LittleBigPlanet 2 Hands-On Preview: Sackboys Gone WildBy Christopher Monfette & Jake Gaskill - Posted Dec 09, 2010
As soon as we finished LittleBigPlanet, we knew we wanted more, and having played a relatively substantial build of the sequel, it’s apparent that we’re getting a lot, lot more. However, itt’s hard to say with this franchise that anything could truly feel like a real sequel, given an overall lack of narrative, a specific setting, or the various trappings that commonly define how a series expands from one game to the other. But it’s safe to say that LittleBigPlanet 2 is hoping that size does indeed matter and that features alone can make a game feel like a true follow-up.
We recently went hands-on with a select few areas in each of the game’s major levels, getting a solid sense of how the title’s incredibly expanded creation tools have been put to use throughout the single-player game. First and foremost, the sequel controls exactly the same as the first, and the level design – while offering occasional shifts in perspective and gameplay types – remains much the same, as well.
Thankfully, these shifts form the highlights and pivot points of each level, introducing shooter areas, race-car tracks, FPS segments, and even old-school, arcade-style action into the mix. In the handful of levels we experienced, they seemed to be evenly paced, and with so many areas of each sprawling level unexplored, we’re certain that the best is yet to come. For example, one area required that we leap atop a giant creature that carried us forward as we aimed its weapons with an on-screen cursor, taking out missles and grenades from an air-born boss. Another section saw us speeding across a figure-eight track in pursuit of a renegade Sackboy from a top-down perspective.
One new feature heavily utilized in each level we played was the grapple gun. It’s a blast to use – if a little difficult to control when attempting to swing, manage the length of your tether and leap to some nearby platform all in one fluid motion. You’ll use the grapple in almost every level to traverse ravines or climb to great heights. It’s always incredibly fun when the grapple is used in conjunction with the newly added bumper-plates. One touch and the plates shoot you rapidly forward, sometimes in a fast, wild, 360-degree loop, allowing you to leap to higher levels and scale impossible heights. Like that cat caught on the ceiling fan in that YouTube video…
Now if only you didn’t control the length of the rope with the same stick you use to swing, making it reasonably difficult to keep a steady level when trying to move forward on a consistent arc.
Thankfully, there are tons of new textures and costumes to collect, so if you’re the kind of player who enjoys consistently re-decorating your Sackboy – or your mini-pod – you’ll find this a far more fashionable game than the first. However, there doesn’t seem to be much more use for these objects in the single-player game beyond the familiar placement of stickers throughout the environment. But the points-driven mini-games – timed jumping exercises, shooting arenas, foot and kart races, etc. – help to give these items a greater sense of value as you rack up higher and higher scores to unlock more interesting objects and themed outfits.
While the Media Molecule folks are themselves wonderfully skilled creators when it comes to giving players elaborately detailed and cunningly crafted levels to explore, they are also masters of giving players all the necessary tools required to create their own levels, and, thanks to the new tools in LBP2, their own entire games.
As in LBP, creating levels in LBP2 all start with the Popit. This is where you’ll find all of the tools, objects, materials, and everything else you’ll need to build the games and worlds of your dreams. All of the essential building blocks (stone, wood, sponge, etc.) and basic tools like switches and motors have returned. And while these elements still provide a great foundation upon which to build your levels, it’s the new additions that are the most exciting.
Like the ability to assign multiple actions and functions to objects via the new circuit board tool (which you can also use to build circuit board upon circuit board upon circuit board in order to build the most complex contraption your brain is capable of conceiving), or the ability to create your own cutscenes with the new camera tool and voice recording function. You can also use the new music sequencer, which, yes, can be used to create custom sound tracks using a wide variety of instruments, but that can also be used to sync in-game events with specific notes in your personalized score, or link entire sections of levels together so that they trigger when players hit certain points in the level.
Toss in the ability to manipulate Sackbot minions by giving them their own personalized AI logics, and the new Controlinator, which lets you assign specific gameplay functions to a virtual PS3 controller and transform the game into something completely different (an FPS, a top-down racing game, a giant pinball machine, etc.), and you have everything you could ever possibly need to build, create, and explore entire worlds of your own making. In short, don’t be surprised if someone other than Media Molcule makes LittleBigPlanet 3 with the tools from LBP2 (After all, Media Molecule built LBP2 with the tools from LBP after all).
It’s difficult to recapture that initial sense of charm, and if there’s any one struggle we had as we played through the levels of LittleBigPlanet 2, it’s that for all the innovation, the cuteness that so defined the first title seemed somewhat old hat. The gameplay and creation tools have certainly been revamped and strengthened, but you can’t quite regain that initial sense of wonderment and the silly, awkward smile that formed across your face no matter what age you were when you played the first title. That said, we only played a smattering of the levels, so by the time the full title releases, we might very well be reduced to the childlike wonder of the original game. We certainly hope so because LittleBigPlanet 2 is likely to be one of our favorite titles of next year.