By Kristen Levine
When an evil vacuum cleaner is methodically destroying the Cosmos one world at a time, who are you going to call? Sackboy, that’s who. In a triumphant return to the Playstation 3, Sackboy and a menagerie of allies are out to stop the malevolent Negitivitron. The afore-mentioned vacuum cleaner, a dragon-like robot monster, is set on destroying Craftworld – a game setting that is nothing less than magical. Craftworld is made of imagination, and with the original “LittleBigPlanet’s” amazing two million user-created levels, it is imagination refined into its purest form.
All is not well in Craftworld. Riding off the events of the 2008 original title and the PSP game, Sackboy – or Sackgirl, if the player feels like switching things up a bit – must band together with other denizens of Craftworld to stave off total annihilation. One of these allies is Sackboy’s mentor and guide Larry Da Vinci, who leads the Alliance that strives to fight off the Negitivitron menace. The characters are colorful, vivid personalities, adding humor and gravity to the fantastical setting.
The setting itself is something to treasure in gameplay. Levels are beautiful constructs, lighting and modeling lending a sense of startling realism. Playstation 3’s Blu-ray capability is used to full effect with “LittleBigPlanet 2,” giving an almost extra-real feel as Sackboy endeavors through. Puzzles run on the simplistic side – though some timing puzzles, like those in the electrically charged level Current Affairs, are an exercise in patience that can quickly devolve into controller-tossing frustration. The controls themselves could stand for a shade more tweaking, a legacy surprisingly left over from the first game: Sackboy sometimes does not respond properly to commands when jumping and maneuvering levels, and moments of frantic button-mashing to regain the flow of progress are not unusual.
Game creator Media Molecule has kept in mind that user level creation is the biggest jewel in the franchise’s crown. The level creator tools have been refined and simplified, using the easiest commands and controls to get the most work done. Levels are not limited to traditional side-scroller, with the camera enabled to switch perspectives as the creator desires. Seeing Sackboy tackle challenges in a level mapped like an RPG rather than a side-scroller is refreshing and interesting. Additions like vehicles – something sorely missed in the first title – and AI-driven creatures called Sackbots are highly notable. The Sackbots are customizable bots, capable of wearing costumes, learning programmed actions, or just hanging around in the background to provide ambiance. When actively used, the Sackbots follow the player around to help with specific tasks.
“LittleBigPlanet 2” is a masterwork. Its flaws are minor and ultimately overshadowed by the gameplay and atmosphere, a playful, gentle story that manages to avoid being saccharine. Sackboy is a lovable hero that is easy to believe in, with a host of supporting characters as creative and colorful as Craftworld itself. “LittleBigPlanet 2” is the gameplay equivalent of letting your childhood imagination run wild, and no one should miss this experience.
“LittleBigPlanet 2” is rated E for comic mischief and mild cartoon violence. It was released January 18th exclusively for the Playstation 3, at $59.99.