Friday, 11 March 2011

Game Review - Little Big Planet 2

Format: PS3

Following the rather tragic admission concerning my activities during Valentine's day within my Marvel Vs Capcom 3 review, I thought I'd do something different for this piece. I'm sure a lot of you reading are aware of the difficulties a gamer encounters while being in a relationship. Trying to make time for the object of your passion and affections and your girlfriend can be a daunting task (only joking, ladies!). So this time, I'll be writing a split-review, one side constructed from my perspective both as an experienced freelance journalist and gamer, and my girlfriend Carly, a woman.

Little Big Planet is one of the few games I've had success sharing with a partner. With its mix of simple physics-based platforming, cutesy arts-and-crafts presentation and upbeat music, LBP was the go-to-game when it came to spending time together in front of a console. LBP2 promises more of the great level design alongside deeper creation tools and character gadgets to provide the online community with even more options to create their own levels. What follows is a stage-by-stage account of our experiences with Little Big Planet 2. Let's get to it!

Lukao: Upon starting the game, I was pleased to see that all my unlocked and downloaded costumes were carried over. While initially unimpressed by the game's presentation, which seemed very similar to that seen in its predecessor, I was eventually won over by LBP2's charm and character. The inclusion of a grappling-hook tool was a welcome distraction, and in concert with the new 'bounce-pad' tiles, created some interesting platforming sequences.

Carly: I was happy about the number of new female costumes available. Being a fashionable woman-about-town, I was fed up of wearing pirate and ninja costumes designed for boys! I was a little irked at all the tutorial prompts, but loved the new grappling hook!

Lukao: During the second world the new, more fanciful design ethic became apparent, replacing the old ethnic motifs. I was really impressed by the dissolving effect seen on the game's more splodgy materials. Oh and throwing each other around the stage with the new 'power-gloves' was fun!

Carly: I'd just like to point out here that as a gaming widow, I've had extensive experience in spending time alone with cakes. So to see a whole 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' stage seemed fitting, although it did make me hungry. Like Lukao, I too was blown away by the realistic confectionery explosions. The new 'Creatinator' hats were interesting, and allowed us to shoot sticky cakes about the place. Sounds like my idea of Heaven!

Lukao: This next world introduced the mechanic of friendly 'sackbot' characters, little AI controlled robots that either ran away or followed you. These little fellas set up some pretty cool herding sequences where we had to work together to get them where they needed to go.

Carly: *Girly gasp* I LOOOVED THE LITTLE ROBOT GUYS! I especially enjoyed the competitive element of seeing who could get the most robots to love them, flashing heart eyes tugging at my heart-strings. Is there any way to teach cats to do this? Seeing any stragglers die unexpectedly caused me real pain, and an immediate restart of the level!

Lukao: I wasn't really a fan of the 'Controlinator' animals in the next world. While slightly novel, they just felt like more awkward ways of navigating the level. Speaking of level design, this one felt uncharacteristically lacking in character.

Carly: I really enjoyed controlling the animal robot things, especially the hamster. While unwieldy, I had a lot of fun careening around the levels, slamming into things.

Lukao: Ah, the fifth level at least seems more interestingly designed. No new mechanics were introduced here, but the established ones were combined together to create the first world that didn't feel like a tutorial level. It was nice to see some of the old characters from LBP1 in the background, but it made me realise how annoying I find the new ones.

Carly: This level had some really great ideas using the Creatinator to shoot water at plants to make them grow and to extinguish fire. The design also appealed to my environmental instincts! The boss on this world was easily my favourite: a gruesome vehicle sequence inside a character's brain!

Lukao: This final world had some of the best and innovative levels and ideas (including a neat game-within-a-game arcade cabinet). All the existing tools and gadgets were used to create a dramatic climax, and the levels looked great too.

Carly: I thought the level design a bit too busy, and found it difficult to distinguish foreground hazards from the background. The side-scrolling shooting section was really fun, and showed how different gameplay styles can be created within LBP2.

Chalk up another success to Media Molecule, they've managed to create another couple-friendly hit. Building on the strengths of the first game, LBP2 has greater variety and potential for budding level designers. There is already a huge and prolific community creating free content of a high standard, and I'm sure the online content will only improve with time. While the offline experience doesn't hit the same joyous highs of the first game (perhaps due to our own personal tastes), LBP2 has a vastly improved online component, including the ability for players to join your session mid-game (useful for getting those pesky multiplayer challenges). Definitely one for the collection!

Lukao and Carly give Little Big Planet 2: 9 jam-filled cakes out of 10.

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