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LittleBigPlanet 2: Redefining replay value

LittleBigPlanet 2 opens up the world of user-generated content more than ever before by giving players a robust set of creation tools and an ever-evolving interactive community.

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Jeff Bakalar
Dan Ackerman
Scott Stein
3 min read
Watch this: Game trailer: LittleBigPlanet 2

After a minor delay that pushed it out of the holiday release window, LittleBigPlanet 2 is finally among us, offering up a clever story mode, robust level creation tools, and a fleshed-out online community that ensures that players see the best of the best when it comes to user level design.

LittleBigPlanet 2 redefines replay value. Sure, the same thing could be said for its predecessor, but LittleBigPlanet 2 is so many light-years ahead of its younger brother in terms of potential, it's like rediscovering the concept of user-generated content for the first time.

What separates the first game from the sequel is the ability to create a variety of games within the LittleBigPlanet universe. Gone are the limitations of linear level design; LittleBigPlanet 2 allows gamers to create shooters, button-mashers, matching games, and more.

At first, game and level design is a bit intimidating--we'd recommend sitting through the various tutorials--but soon enough we found ourselves appreciating a whole new understanding of game design.

LittleBigPlanet 2 (photos)

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The story mode is well crafted and definitely worth a play-through--especially if your heart is set on level design. The expert creativity here surely can't be taught, but it serves as an excellent source of inspiration for would-be game and level designers.

LittleBigPlanet 2 is a title that we easily lost ourselves in. There is enough to explore, create, and share here for gamers of all ages, alone or with up to three friends.

It's a funny thing, making a sequel to a game with a nearly infinite number of user-created levels. Most people have never plumbed the depths of Sony's first title, which came out over a year ago. The sequel doesn't provide anything close to the novelty experienced the first time around, but LBP2 still ranks as one of the top family games on the PlayStation 3.

What it still isn't, however, is Sony's Mario. Level design and general physics seem identical to the first game, which is good and bad news. Objects interact in unpredictable ways, which makes level creation an act of potential discovery, but the control accuracy of Sackboy's leaps still feels imprecise. The story-driven levels are a little more varied than last time, but it's mostly more of the same. The level-crafters, those folks with endless time on their hands, will feel the happiest with tool-set upgrades offered here. LBP2 is more for creators than players, just like its predecessor.

For fans of the original, count this as a $60 collection of new content, as well as some clever new side-scrolling and retro-inspired modes of play. For fans of real Mario-style adventures, however, you're still better off getting a Wii.

The fanciful universe of LittleBigPlanet 2 may be the ultimate comeback to video game naysayers who paint a picture of sedentary children glued to a glowing TV screen. Even more so than the original (which we were also very fond of), the actual game built into LBP2 is almost an afterthought. It's actually a Trojan horse for the concept of user-created content on a scale never seen before in a mainstream game.

What LittleBigPlanet 2 really is, is a toolbox for unbridled creativity. It's a collection of tools, widgets, and features all focused on creating new levels using the game's basic building blocks--a collection of ragdoll-like avatars called Sackboys and a basic palette of geometric shapes that can be customized with different textures, colors, and image stamps. From this blank canvas, we've seen some pretty amazing levels created and uploaded by players. The first LittleBigPlanet has some 3 million user-created levels available (and most of those will work with LBP2 as well).

But that leads to our biggest question. Why is LittleBigPlanet 2 a separate retail product, and not a series of rolling updates to a living LBP platform? Besides the need to move $60 plastic boxes off store shelves, it's hard to justify this fragmentation. The new game does add some notable features, such as more game mechanics for racing or puzzle games and programmable AI Sackboys, but there's enough crossover with the original that one wonders why that original disc is now destined for the recycling bin.

Sony has seemingly cornered the market in user-created content through not only LittleBigPlanet, but also ModNation Racers and PlayStation Home. It's a great space to be a leader in, but a better sense of platform continuity and a more open-ended definition of a sequel versus an iteration could really help Sony break some new ground.