This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Media Molecule's user content-driven platformer LittleBigPlanet 2
, which reviews describe as "a bottomless toybox." LittleBigPlanet 2
currently earns a score of 93 out of 100
Games Radar's Mike Reparaz scores LittleBigPlanet 2
at 10 out of 10
. "The first time we realized what sorts of things LittleBigPlanet 2
was capable of, it was like staring into the deep end of a pool from a high-dive," he writes. "There's an immense depth to it, but knowing what you have to do to get there can be intimidating.
introduces tools that make the original LBP
look antiquated, introducing potentially complex logic circuits, Sackbots that can serve as secondary characters or gameplay-altering avatars, and even the ability to create and direct your own cutscenes."
"Making all of that work for you as a creator is a hell of a lot easier than taking a programming course, but still takes hours of learning, experimentation and patience."
The single-player campaign has also been improved. "Those who just want to play it as a stand-alone game and ignore all the creator stuff (for whatever reason) can look forward to a surprisingly beefy story mode this time around – one with characters, voice acting, a persistent storyline and everything," Reparaz explains.
"The story consists of some 40 levels (including a slew of optional minigame levels, some of which are meant explicitly for multiple players), most (but not all) of which revolve around the same quasi-2D, platform-hopping gameplay from the first game."
Mechanics-wise, however, LittleBigPlanet 2
retains many of the original game's quirks. "The bad news is that the basic gameplay hasn't really been retooled," Reparaz warns. "If you thought the first game was floaty, you'll find LBP2
equally floaty. If you were confused by LBP
's limited 3D – which enables Sackboy to move between three separate 2D layers – you'll be just as confused here."
"Adding so much as to be a little intimidating at first, LBP2
brings a slew of impressive new creator features, while still offering plenty of cool new things for those who just want to play," Reparaz summarizes. "The basic, flawed platforming of the original is still there, but compared to the possibilities LBP2
opens up, it's insignificant."
Joe Juba at Game Informer gives LittleBigPlanet 2
a 9.5 out of 10
. "I can't stop thinking about LittleBigPlanet 2
," he enthuses. "Even after putting down the controller, I continue playing with the creation tools in my head. Everyday objects send me off into daydreams about new vehicles, and ideas for bizarre puzzles spring to mind in mid-conversation. With this sequel, Media Molecule gives players a bottomless toybox, and I can't remember the last time a game had such a relentless grip on my imagination."
Juba continues: "You've probably heard that you can make games in multiple genres now, and that isn't just an empty promise. I dabbled in 2D shooters, demolition derbies, and unclassifiable mayhem. The options can be overwhelming at first, but once you get a handle of a few of the new tools, things start clicking into place. You'll definitely want to figure out the Controllinator as soon as possible, since it allows you to control things remotely. Object modifiers are also incredibly useful; some let you tweak specific traits (like anti-gravity or friction), while others set contraptions rotating or moving without the need for complicated pulleys and levers."
The game's creative freedom has a steep learning curve, however. "Figuring out how best to use these new toys isn't quick or easy," Juba admits, "but it pays off big. Even so, the chasm between basic understanding and fluency is extremely wide. Despite the inclusion of numerous tutorials, more advanced in-game instruction would ease the learning curve. Placing a few cameras isn't the same as orchestrating an entire cutscene, but the tutorials don't help you synthesize the simple pieces into a more complex whole. I'm sure plenty of level-building savants will fall right into step, but a little more guidance for the rest of us could result in even an even wider pool of awesome community-created levels."
"The original LittleBigPlanet
was impressive, but LittleBigPlanet 2
cements Media Molecule's position as masters of facilitating user-created content," Juba writes. "By providing an abundance of tools and inspiration, along with the platform to share your creations, you could play LittleBigPlanet 2
every day and experience something different and amazing every time."
Destructoid's Jim Sterling rates LittleBigPlanet 2
at 7.5 out of 10
. "The trouble with a sequel to a game like LittleBigPlanet
is that it's difficult to imagine what more you could do," he says. "LittleBigPlanet
was more than a game; it was a breathtaking toolset of new ideas and fresh content. Following that up with enough content to justify a sequel was always going to be tough. Your mileage may vary as to whether or not you feel Media Molecule got away with it."
"Rather than make any drastic overhauls, Media Molecule has opted instead for giving us the same experience with many more toys in the box," Sterling explains. "New materials, new items, new gameplay features -- there's a lot of stuff to play with, and how much you enjoy it all depends on how much you enjoyed the original."
Sterling feels that the sequel does little to address the problems of the original game. "This is LittleBigPlanet 2
's biggest strength, but also its biggest flaw -- LittleBigPlanet 2
is an expansion on an idea, but it is not an improvement," he claims. "The sequel still boasts the same issues as the original title, chief among them a rather weak platforming element."
"This is not to say, however, that LittleBigPlanet 2
is a bad game," Sterling admits. "It is, in fact, a rather good one when you take the entire experience into account. If you loved the first title, you'll no doubt really enjoy the new toys on offer. Being able to play with genres outside of platforming, such as scrolling shoot-'em-ups and simple arcade games, goes some way toward making up for the lack of freshness in other areas."
"The in-game toys are also rather fabulous," he praises. "New environment additions such as the Bounce Pad pave the way for ingenious level design, while new vehicular robots -- including a bunny with huge jumping abilities and a dog that can move large blocks with its bark -- are a lot of fun to play with when the physics aren't making them difficult to control."
"For all its new gimmicks and flashing lights, LittleBigPlanet 2
can still be best described as a great way to make substandard games," Sterling concludes. "It's fun and it's cute and it's something PS3 fans should check out, but it's relying on a concept that was brilliant two years ago, and just isn't enough anymore to catapult the game into true greatness."