The original LittleBigPlanet wasn't supposed to have a sequel. A sequel, the game's designers said, would defeat the entire purpose of LittleBigPlanet. Players were supposed to create their own games. LittleBigPlanet was intended to be designed by players for players. It would grow endlessly online, changing and expanding until it reflected the limits of human ingenuity.
But if the last decade has taught us anything, it's that human ingenuity doesn't necessarily make a profit online. Games that sell for $60 in Wal-Mart make a profit. And so LittleBigPlanet became LittleBigPlanet 2 - an upgraded, extended edition of the first game. It is currently available in stores for $60. (I paid $54 at Amazon.)
"Over 3 million online levels!" the game's box boasts, not mentioning that 2.8 million of those levels are halfassed first drafts by uninspired dabblers. The best online levels for LittleBigPlanet are variations of the game's single-player levels. So if there's something cool that LittleBigPlanet 2 can do, it generally gets done best somewhere in the game's single-player levels.
Much of the design work, the action, even the puzzles seem to have been imported directly from the first game. There are jumping puzzles. Climbing puzzles. Puzzles in which I must make my little Sackboy cling to swinging beanbags. Puzzles where Sackboy gets flung into the air, and puzzles where he must succumb to LittleBigPlanet 2's realistic gravity. But now there is a grappling hook. And guns that shoot cupcakes, cows, whatever. And programmable robo Sackpeople.
Like its predecessor, LittleBigPlanet 2 is largely a side-scrolling adventure. But Sackboy has the ability (via an improved flick of the thumbs) to slip forward and backwards in the game's environment. This allows him to slide behind the backdrop, or climb out around obstacles. LittleBigPlanet 2 is one of the few side-scrollers that figured out how to fully exploit three dimensions.
With multiple planes and realistic physics, each of LittleBigPlanet 2's levels is a contraption designed to send Sackboy to his doom. Occasionally the side-scrolling action reaches Donkey Kong levels of scrambling. But too often the action is repetitive, or just plain frustrating.
Sackboy, like any willful toy, is a bit fussy to control - too floaty and ragdolly. And his interactions with the gameworld have become cluttered with options. His grappling hook never seems to attach to what I want to reach. He's always getting stuck in the background when I need him front and center.
There is more to do in LittleBigPlanet 2. Sackboy knows more action maneuvers than most five-year-olds know. More than a million new levels have joined the 3 million already online. And there are more costumes and stickers for Sackboy to collect. LittleBigPlanet 2 has accumulated everything except new ideas, and that has left LittleBigPlanet 2 sagging under its own weight.
THE GOOD: The active online community guarantees LittleBigPlanet 2 a more informed group of amateur game designers than the first game got.
THE BAD: With so much of the game online, why wasn't LittleBigPlanet2 delivered as a downloadable whopping-big addition to LittleBigPlanet?
THE BOTTOM LINE: