittleBigPlanet 2.

Nothing is made to be specific to a single purpose, so nothing can work just right, no matter how much it's tinkered with. Platforming levels are really the only exception to the rule because LittleBigPlanet 2 at its core is a platforming title.

The main quest has players completing a variety of platforming levels with a few extra levels tossed in that break the mold. Given the fact that MediaMolecule themselves were behind these creations, it's obvious that the level of polish here is up to snuff. There were some small issues here and there, but most were infrequent enough that they didn't have a huge bearing on the game.

If anything, the game's biggest problem is its core platforming mechanics. There's something weird about the game's jumping. It never feels quite right and given the situation, it never behaves consistently either. Maybe I just couldn't identify the pattern, but each and every time I jumped, I seemed to reach a different height. Sometimes I'd barely come off the ground, which at times became problematic.

The game features a grappling hook as a part of its core mechanics that honestly couldn't be worse if they tried. It doesn't really produce a good swing, which in my opinion is paramount to its functionality. Nobody wants to grapple around without swinging happening naturally. You wind up having to force the functionality by letting go of objects and re-grappling them from a further distance to get the necessary momentum to swing. It's awkward and completely unenjoyable. Whereas I'll often love to grapple in a game and look forward to any levels that feature it, I always dreaded having to perform the task in LittleBigPlanet 2.

As the game presses on, things do start to come together through the use of other mechanics. Vehicles and other tools are available to players and these can often be fun to use. Sometimes they produce frustration because, like most things in the game, they just don't work as you might expect.

There's an entire world based on bot Sackboys that must be rescued from a plant and these levels were consistently enjoyable. Most often they involved puzzle solving and diligent and careful level progression, which was an interesting twist on the typical design.

When not focusing on progressing through the level, players can collect a variety of items, including articles of Sackboy clothing, items to use in the creation mode, and stickers, which can be used to solve puzzles and collect more items in the levels. Collecting these things is probably the biggest focus of the game and the best excuse to replay the game's main levels.

Players will often encounter special rooms that hold more of these prizes, but require multiple players in order to enter. These force players to eventually partner up with up to three other local or online players in order to complete the tasks at hand. Thankfully, the rooms are some of the best parts of the game as they are almost always based around solving a unique puzzle that may take the collective intelligence of the group to solve. These sections demonstrate just how great LittleBigPlanet 2 can be given the right context.

In general, LittleBigPlanet 2 just feels very hit or miss. The main quest has some high highs and some low lows. The user generated content is very much the same way, but due to the long load times to get into a given level, it's often not very much fun to bounce from user level to user level when the quality is not always there.

Part of what impressed me from the beginning with the user content is just how good it is given the fairly cryptic tool set and big learning curve to actually start creating something. I know I could actually program and create a real game myself if I wanted to do it, but something about the tools here made that task seem almost impossible. Given what players have accomplished, I'm that much more impressed they did it right with the tools provided. I think the game would've benefited greatly from a very simple level creation tool ala Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Simple enough for anyone to use, but enough complexity to make unique and enjoyable levels.

Like its predecessor, I really wanted to like LittleBigPlanet 2, but in practice it's just not as much fun as it seems it would be. The main quest is fairly brief and not all that exciting, and the user content is of spotty quality with long load times. All in all, I think the game is best passed on, with players seeking out a game that was built to be a game and not a creation tool.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

paradoxical

03/16/2011 at 03:26 PM

3 stars? I think your in the minority with that score.

Its not a perfect game or anything, but its not that bad. I think somewhere around 4 would of been right. I enjoy the coop and the user made levels.

I agree though the grappling hook is weird.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

03/16/2011 at 04:21 PM

Uh oh. Playstation fan anonymous is really going to be upset about this one. I've only played Little Big Planet 2 once, at E3. I never played the first title. I watched a lot of videos, and was always impressed with the scale and schemes used in levels I saw, but I never felt like the game or user designed stages were fun. At E3, the stage design was absolutely miserable, with a rising stage and no simple, immediate method for a second, third, or fourth player to revive, it just didn't work.

Chris and I have a friend that's completely obsessed with this game and its predecessor. It's really a hit-or-miss title. I will say that the physics are the main turn-off for me. I don't like slow-motion movement, especially with jumping, it just doesn't feel right to me. If the game had a Mario-style engine, and didn't "worry" so much with doing so many things it can't do any of them well, I'd probably buy it and enjoy it.

