I just got done rolling through one of the most poorly constructed platformer stages I’ve ever had the joy of playing. Obstacles hung precariously over flaming pits and leaping spike traps, all of which must have been placed by someone who’s never even taken a crack at level design. Enemy AI freaks out at the edge of a staircase because only a complete amateur would place a rolling robot where it has no room to roll whatsoever. The level takes way longer to complete than it should because my friend and I have to take breaks every few steps to correct another rookie mistake that impedes progress. All of these would be unforgivable glitches in any other scenario, but the twist here is that I’m the one to blame. We made this level together and we’ve got no one to answer to but ourselves.
Truth be told, level creation was one of the last things I attempted in Little Big Planet, but the customization that developer Media Molecule offers here is nothing short of amazing. Just take a look at the user-created content in the LBP community for some heavy duty convincing. While levels that infringe on existing IPs are meeting the axe on a daily basis, there are a lot of gems to sift through, all searchable via tags put there by other members of the community. I’m pretty sure the Gradius level is still live,
If the learning curve for level creation wasn’t a bit intimidating at first-the tutorials alone can zap away a couple hours with ease-Little Big Planet could have theoretically shipped as this cute little playground of platformer inventiveness. After the initial music snafu prompted recalls and the fact that online creation wasn’t quite ready, I’m glad it works the way it does. Even knowing there was a somewhat prominent solo/co-op offering within still didn’t keep it from being surprising. It’s easy to get around sixty bucks of satisfaction from these stages alone, which are much more than simple chores the player needs to go through to unlock items for use in the custom levels.
It’s especially satisfying with a friend, and that’s where Little Big Planet excels in every regard. It strikes a good balance between competitive and cooperative; if the players stick together and hit a platforming rhythm, the levels can be pretty exciting, but there’s always the underlying score face-off involved that throws some playful greed into the mix. The story, as expected, isn’t really the point. It’s just there to move things along and connect the stages of each continent with a thin thread.
The challenge increases with each world, though it’s never out of control. A lot of the tougher segments are made so because of Little Big Planet’s unique physics. Jumping isn’t exactly as precise as a more traditional platformer as a result, but it works fairly well in the world of Sackboy. Still, it’s tough to deny the frustration in not hitting the pressure-sensitive X button hard enough to make a jump, or landing on an incline perfectly only to slide into a pit of fire or the descending arm of an electrified robot. Even with death by physics around every corner, it’s nice to see that a game crafted with the masses in mind isn’t afraid to introduce them to frequent death while so many other family-friendly titles eschew challenge in favor of consistent hand-holding.
Little Big Planet is a rare title in that it’s accessible to everyone while remaining a fun and long-lasting experience for seasoned gamers, as well. I believe Media Molecule when they say they don’t see a need to follow the game up with a sequel this year, or maybe even the next. Player-crafted levels and DLC (I need that Metal Gear Solid 4 pack) will fuel it for quite some time as long as the community stays healthy, and with the kind of scope and ingenuity made accessible to all, we’ll be long gone before the well runs dry.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Media Molecule
System: Playstation 3