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I'd heard a lot of good things about the Little Big Planet series, but until I downloaded this as part of my PS Plus subscription I'd never actually played one. Whilst it's not the type of game that I would normally go for, I can certainly see why people like it.
At heart, your task is to guide cute little Sack Boy from one end of a level to the other, in what boils down to a modern updating of the traditional platform game: blocks have to be pushed into place and barriers cleared to make progress. Along the way you have to collect prize bubbles which contains stickers or new costumes which can be used to personalise your own Sack Boy.
Whilst Little Big Planet 2 might not be terribly imaginative when it comes to the basic concept, it is good fun to play. It's not overly challenging, but it is a game that is going to appeal to all ages and levels of gaming experience. Whilst I'm not the sort of gamer that bothers personalising my character beyond a few basics, the idea of the prize bubbles unlocking new content is a nice one and gives a real purpose to the idea of collecting. If that's the sort of thing that appeals to you, you could spend almost as much time personalising your character as you actually do playing the game!
One gripe I do have is that I found LBP2 a little slow to get going. A number of tutorial levels introduce you to the basic ideas and controls and I found these rather dull. Whilst going through them, there was an awful lot of stopping and starting, so that for every 2 minutes of actual game time there was 2 minutes of listening to dialogue or having something explained. I appreciate that LBP2 is intended as a family game that's accessible to all ages, so this is necessary, but the opening levels (which can't be skipped) were a bit of a chore.
Once you're over that, LBP2 is a lot of fun to play. Levels are brilliantly designed and you can complete them in any number of ways - just get through them, challenge yourself to see how quickly you can make it to the finish point, or take your time and try and discover all the hidden items. The levels display a huge amount of imagination and some of them are quite fiendish if you want to try and collect everything.
Graphics and sound are quite simply brilliant and really show off the PS3's capabilities. Graphics are wonderfully big: colourful, surreal and full of imagination. Sack Boy himself is bursting with character, as are many of the other creatures he encounters along the way. There's a certain cute appeal to your on-screen avatar (even down to the ability to control his facial expressions) that makes him such a great character to control. This cuteness factor is not over-played, though, so that the game remains appealing to grizzled, cynical old gamers like myself!
The highlight of the game has to be the wonderful narration from Stephen Fry. His wry, encouraging, humorous, witty and surreal comments make the game. This is one of those games I could happily sit and watch someone else play, just so that I could listen to the comments. It's a shame that the commentary is not continued into the actual levels (characters revert to nonsense speak with subtitled speech bubbles) but the linking dialogue and narration is superbly delivered.
Controls are also well balanced; easy to pick up, but giving you a high degree of control over Sack Boy. They are actually very intuitive (which again makes the inability to skip the tutorial levels frustrating) and after a few experimental button presses, you will soon have worked out what you need to know. After that you'll find yourself racing along grabbing things, dragging things and leaping around like a veteran Little Big Planet player.
You could argue that the main Story mode is not particularly long or challenging (around 30 levels or so) and most gamers will whip through them in no time. In fairness, this is because LBP2 has a co-operative mode where you can team up with other gamers as well as the ability to create (and share) your own levels. So, in theory, it has an almost infinite amount of gameplay.
Whilst this might be true, the issue of longevity remains if, like me, you prefer gaming to be a solitary rather than a social pastime. I'm not interested in co-op modes or online gameplay and am too lazy to create my own levels, so I'd completed the main levels, there was little reason to return to the game.. In fairness LBP2 does very obviously pitch itself as a social game, so if I choose not to play it in this way, it's my fault and not that of the game.
Whilst it's fun, LBP2 is not really my type of game. I'm not much of a social gamer, so the ability to collect and share things doesn't appeal to me. And although the basic game is highly playable, there are a lot more challenging puzzle/platform games out there that I would play in preference. Having said that, I can appreciate it for what it is: an accessible game that will appeal to gamers of all ages and levels of experience. For that reason, I can put my only personal prejudices to one side and happily award it 4 stars.
Little Big Planet 2 has been out for quite a while now. If you're a Playstation Plus subscriber, you can still download it for free; if not you can pick it up for around £7 new.
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