Earlier this month, Media Molecule’s celebrated sequel LittleBigPlanet 2 turned two years old. Since it came out, the gaming world has seen the release of multiple entries in the Call of Duty franchise, the Assasin’s Creed franchise, the Dance Central franchise and numerous sports game franchises. Although we have seen a racing spin-off and a portable entry, the highlight of the LBP series is still LittleBigPlanet 2. In spite of the rapid release of titles in various other popular franchises, LittleBigPlanet 2 remains in heavy rotation at all of my gaming get-togethers. Even though it’s two years old, I wouldn’t dream of trading in my copy.
Like few other console games before it, LittleBigPlanet 2 has stood the trying test of time. I think its success here is worth being observed by gamers and game-makers alike. LBP2’s remarkable staying power could be attributed to several factors, but we’ve condensed them into a few key reasons for the purpose of this editorial.
With LittleBigPlanet 2, Media Molecule tapped the potential of a force not often harnessed in console games: the community. PC gamers and developers are no stranger to the power of user-created content, but the pickings for this feature are decidedly slimmer when it comes to console games. More than just people to play with, the LBP2 community offers new content. It offers fresh, never-before-seen experiences to players who’ve had the game for years and to players who just recently picked it up.
By incorporating such a powerful and thorough creation component, Media Molecule has allowed savvy gamers to create levels that rival the quality of those they themselves created for the game’s main campaign.
What’s more is, in the sea of user created content, MM has implemented a competent system for sorting and rating levels. Both rehashed or uninspired stages and excellent, marvelous stages can be rated appropriately, and it’s always easy to tell what’s new and popular. The Dive In feature embraces the game’s sprawling community, and allows players to essentially jump right in to a stream of new, popular or high quality content. LBP2 is provided sustenance by its community and that support doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.
Unique from simply offering a high volume of content, LittleBigPlanet 2 also offers a wide variety of content. This, too, can be attributed to the game’s lively community. At its core, LBP2 is a platforming game. Nestled deep within its online archives, though, is a treasure trove of twin stick shooters, puzzlers, racers and even RPG games. The game’s creation suite allows players to realize just about anything they can imagine, which has in turn resulted in hundreds of thousands of stages within practically every genre of gaming.
One moment you might be marveling at a fan’s laborious and ambitious recreation of Final Fantasy VII. The next you might be struggling to see if you can mash the X button faster than your friend. The next still, you might be trying to set a high score in one of the excellent Super Stardust-esque shooters. When you’re finished with all that, you might be prompted to scratch your head in wonder as you complete a gorgeously complex stage such as InterConnect.
Now, surely, for every wonderful stage there are dozens of rip-offs, rehashes and lazily thrown together wastes of time. But with the proper search guidelines, there are enough individual gaming experiences within LittleBigPlanet 2 to suite the tastes of even the pickiest gamers.
Brevity and Simplicity
Would you be surprised to learn that a huge portion of gamers play sporadically and for short periods of time? In fact, by 2011, more than 135 million gamers had accumulated a minimum playtime of only one hour per month. That’s only two minutes of gaming per day. With its huge variety of thrilling but brief stages, LBP2 supports this brief, sporadic pattern of gaming. Many of its fabulous levels can be experienced in 10 minutes or less. With its pick up and play attitude, LBP2 doesn’t require any serious commitment to seriously enjoy. Sure, the urge to play just one more stage may be impossible to resist, but if thirty minutes per week is the only time you can spare for gaming, you’ll be perfectly satisfied spending it in LBP2.
The brevity of many of its stages touches on another one LBP2’s glowing merits: It is easy to play. With the exception of some its more complex user-created offerings, LBP2 can be enjoyed easily and without a wink of stress.
Everybody can enjoy the carefree running, jumping and swinging much of the game-play consists of, whether you’re a hardcore gamer, a casual gamer, or part of any demographic in between. Collecting point bubbles faster than your playmates affords you modest bragging rights, with the intense competition of a fighting or shooting game nowhere to be found. When it comes to pick up and play fun with no inhibitions, LittleBigPlanet 2 has few equals on home consoles.
LittleBigPlanet 2’s ongoing success could be attributed to many other reasons, such as its adorable and now iconic hero Sackboy or its plethora additional DLC offerings. I think we’ve summarized what it boils down to, though.
With its impeccable mix of a strong community, great variety and intuitive simplicity, LittleBigPlanet 2 is a perfect storm of a game that is effectively timeless. Even now, astonishingly, after being available for nearly five years, the first LittleBigPlanet title is still played frequently. When Media Molecule eventually (and inevitably, I’d add) releases LittleBigPlanet 3, LBP2 will still be played for years to come.
More than being a defining title of this console generation and in itself enough of a reason to justify a PS3 purchase, LittleBigPlanet 2 is proof that doing it well is better than doing it frequently. It teaches the lesson that a game designed around its community and as a platform can evolve into something much greater than the sum of its parts – a lesson that all console developers should heed.