As any fan of any game series knows, the idea of a sequel can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when it follows up a huge hit. You want the action to continue, but at what cost? Happily, after playing LBP2 at the recent Sony Preview event in Toronto Ontario, I can safely say it's just as fun as the original and yet adds enough oomph to be worthy of Sackboy's return.
My first impression of the game was naturally from the extraordinary detail in its visuals. Sure I played it on a gigantic HD screen, but even on my smaller TV at home I still would have salivated when I saw the cotton candy-like clouds that left me craving spun sugar. On the World Map the world itself transforms when you highlight different lands, showing space-related objects for "The Cosmos" and a mechanized world for "The Factory of a Better Tomorrow". There are parts in several levels where scenery flies by or areas fall to pieces as you play it through, keeping your eyes happy and making level replay more enjoyable as you catch visuals you hadn't noticed before the second and third time around. Our sweet Sackboy continues to be as daring and just plain ridiculous in his customizable attire, complete with his well-known goofy expressions, and the colours are just plain vibrant. Without a doubt it is a treat for both players and spectators alike.
The game play is as addictive as ever with yet more creative puzzles to solve, secret areas full of hidden goodies, tricky traps that are always obvious and yet somehow usually unnoticed, quirky characters including a "Queen of Hearts" look-a-like complete with a white gilded cage on her head, and enough of a balance between fast-paced action and moderately-paced puzzle piecing to keep you on your toes. It's easy to lose yourself in the game thanks to very smooth and receptive controls. Various types of nifty and helpful equipment are available in certain levels including a grappling hook which helps you reach far away areas, an anti-gravity vehicle that drives on ceilings as well as the floor, and power boots which will be a welcome replacement for the jet pack we're already familiar with.
It has been confirmed that while the entire game will not be compatible with the PlayStation Move, certain "bonus levels" can be unlocked which will utilize its motion control capabilities. These levels were not available to preview, but I can imagine it will make for a well-earned treat as you progress through the game.
LBP2 continues to add ridiculously cute ideas that will make many 'squee' with delight. During "Pipe Dreams" in "The Factory of a Better Tomorrow", I traversed through an underground world where my task was to free sackbots, little robots whose heart-shaped eyes pulsate as they follow you in obvious admiration, and lead them to safety. I admit I squee'd a little (okay a lot) when I first encountered one and was sorely tempted to replay the level to see them again.
I visited the Creatinator to see if the level building and editing options had improved, and boy did they ever. Within minutes of my being unleashed into my 3D canvas I had made a scene complete with apples the size of small planets, spot lights shining on various areas, plasma hazards, and kooky props like a waggly-eyed boxy-looking cow. What stood out the most was the relative ease of using it; I personally had never made levels in LBP because I didn't have the patience to see it through, but with this I found I wanted to keep going and see what else I could do. Even without being able to hear everything due to the noise level in the event or by following one of the tutorials, I was able to figure out how to create objects, edit the size and placement, and delete what I didn't want without much thought.
When I spoke with a rep for LBP2 he proudly stated that the level builder will be by far the game's biggest appeal. It's designed to make level editing easier for anyone to do, of which I can now attest, thanks to their tweaking the tool menu and making it more user-friendly. The Creatinator boasts many features, with one of the best being interactive AI characters that can be set to sense and chase you, walk in a designated area, follow a pre-determined route, stand still, whatever you want. He also stated you can customize the types of play in the levels, so instead of always having a side-scrolling adventure you could add racing events a-la Mod Racing style (like a mouse race through a maze), and even add some RPG elements to it. The greatest option by far is your ability to string these levels together to create your own Little Big Planet where you, your friends, and even the online LBP community can play through your levels in sequence as though playing through another game. With options like these, LBP2 will be a Little Big Universe for everyone to explore.
LBP2 was originally due out for November of this year, but developers have since decided to avoid the 'usual' holiday release rush and instead introduce it to our PlayStation's for January 2011. It'll be the perfect post-holiday gift for you to use your gamer gift cards on, and what better way to start a new year than by creating and living in a new world.