LittleBigPlanet 2: Another Take

Kombo’s very own Michael Rougeau announced the rather exciting-looking LittleBigPlanet 2 trailer earlier today right here. Here’s Pete’s cautiously optimistic take on the announcement.

So it’s true! LittleBigPlanet 2 is real. After British electronica artist Ochre accidentally outed the game in mid-April, fans were waiting expectantly for the official word. And the official word is: it’s coming. Big surprise!

What actually is a big surprise, though, is the fact that all two million of the user-created levels for the previous game will be fully backwards-compatible with the sequel. This is an eminently sensible move on Media Molecule’s part, as it means they won’t end up splitting their own market. Presumably this also means that the past game’s DLC will also work with the new game, though there doesn’t appear to have been an official line on this yet.

The new game purports to be a “platform for games” as opposed to a “platform game”. Indeed, the impressive trailer shows a variety of different game styles in play, ranging from top-down racing through Space Invaders-style shooting to side-scrolling blasting. Many of these things could be “faked” through judicious use of rubber bands, pulleys and switches in the original game, but it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Thanks to the new game’s Direct Control Seat object allowing controller button mapping to objects in the world, players can now take direct control over things they have built. This allows them to produce something well away from traditional platforming. This is a good thing! Despite the creativity many level designers showed with the original game’s tools, there was no getting away from the fact it was still a platform game. The sequel looks set to provide designers with the opportunity to imagine and build almost any play style under the sun, within the constraints of the quasi-2D level design of course.

One concern, though: building a basic level in LittleBigPlanet was straightforward, if time-consuming. Building something with interactive elements was rather more complex, though, requiring some knowledge of actual science. Are the new objects such as the microchips and the aforementioned Direct Control Seat objects actually going to make life easier or more complicated for aspiring level designers? Sure, the Stephen Fry-voiced tutorials of the original showed everyone the basics of what the various pieces of equipment could be used for. But for complex practical applications such as the famous calculator? Without a pretty sound understanding of how mechanical things actually work (hint: it’s not fairies) it was very difficult to produce interactive material. Throw microchips into the mix and it’s easy to imagine the chaos which could ensue. Better get brushing up on microelectronics, huh?

The other concern that some have is whether the game will be a worthwhile purchase if they are one of the fairly-significant number of people who still don’t have their PS3 connected to the Internet. We can hopefully assume that like the original game there will be a lengthy and challenging “Story” mode to keep unplugged gamers happy. But to be honest, how many people actually bought LittleBigPlanet on the strength of how good a platform game it was, versus how awesome the idea of creating and sharing your own content was?

The trailer certainly has a lot of people excited, though, as the fact that the hashtag #LBP2 enjoyed a brief stint as a Twitter trending topic will attest. It looks like a worthy follow-on to an excellent, popular game rather than the cash-in that everyone expected.

Even if the music in the trailer is just a little bit annoying.