Bust out your plasticine, your silly straws, and whatever other childhood gadgetry you use when building-your-own fun. LittleBigPlanet 2 hits store shelves this winter, and if the first game was cute, this much-anticipated sequel looks to be packing weapons-grade adorable.
Media Molecule quickly captured the attention of the gaming community when it announced LittleBigPlanet for the PS3 at GDC 2007. The brief demonstration hit all the right buttons, and promised to breathe some much needed life into the then-sparse game library of Sony’s latest-gen system. The game was one of the first to truly show off the graphical capabilities of the system, and the introduction of the lovable Sackboy character had even the harshest critics of Sony’s high-priced piece of kit squealing with delight.
Though the disk sold with an impressive 50 pre-made levels, LBP’s real innovation came in the form of its vast and accessible level creator. As elements (such as stickers and building components) were unlocked by discovering them within the original levels, they were available to be used again in any way the player saw fit within their own concocted boards. Once completed, player-generated levels could also be uploaded to Media Molecule’s online servers, where other players could experience and rate the creations. This was the grand idea behind LittleBigPlanet: Play. Create. Share. Since the game launched, some 2.3 million user-generated levels have been created and uploaded. I’ve spent a great deal of time with the original game, and though I didn’t dabble too much on the creation side of things, I did partake in a lot of user-generated content. I found many levels that rivaled the efforts of the Media Molecule team’s designs, and even a few that surpassed their efforts.
Nearly 3 years have passed, and LittleBigPlanet2 promises to move players out of the toy box and into a full-fledged tool shed. The recently released trailer has already displayed that this latest iteration of the franchise isn’t just sporting a new coat of paint; Media Molecule has been busy tinkering with the innards of this beast. They’ve kept what works, and it appears as if they have also streamlined the level creation process.
For example, In the original game, creating a NPC typically involved a crafting a cutout with a few stickers on it, with a text-based message which you could only activate with a programmed switch. With the introduction of Sackbots, you can program numerous sack-denizens, and have them follow the hero of your game, or stand in opposition, forcing the player to defeat them in order to proceed. Customize how they move, what moves they are capable of performing, and even what type of emotional behavior they will exhibit. Add your own voices and animations to the Sackbots. These all-new layers promise to add greater depth to the story-creating process.
The switch mechanics remain, but have been slimmed down considerably. No longer will an array of pulleys and levers used to power your ultimate boss-creature blot out the screen while you create. These can all be kept on the new circuit board feature, thus helping to alleviate the problem of cumbersome, head-scratching wiring configurations. It also opens the door to vehicles and creatures that are steered directly with the Sixaxis controller.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is still many months from release. If Media Molecule follows their patterns from LBP 1, the information released today is only the tip of a vast iceberg. They are declaring that this is no mere platform game: it is a platform for games. It seems like a new wealth of options will be available to budding level designers who are willing to sink their time into the creation process. Whether you want another playful romp through the imagination of MM (as again narrated by the affable Stephen Fry) or you want to create your own vast game worlds (or vast world games!), keep an eye on this title.