Mon, May 10, 2010 | 14:28 BST
Playtest – LittleBigPlanet 2
LittleBigPlanet has been a very popular game since its launch in 2008, selling over 3 million copies and gaining support from the media and gaming public alike.
The platformer, built around the premise of allowing users to create and share their own levels, has won over 80 awards, and now sells more DLC now that it did last year. More than 2.3 million stages have been created by the game’s users. Media Molecule appears to be onto a “good thing”.
Like all games though, LittleBigPlanet has its limitations, as Media Molecule is first to admit. And what do you do when you hit a brick wall?
Welcome to the world of LittleBigPlanet 2.
VG247 was lucky enough to be invited to London last week to witness the unveiling of Play, Create and Share’s next evolution. Media Molecule was on hand to explain the IP’s next step forward, saying incoming advancements will “melt your brain”. Pass the mop.
Succinctly, LittleBigPlanet 2 completely reinvents the concept of Play, Create, Share. Media Molecule’s slogan for the sequel if, “A Platform for Games”. Obviously, it’s not just a level-builder any more.
Instead of LittleBigPlanet just being a platformer, far-reaching new features and customisable camera angles allow users to create any type of game they wish. Yep, it’s true: RTS, racing, retro and shooters are now all possible. Media Molecule predicted that users will come up with new game genres thanks to the sheer amount of tools on offer.
We were shown a video of a top-down racer in action, but weren’t shown how it was made. Looks as though you’re going to have to wait a little while for that.
Never fret, though. It’s not just LBP’s creation tools that have been overhauled.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is a huge step up from the original. We didn’t see half the game’s features in London last week, but the changes that were on show more than convinced us it’s going to be a massive hit.
First off, Media Molecule showed us community upgrades by opening up the game’s Share ability. Your own planet now includes a Stream option, allowing you to see the levels your friends and favourite authors are playing, as well as Media Molecules top picks. This, of course, makes it easy to find levels to suit your taste.
Level search has clearly been an area of focus for the sequel. MM’s launching a new section to the game’s website named LittleBigPlanet.me, which allows you to search for levels by username and title and then add them to your wish list; the next time you turn on your console they’ll be there waiting for you to play.
Each level is to now have its own URL, with visiting traffic counting towards its popularity. MM wrapped up the community area of its demo by saying you’ll be able to both put tags on forums linking to levels and publish print codes. These can be held in front of the PSEye to gain access to the relevant stage.
The game is fully backwards compatible, with any levels created in LittleBigPlanet being playable in the new title. In fact, any levels that you have previously created now look better than ever, thanks to improvements to shadowing, colour and depth. What goes one way doesn’t go the other, however: you won’t be able to play levels from LittleBigPlanet 2 in the original.
“Let’s play a game”
In terms of creation features, saying Media Molecule has gone “all out” in LBP2 is like saying Duncan Goodhew is “bald”. If you’re going to be creating full games, you’re going to need some sizeable new kit.
As well as expanding on items from the original game – such as the Jet Packs – tons of new stuff’s been included. Examples include a Grapple Hook – which allows you swing from one feature to the next in some style – and Bounce Pads, which offer the ability to go quickly and vertically up a level. Previously this was difficult to achieve.
A major new build feature is Sackbots, NPC Sackboy-like characters which perform as you wish. You can tweak them to walk like a zombie, run away from you, turn them into electricity and send them on patrol. You can dress them in any of the content previously downloaded or unlocked for your Sackboy. Sackbots can be multiplied, made bigger and smaller; everything you’d expect from LBP content.
New circuit boards – including new electrical boards and circuits – have been introduced for advanced creators. New board features include the ability to map buttons on your controller using the “Six Axis Direct Control Seat”. This, for example, means that you can create a car or robot and then have the user control it in anyway they see fit: they simply get in the seat with their Sackboy.
Alternatively, you can program a Sackbot to get in it and drive away. You can even hide the Sackboy or Sackbot and make it look as though there’s a large robot storming around the level. Large robots are always a win, obviously.
Lights, camera, small virtual child’s toy
Another big addition is Cinematics. Users will have the ability to create cutscenes – or even full movies if you can be bothered – thanks to a new video editing suite.
An example we were shown had the designer creating a music video with dancing Sackbots. By linking the cameras up he could add different angles and time action to the beat. The end result was amazing, and there’s also the ability to use voiceovers recorded by the user [Sackboy porn! Maybe not - Ed].
So many new features have been added to LittleBigPlanet 2 that it would be impossible to list them all here. Even though we did get hands-on time at the event, we were assured that we haven’t seen anything yet. Bring on E3, then.