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Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2

Image for Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2
Cubed3's ever popular Beyond the Cube series focuses on individual reviews of a variety of games from the world outside of Nintendo. Games featured over the last few months include hits across numerous formats, such as Sleeping Dogs, NHL 13, Darksiders II, Sonic Jump on iOS devices, Tales of Graces, the HD download versions of Sonic Adventure 2 and NiGHTS into Dreams, plus even FIA World Rally Championship 3. The last couple of entries saw Cubed3 look into the FPS scene with Dishonored and Borderlands 2, as well as Football Manager Handheld 2013. Now it is time to delve into the past to check out Sony's attempt at cashing in on Mario mania, with a look at both LittleBigPlanet and its sequel. Read on for the next foray into something beyond the cube…

LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2 (PlayStation 3)

LittleBigPlanet is a franchise of creative 2D puzzle platformers with a strong emphasis on user-created content developed mainly by Media Molecule and published by Sony Computer Entertainment on a variety of PlayStation platforms. While there are also portable entries and spin-off titles, this instalment of Beyond the Cube will focus on the two games on the PlayStation 3 and look how much they differ from each other and compare to other popular platformers, such as the New Super Mario Bros. series.

Play, Create, Share

Image for Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2The whole series can be described with a look at its slogan of "Play, Create, Share." In short, it stands for playing the game with up to four players both locally or online, creating new content using the in-depth creation tools and sharing it with others over the PlayStation Network.
 
The Play component has up to four players take control of Sackboy, a humanoid creature made entirely of fabric. The gameplay usually consists of running and jumping through 2D levels, avoiding deadly obstacles and collecting tons of prize bubbles. These bubbles come in small and big sizes and while the small ones are only worth points, the big ones contain objects, stickers, or costumes. These collectibles can either be used to customise Sackboy in thousands of different ways or for level creation. There are also races and mini-games that require multiple players to motivate people to play with others. Throughout the levels, a score circle keeps track of how many points each player has scored so far and the winner is being declared at the end. There are also online leader-boards for really eager players to tackle. The main games feature several worlds, each with a few levels. These worlds usually each have a particular theme to them but they are all oozing with creativity.
 
The Create component refers to the level creation in the games. In this mode, players can use all the objects, stickers, and so on, they have collected to build levels, which can simply be classic platforming but also a variety of other crazy things, such as racing or fighting types of games. Creating levels certainly requires a lot of patience and some imagination but anyone who doesn't have either of those things and simply wants to play can rejoice, as the last word of LittleBigPlanet's slogan takes care of that.
 
The Share component lets players upload their creations to the PlayStation Network and share them with the community. There are several millions of user-created levels available on both PlayStation 3 games and it's showing no signs of slowing down. There is a lot of great content to choose from for players who simply want to play a game and not create anything themselves, some of it even surpassing the work of the levels already included with the games.

Image for Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2

Floaty Controls, Crazy Physics, and Multiplayer Madness!

While the majority of the gameplay is 2D platforming, any fan of classic platformers with tight controls shouldn't expect to find this here, as that is the series' biggest weakness. The controls work most of the time but not the way anyone would expect. Jumps are slow and floaty and it's near impossible to do any precision platforming as would be done in a 2D Mario game. The physics are also particularly crazy, making for many hilarious moments but also some frustrating ones when dying and having no idea what actually happened. Thankfully, gates to re-spawn from aren't a rarity in each level. Each gate is activated by running past it and has a set amount of lives and once those run out and all players die before reaching a different gate, the level has to be started from scratch, though all acquired collectibles are saved.
 
LittleBigPlanet can be enjoyed alone as well but ideally it should be played with at least one additional player to make the experience a lot more enjoyable. Having a full party of four players can quickly turn into complete madness, however. The camera can be very indecisive at times, switching its focus back and forth. With a lot of things happening and each Sackboy being seemingly in one corner of the screen, the experience can quickly become a very confusing one when there is no idea where a character even is at times. In the worst case scenario, some lag while playing online can add to the chaos, so ensuring that people played with have a good connection to avoid this is imperative.

Image for Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2

What Exactly is Different in LittleBigPlanet 2?

While LittleBigPlanet had very little focus on a story, with players visiting several worlds by different 'creators' that aren't connected in any way, the sequel actually does have a fairly amusing story with some hilarious supporting characters. Following the events of the first game and the PlayStation Portable entry, the game takes place when an antagonist called Negativitron shows up and invades LittleBigPlanet, sucking up all the inhabitants. Sackboy then teams up with a secret organisation called "The Alliance" to battle Negativitron while traversing the various worlds of LittleBigPlanet. When it comes to gameplay, the sequel focuses less on classic platforming like the first game and instead presents a lot of new, funny gameplay ideas to make the gameplay much more varied. There are plenty of crazy ideas here, ranging from shooting cakes with a gun or riding a giant bunny through a level. This is a very welcome change of pace when compared to its predecessor, which almost exclusively had players running and jumping around with only few underutilised power-ups like a jetpack to mix things up.
 
On the graphical side, the engine got significantly improved with much better lighting and effects. The creation mode also saw considerable improvements, giving players even more freedom when it comes to creating levels with the added ability to record cut-scenes, manipulate the camera, record their own sound effects, use Sackbots with customisable AI to create enemies, and much more. When it comes to content, all the DLC from the first game is also playable in the sequel, as are most user-created levels from LittleBigPlanet. The game also supports PlayStation Move after an update post-launch.

Image for Feature | Beyond the Cube: LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2

Beyond the Cube's Final Thoughts

LittleBigPlanet isn't just a 2D platforming series; it's much, much more than that. Its heavy emphasis on creativity and user-created content makes it stand out from the crowd as one of the best that features in-depth level creation options. While the content the games ship with doesn't take long to beat, the sheer amount of levels one can play on the PlayStation Network give them incredible value for those who want it. It shouldn't be considered a pure platforming series, as it's really more a virtual playground for the imagination of thousands of players worldwide. LittleBigPlanet 2, with its considerable improvements over its predecessor, is definitely the game to buy for anyone who owns a PlayStation 3 and still hasn't tried out this great series.

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27.12.2012 00:13

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Tis a good series! I've only had the pleasure of truly playing the first this year on a friend's PS3 - really enjoyed co-operative! Has a uniqueness in design and feel that I don't quite get with other platformers. Feels like it's trying to be its own game rather than a clone of something else.

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

LBP is amazin', not so much for its jumping physics or tricky bits, it's not about that! However what it manages to introduce and innovate for the first time to the age-old platforming genre is really quite something!

And it's something that I really sincerely hope Nintendo do not ignore, there's a lot more to be done in this genre and Nintendo need to stop stagnating the 2D Mario series if they want to prove they're still the masters of innovating platformers!

I'm hoping to get stuck into LBP2 once I'm done and dusted with this semester of University - I also showed a passing interest in the Vita LBP game but decided to skip it, no one to play local multiplayer with means there's not really any reason to own it when I already own both PS3 games.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I actually got the first LittleBIGplanet free when sony was giving away two free games of their 'welcome back' promotion. Is a very good game, I loved playing with my friend Mina. I haven't played the second one, although I already bough a Tifa dlc outfit, I'm planing of buying it eventually. 

Have you done a beyond the cube on Journey, that seems to be really divisive, there seems to be equal amounts hate and  Game of the year nods when you visit forums.

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