Early last week’s announcement by the most creative of bunches, the guys at Media Molecule, that LittleBigPlanet 2 was to be delayed for another few months until January 2011 was certainly disappointing. However, any signs that Media Molecule are falling back on development duties are totally dissipated as soon as we got our hands on the game at this years Eurogamer Expo, in Earl’s Court, London.
Shining from magnificently glorious high-def screens behind the gleeful, smiling face of Sackboy, LittleBigPlanet 2 (LBP2) was certainly one of the more impressive of showings at this year’s event. All early footage of the game has been highly convincing that this is a step beyond the exceptional first game and its platforming roots. Whilst levels to be demoed were a little disappointing in promoting LBP2′s more, shall we say, adventurous of creations that have come to the forefront in the beta build (FPS’s, RPG’s, wholly convincing shoot-em-up’s), our hands-on still reinforced our mind-set that this is still indefinitely worthy of your time.
It might be difficult to apprehend how one of Guildford’s most creative, innovative and outlandish studios might go about to improve on one of the game’s of this generation. LittleBigPlanet was a genre unto itself- the ‘Play, Create, Share’ brand- that pushed to the forefront its user-creation tool-set, becoming one of the PS3′s first, major “must have’s” and with it, stealing many a gamer’s’ heart (yes, even my own).
Hopes that LBP2 might somehow refine or tighten the platforming mechanics can be put to sleep because no, there is no detectable difference in how the game plays. That said, Media Molecule have gone to lengths to make this stand out as a platformer in its own right. Levels feel more energetic, vibrant and complex (incredibly difficult to up on the first game), due in no small part to the addition of various elements, materials and systems that have been levelled into the tool-set. Our hands-on showcased the bouncy material that sends Sackboy high into the air, without input from the player, while incorporated this with the new grappling hook (a hold of ‘R1′) that could easily be shortened and lengthened with quick adjustments from the D-pad. And although LittleBigPlanet was by no means visually unattractive, LBP2 really fits the bill as one of the best looking games on the system- there is more effects to compliment the different elements (fire, electricity etc.), while the game also boasts more startling detail. It’ll certainly be interesting to go back and look at some of our older creations to see how the new graphical overhaul makes them pop back into life, for sure, but we’ll have to wait until January to get the full verdict on such retro-fitting.
Otherwise, the only other addition to LBP that we can truly talk about within our hands-on was the implementation of the programmable AI bots (or ‘Sackbots’ to you and I) whose behavioural traits can be co-ordinated in the build of a level. Another of our demo’s with the game saw us have to guide bizarre, little, wooden disciples with heart-filled eyes to the other end of the level. Obviously, programmed with the intent to follow extremely closely, what followed was a joyous romp through the horizontal platformer towards the end goal, while unblocking plastic pipes to let the Sackbots through, defeating more varied enemies (a spider, for example, with rotating internal ‘cores’), and avoiding horrible Sack-deaths.
We can’t imagine what comes out of the final build of the game, when the PS3′s budding creatives come a’calling and get to work with the hugely expansive creation tools that lay at their disposal. We’ve seen videos of the aforementioned mingling of genre’s that LBP2 will be able to conjure, and whilst our hands-on failed to showcase everything that will lay in store, perhaps that’s best. It’s left us with an insatiable appetite for more while allowing us to become familiar with its new control mechanics. And in that, we’re delighted.