1.26.2009

LittleBigPlanet: The Smile Maker

LittleBigPlanet is the most fun, charming, entertaining experience I've had since childhood.

Being currently unemployed and therefore on a very tight gaming budget, I rented LBP last week, largely because I was unsure if it would be able to sustain my interest over a long period of time as a purchased title. After five days, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it could keep me entertained for months. My only hesitancy is that since I'm not interested in taking the time and intense effort to create a decent level to share, what's the point of purchasing a game when I miss out on 1/3 of what it has to offer? Now I know that the other 2/3's, playing through the Media Molecule-developed story levels and sampling the wide variety of community-developed levels, provides more than enough engaging content.

Play

The 25-30 levels Media Molecule created as the Story levels in LBP are brilliant fun. They slowly but surely introduce new ideas and types of play. First, you just run and jump. Soon, you kill enemies, including giant bosses, navigate deadly traps, and work your way through very complicated scenarios. However, while these levels are fun and interesting in their own right, they become even more fantastic when I remember that they were completely created using the in-game level creator. Every tool and technique Media Molecule used to make these levels can be borrowed and replicated by any player around the world, provided they have the patience to create an equally complex level. Part of the genius is that for playing through and thoroughly scouring every nook and cranny of the levels, you are constantly rewarded with new costumes, stickers, and building materials that can then be immediately put to good use in the level editor. Playing through the story levels is not a waste of time. In fact, it's completely necessary if you want to maximize your productivity when creating levels of your own.

While the story through most of the developer-made levels is largely forgettable (I couldn't tell you the plot in most of the areas), the ending is simply brilliant. It reminds me of Portal, in the sense that there is a satisfying ending to the story levels that is nothing like what you expect. The best praise I can give the ending is that I couldn't help but smile at the charm of it all! Media Molecule actually managed to ground the mythos of LBP in the real world. It's just amazing.

Create

For me, this is the least interesting mode of LBP. Granted, it's vast and allows you to build, create, and set-up nearly any type of object or experience you can imagine. However, my personal tendency is to play through levels rather than create them. I've tried messing around with level editors in the past, and it never lasts long. I will make the effort of creating a level or two at some point, just to fully check out what the editor is capable of, but that will have to wait until I buy the game. My rental is due back today at noon. : )

I'm not sure what Media Molecule expects out of the average user. Traditionally, very few people mess around with level creation. And of those who do, an even smaller percentage are even moderately decent at level design. So while some amazing levels have been created, a lot of them are pure garbage. It's too much to expect everyone to suddenly become a game designer, but the tools available do allow certain types of people to really put their creativity and imagination to good use.

Share

With only a five day rental period, I have barely scratched the surface of checking out what user-created levels are available. I've played quite a few based on Shadow of the Colossus, the famous Azure Palace and Little Big Calculator levels, and even a few reproductions of Super Mario Bros. that somehow have not been removed. I also plan on looking at levels focusing on pirates, ninjas, and Japanese themes before I take the game back. The ability to search for levels has been greatly improved with a recent patch, with levels being searchable by several different criteria. The ability to rate and comment on each level after you play it really helps to keep the community involved in the game, having total control over which levels and authors rise to fame and which sink to the bottom of obscurity. The variation and creativity of the user-created levels is seemingly endless. They could keep me entertained for a long time to come.

I am fully convinced that LittleBigPlanet is one of the most endearing, entertaining, and just plain fun video game experiences I've had in a very long time. It really makes you feel like a kid again. In some ways, LBP is more of a sandbox-style game than an open-world game like GTAIV. You can do, build, and play anything you want to. There are no serious punishments, or even a "wrong" way to play a level. You are encouraged and expected to explore each level as fully as possible. Jump and run around. Have fun. The world really is your own personal playground, and we're all better off for it.

2 comments:

Demiath said...

When I've read about LBP in the past I've often felt unsure about whether the actual gameplay is something I would personally find genuinely entertaining or not, but your heartfelt and eminently readable endorsement has brought the great-looking platformer back onto my mental "Must-Check-Out" list. Since I've never been patient (not to mention imaginative) enough to get into the whole user content business (isn't that the kind of thing we used to pay game developers to do for us?), it's especially interesting to read a positive impression of the game written by someone for whom the included design toolbox clearly isn't the main attraction.

So far, the Xbox 360 has been quite sufficient to satisfy my currentgen cravings, but with games like LBP and MGS4 already released and towering giants such as "God of War 3" on the horizon it's becoming increasingly clear that I will need to purchase Sony's intimidatingly priced Blu-Ray monster at some point later this year. Now, I really hope those rumors about another much-needed price cut are true... ;)

Korey said...

Thanks for the comment. I totally recommend LBP, at least for a rental. In fact, a rental might be ideal for someone who has little-no interest in the creation tools. You can easily play through all of Media Molecule's levels, and sample a good number of user-created ones too. Of course, I also think there is more than enough to keep someone busy if they buy the game, even if they don't create a single level. It's just plain fun.

In my post, I failed to mention how the platforming feels different from other games. But once you adjust, it's no problem.

As a relatively new PS3 owner, I largely got one to be included in current-gen discussions to some degree, I highly recommend it. There are numerous worthwhile exclusive games, as well as a bunch of great multi-platform titles. Plus, PSN has a lot of amazing, unique, 'artsy' games that are worth a look. I don't know about the price cut, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one soon. If nothing else, I see ads for PS3s at $60-100 off pretty regularly.