LittleBigPlanet: the closest thing to a hug in videogame form. Yet, as gooey as the first game made us feel, we’d be lying if we said we thought the world particularly needed a sequel. After all, it’s a game that prides itself on its near-infinite playability, thanks to its sprawling creation tools and ferociously inventive community. Indeed, with over 2.3 million user-created levels floating around the internet, it’s going to take even the most dedicated player quite some time to exhaust what’s already on offer.
First up, Media Molecule promises all those existing user-created levels will work seamlessly with LittleBigPlanet 2. Which begs the question, what’s it got up its sleeve to make us hand over the cash a second time? Unfortunately, the answer’s not particularly succinct, unless you’re happy to settle for “A lot”. You see, to really understand Media Molecule’s ridiculously grand ambitions for its follow-up, you kind of have to start from the inside and work your way out.
Core to LittleBigPlanet 2 is the notion that it’s no longer simply a platform game – it’s a platform for games. Take a look at the trailer and you’ll see everything from horizontal shoot-’em-ups to top-down racers vying for your attention – and it’s the brand new tools at the heart of this sequel that makes it all possible.
The biggies here are intelligent characters known as ‘Sackbots’, direct-control vehicles and a completely overhauled camera system, all working together in a way that really does seem to suggest that the only limits are your imagination (and, probably, an awful lot of your time). LittleBigPlanet 2 features 30 new developer levels and it’s a sure bet that most of these new features will speak for themselves as stages are revealed over time. Until then though, you’ll have to use a bit of imagination to understand the developer’s new direction and the impact it’s likely to have on how the game ultimately plays.
With LittleBigPlanet 2’s new camera system, for instance, budding directors are able to create full cinematics, whether as stand-alone movies or sequences in levels. Cut-scenes are no longer simple affairs with talking marionettes; you’ve full control over camera position, movement (including tilt, zoom and shake), transitions and timings. You can even record full voice work for your happy parade of Sackboys, should you want to really set your directing chops noshing. Cameras alone add a whole new level of polish to the game – and can significantly alter the action itself with a bit of creativity. Yet they’re only the first phase in expanding LittleBigPlanet’s scope exponentially.
Of course, if you’re making movies, you need actors – and that’s where those Sackbots come in. Starting off as square-headed Sackboy drones when you plonk them into a new level, they’re blank canvasses waiting for instructions – and the instructions they’re willing to learn are quite staggering. With a simple flick through your inventory, you can make Sackbots indistinguishable from their Sackboy brethren but it’s their tweakable behaviours that open up whole new possibilities in the game.