When Media Molecule coined the phrase 'play, create, share' for its original LittleBigPlanet title it did more than just pop another shiny marketing coin into Sony's wallet – the phrase, and the huge success of LBP itself led to a whole new initiative at the publisher, helping to shape games like ModNation Racers, Joe Danger and Echochrome 2.
As an out-of-the-box platformer, LBP had its flaws – floaty controls, awkward shifts in plane and lack of complex mechanics left those players who failed to get to grips with the tool box provided feeling somewhat short-changed. Once the community stepped in, performing tricks and feats of ingenuity which astounded even the programmers, the game became a constantly surprising feast of delights.
The challenge for a sequel, then, was always going to be to stretch those tools even further – to allow the imaginations of the community to run even more wild, stuffing that tool box with yet more tricks, inspiration and possibility than before whilst tightening the vanilla experience to standalone platform standards.
If the critical reception so far is anything to go by, then Media Molecule seems to have achieved at least some of those aims with what has become its customary aplomb – but is it enough to justify a purchase when the possibilities of the original are still so replete?
For GamesTM, the answer is a resounding yes. Awarding 10/10 in a review which extends its praise to both the creativity of the design team and its ability to take feedback on board, GamesTM acknowledges the fact that the levels provided are essentially for training, pointing out that - "Anyone looking for £49.99 worth of game here will be disappointed, but then that would be missing the point."
It's the new tools and gadgets which are the stars of the show, here – particularly the new Creatinator: a tool which "more than any other, has the potential to open up LittleBigPlanet creation to other genres and, potentially, to enable creators to invent entirely new ones".
This flexibility comes at a cost, however, and GamesTM is keen to point out that the embarrassment of creative riches available might well serve to intimidate the rank amateur. LBP2 "has done a decent job of explaining functionality, but not why you might use these tools", the reviewer feeling that more examples would have been a welcome addition.
It's faith in the sort of creative geniuses that made the original such a special prospect which secures full marks, however – with a fuller, funner and more functional game creator at its heart, there's no reason why LittleBigPlanet 2 shouldn't "see an explosion of hobbyist game creation that could – in an even bigger way this time – send shockwaves around the industry".
Those are sentiments echoed in GamePro's five-star assessment, which promises that "If you've even a faint spark of youthful exuberance still lurking in your heart, LittleBigPlanet 2 will fan it back into a roaring blaze.", describing this jubilant sequel as "hilariously bizarre" and "constantly changing".
Again, the point is made that the 'play' part of the equation is easily the most shallow, despite its depth and variety – it's the creation suite which makes this game a five star title.
"One can only imagine the amazing things amateur creators will set loose upon the world in the weeks, months, and years ahead," writes author Cameron Lewis, proclaiming that "it'd probably be easier to list the things you can't do with LittleBigPlanet 2". This praise is tempered somewhat by the caveat that creation still requires time and patience, but Lewis' closing comment is unequivocal: "there's just no good reason whatsoever not to dive in and explore the many wild worlds of LittleBigPlanet 2 ".
Eurogamer's Simon Parkin joins the line of reviewers bowled over by LittleBigPlanet 2's "achingly pretty and art magazine-ish" style but points out that some of the flaws of the original have made it into this recipe, too.
"A jump that lacks the nippy, digital precision of Mario's", is one of Parkin's few gripes in his 9/10 review, as is the "curiously anachronistic" plane shifting mechanic. Enemy design and AI grates, also – with enemies which "move like awkward clockwork toys" and bosses whose "attack patterns (are) rote and unimaginative ".
These flaws "may hold it back from classic status" for Schilling, but they're quickly forgotten in the face of a toolset which is "richer" than the original's , meaning that the "boundaries of game creation have been significantly widened in the sequel". Those few who found that they'd hit the limits of LittleBigPlanet's creativity have something to celebrate, too, as "for budding game designers, the overhaul is invaluable".
The consensus seems to be that, whilst LittleBigPlanet is a solid if unremarkable platform title as-it-comes, the seemingly limitless possibilities generated by the incredible creative suite and the tenacity and imaginations of its users mean that the best is surely yet to come. Just don't expect it to be a walkover.