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Old 11-10-2008, 09:10 AM   #2
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Little Big Planet (part 2) - please Rate This Review

PART 2! - Please read part 1 first!

In the sense that the tools are, in fact, expected to be used with the sack person in mind though, the level creation tools could be seen to be expressive of the same fundamental platforming ideas as the rest of the game, as enforced by the control the player is given over their sack person. Perhaps the ability to create levels with these restrictions in mind actually acts as a deeper exploration of those basic platforming concepts. If we view it like that, than we can see the inclusion of the creation tools as the developers’ most compelling contribution to the platforming genre.

Unfortunately, while the creation tools have strong premise, with convincing physics and ‘2.5D’ space, there are numerous problems with its execution which prevent it from being as persuasive as it could be in opening the player’s mind to the possibilities of platforming. One of the detracting aspects of the create mode is the camera. It will follow you around when you move, but you can only control its level of zoom when you are in hover mode. This means that when you want to create something, you have to anticipate before hand where you want it to be (so you can move your sack person to the appropriate area), and also what sort of size it will be, because unless you go into hover mode before hand and get the right level of zoom, you may find that you’ll be trying to make something off the screen, or if it does follow you, you’ll be disorientated as to its exact size and position in relation to the rest of your level. Further more, if you’re making something which is big, but with small detail, you’ll have to exit in between these stages to change the level of zoom. Why didn’t they make the otherwise redundant square button switch the sticks between controlling material placement and camera positioning? And when the ‘popit’ menu isn’t up, why not use the currently unused buttons as hotkeys to go strait to the ‘popit’s’ sub-categories. Triangle to bring up the basic cursor would be sensible, and it wouldn’t be too outrageous to use circle and the unused shoulder buttons L1, L2 and R2 to bring up others.

A greater issue is that the game often inexplicably ignores your commands. Often you can end up trying to select an object to manipulate 3 times before it comes under your control. Even more frustrating is that often when you tweak objects such as bolts, with variable properties, it simply doesn’t register, so you have to open the menu again and repeat the laborious task.

The ‘thermometer’ which rises as you place more stuff down is also very disconcerting. It tends to rise a lot with the first few objects you make, which makes me personally feel very insecure, it feels like the game is opposed to my creativity. It’s not at all consistent though; different objects with seemingly similar attributes can take up drastically different amounts of thermometer space, while often even the same object can take up different amounts of space at different times of creation. Most of these problems are essentially minor, but together they make the creation tools feel far less encouraging.

So if we view little big planet as a progression of the art of a particular form of abstract movement which we call platforming; the main progression being the creation tools, which bring the concept of platforming to a heightened level of immediacy and encourage us to develop a deeper relationship with it. Indeed, if we view games in general to be a medium which is distinguished by it’s allowing the recipient to actively engage with the rules, while other art mediums simply present rules (where rules basically mean cause and effect, if this happens then this happens, where the artists choices their use of rules is the driving force of all art), then the creation tools could be seen as an interesting and indeed natural next step for videogames and certainly the platforming genre.

While many others disagree, the basic platforming template which they have made is very proficient and beautiful in my opinion. Further more, the basic design of the creation tools is very clever and compelling. Unfortunately though, a lack of attention to certain details in the creation tools hold them back somewhat from feeling like the powerful unraveling of platforming possibilities that I expected. And in my opinion, most of Media Molecules creations where far from inspiring, but this last point comes down largely to my taste and many people will enthusiastically appreciate their designs.

While this seems like a nice, balanced place to leave the review, I must say that I’m not sure that the platforming genre (and by platforming I mean this particular form of abstract representation, as opposed to all games which focus on human movement) is actually worth further exploration. It could be seen that the physics and ability to grab, change the game enough for it to go in a completely different direction. But in this new direction, which would be more about physics puzzles and the like, platforming would only be a means to transport your ‘object manipulator’, and this could possibly be replaced by a simple cursor. Clearly though, this is not the direction they have gone, since their levels are so centered around platforming, and since they have made such a proficient platforming system. While I still enjoy it to a certain extent, I can’t help but feel like this concept has had its day and the existence of this game really pushes the point a bit further than it needs to be pushed. I feel it’s time to move on to new forms of representation of human movement. I recently played ‘Mirrors Edge’, which of course is far more representational, and it felt very fresh concept worth exploring. Equaly I can imagine different sorts of more abstract representations of human movement which would be worth looking in to, but I think that the old form that we call platforming, put forward originally by Shigeru Miyamoto, has said what it needs to say.
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