Hereís a brainteaser for you: whatís worse than being violated on the streets? Being violated on the streets by the classiest, most sophisticated individual in town, thatís what.
Confused? Let me explain. When the local posse of adolescent scoundrels hurl you to the ground, take your wallet and use their graffiti cans to brand you with a crude depiction of the male reproductive anatomy, at least you can retain some shred of dignity, however minor it may be. Youíre shaken, of course, and getting the paint out of your best jacket before visiting your grandmother later in the afternoon can be a real pain, but you can still draw upon a modicum of your smug sense of social superiority by looking down with vitriol upon your assailants. Theyíre just common louts, after all, and they obviously have nothing better to do with their time. I, on the other hand, will ultimately rise above and achieve my goals while they will flounder in mediocrity for the remainder of their puny lives.
Not so when itís Lord Swank of Suaveindale whoís administering the beating, though. When it comes down to it, heís still forcing you to endure immense pain and humiliation, but heís doing so almost apologetically, his winning smile and charming demeanour lighting up the forsaken depths of the inner-city car park. Not only that, but even the graffiti dong heís painted on you is masterfully crafted, so much so that you canít help but admire his stature and fortitude as he struts away with the contents of your trouser pockets. As a result, you donít feel quite as bad about the whole ordeal, but that only means that your guard remains down and you donít learn from the experience, leaving yourself open for similar encounters in the future.
LittleBigPlanet 2 is the aforementioned Lord Swank of Suaveindale in video game form. Like its father before it, itís so classy and beautiful in its presentation that it makes you forget all about its flaws and frustrations, rendering you a slave to its entrancing allure.
And, just like its predecessor LBP 2 is built around the premise that anything is possible if you just dream hard enough, if you can only harness the endless power of your imagination. Unlike the original game, however, its sequel now has the capacity to incorporate levels and gameplay styles of almost every kind, rather than the comparatively paltry offering of just platforming levels in LittleBigPlanet. Now, it seems, anything truly is possible, at least until the next game comes along and proves otherwise.
Even the most fertile of creative buds need a touch of inspiration, though, and LittleBigPlanet 2ís story levels serve as this inspiration. Once again, the fine men and women at Media Molecule have put together a delightful selection of activities for both single and multiplayer frivolity, providing budding creators with a tantalising sample of what the gameís celebrated creation tools are capable of. This time round, the traditional platforming levels, complete with all the inaccurate jumping mechanics and fiddly camera issues of the first game, are interspersed with such side attractions as shooting levels and vehicle sections, all of which ensure that the action never strays too far into the bowels of mindless tedium.
The developer-created missions retain all the visual quaintness of the original game, all whilst backing up the experience with fully-voiced cutscenes and a variety of bizarre characters brought to life by the game engineís superb audio-visual splendour. Itís like watching a puppet show with slightly higher production values, and without the off-putting knowledge that your friendís lecherous uncle is the one pulling the strings behind the curtain.
All of this is just a bare-bones introduction to the heart of the LittleBigPlanet 2 experience: the user creation tools. These tools offer the building blocks needed to construct entire new worlds of gaming invention, presenting normal folks without the appropriate qualifications and experience to finally exploit their enormous inherent potential and forever etch their legacy into the face of the gaming industry by gracing it with endless gifts of new levels, games, musical compositions and even the quirky machinima usually reserved for 12-year-olds with cheap video editing software and too much time on their hands. Yes, my friends, the time has now come for each and every would-be games designer to show the world their unmatched poise in the noble art of innovation, and itís all thanks to LBP 2.
At least it would be if the vast majority of us werenít complete and utter morons. Sadly, as honourable as your intentions may be when you first attempt to give birth to the next incarnation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, chances are that youíll end up failing. Badly. You see, while Media Molecule has put everything in place to allow players to create almost anything they want, crafting a masterpiece takes a great amount of patience and an even greater amount of skill. For some, then, LittleBigPlanet 2 will act as the conduit for the realisation of a lifelong dream, the platform upon which oneís creative juices are allowed to flow majestically like a waterfall filled with laxatives. For the 99.9% of us normal boys and girls, however, it represents the brutal shattering of our dreams and our pride as we forever fail to convert our imaginative sparks into concrete reality.
Basically, then, weíre getting violated again, but thatís where the Lord Swank of Suaveindale comes into play. Each and every time LBP 2 finds a way to humble us and remind us of our failures, we assure ourselves that weíll learn from the experience and content ourselves with the pursuit of other, more accomplishable goals. The trouble is that we canít quite manage it. Whether its Stephen Fryís gentle, reassuring tones, Sackboyís warm, innocent facial expressions or the ever-growing range of genuinely impressive user-created content being uploaded onto the LittleBigPlanet network, something compels us to jump right back in, ready to be mercilessly taunted and tormented yet again. Somehow, we just donít learn to accept our shortcomings, instead clinging onto the romanticised dream of creative enlightenment and the inevitable disappointments that come along with it.
It certainly wouldnít be fair to say that LittleBigPlanet 2 is a bad game. Itís just a very evil one. Itís a game that gives talented individuals further reason to be cocky, and itís also a game that makes less talented individuals feel tiny and insignificant. You could say that itís the sort of game that provides fuel to the elitist divisions that continue to plague the gaming community, making sure that those of us below the very highest echelons of the skill ladder know our roles and shut our mouths.
But at least it has a nice, smiling visage, and perhaps its child-friendly box art will be enough to scare off all the FPS grievers needing to fill their bloodshed quota levels for the day. You see? I can be an elitist too. Maybe I am cut out for this creation lark after all. Today might just be the day that I finally make a breakthrough with my point-and-click adventure epic starring an investment banker and his dealings with an anthropomorphic pink rhinoceros from the outer rim of the Hades Gamma Cluster. Look out, world; here I come. Youíll find me in a few hours, trying to drown myself in my own tears.