Since I haven't played it, I won't rate it, but really, my reaction to Nick's score is that he's hit the point that lines up with my perception of the game. The points he hits in his review match up with my fears and predisposition of the game. I just can't see many people who value substance over style and flair enjoying this game. That's just my opinion, naturally, and there's many people that disagree with my opinion, but I don't see much substance in Little Big Planet 2 after the "Wow" of "I can make anything!" becomes the disappointment of "I can't make anything work well."

Anonymous

03/16/2011 at 08:42 PM

Lies, lies and LIES!! Nothing else!! @ Jason Ross, what??!! did you say "I can't make anything work well"??!! Almost all people say that LBP2 is ALWAYS SUPER IMPRESSIVE and "you CAN make anything well"!! Don't be fooled by the LIES of this "review" (if can still be called review)!!

Chris Mabrey Staff Alumnus

03/16/2011 at 11:43 PM

I think part of the problem is that the game offers a narrow frame for a wide variety of experiences. This is no fault: the tools provided by its creators were intended to work this way. If someone wants to tell a story, then they only have a certain number of ways to present its elements, like a sidescrolling adventure where events occur by stepping on or through a trigger. A huge variety of games can be created, but they are bound by the frame set by the tools Little Big Planet provides.

For many people, the levels themselves aren't always the problem. It's the context. For Jason, the physics don't jive with him. While a user-created level might be a lot of fun for one person, it's not for another purely on grounds like these. And perhaps not understanding this is a contributing factor to many of the game's shallower user creations.

Like Nick said, the tools provided don't have a refined purpose; that refinement is intended for the players. If the game is geared towards platforming, though, and that seemed to be the case with Little Big Planet, then this causes a problem. Looking at levels as an impressive creation is one thing, but treating levels like interactive museum exhibits isn't for everybody. And then if someone wants to play a level and doesn't like the limitations imposed by the tools, largely the platforming, then it loses its luster.

So if I were to peg a problem with the game by having very little experience with it--which, granted, isn't very helpful--it's that the thought of "make anything" doesn't always pair well with the limitations Little Big Planet inevitably imposes. While the game may be a great deal of fun for some, it may not be for others. In this regard, the message projected by the game is arguably misleading.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

03/17/2011 at 12:13 AM

I'm gonna go on the forums and give you your stars back, Chris.

Nate Hascup Staff Alumnus

03/17/2011 at 08:30 AM

I've not played either Little Big Planet title, but the StarCraft map editor is also a diverse tool for user generated levels and I've seen some very impressive content on there. Some of the dungeon crawling RPGs and Tower Defense maps are superior to professional retail releases in my opinion. I play more of those than regular games of StarCraft.

Do you guys think there is a similar limitation there or do you think Blizzard pulled it off better because they don't try to make the editor be 'everything' at once? They don't try to make it possible to build, say, a platformer.

Would LBP benefit from a pruning and refinement of the toolset to specific genres?

Nick DiMola Director

03/17/2011 at 11:02 AM

"Looking at levels as an impressive creation is one thing, but treating levels like interactive museum exhibits isn't for everybody."

This couldn't describe this game better. Because people *can* make anything, they do. The thing is, I don't want just anything. I want well-made levels that work well within the limitations of the engine.

People using it to make things like Zelda's first dungeon, while amazingly cool, is still pretty worthless to me. You're right when you say that not everyone can appreciate the interactive museum concepts found here. Honestly, it goes strongly against it being an actual game. At that point, it practically isn't, which really killed the fun I could have with it.

For those who really enjoy making levels, I can see the appeal here. Otherwise there's not much to love other than the game's unique art style and character.

Anonymous

06/14/2011 at 10:06 PM

you guys are gay. lbp is an incredible exercise in creativity and engaging gameplay. no wonder this site is so unpopular. you suck.

Nick DiMola Director

06/14/2011 at 10:23 PM

lol sweet troll, bro.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

06/14/2011 at 11:21 PM

Mine's better.

"We're here, we're queer, LBP still is dull unless you love to create things with a limited toolset and you don't want to spend time learning real, practical skills for game creation."

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