Weekly Little Big Planet: escape velocity

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The speed at which the kinetic energy plus the gravitational potential energy of an object is zero. The speed needed to “break free” from a gravitational field without further propulsion.

Whatever dorks. I just had the worst day ever. How about helping me out with that?

Oh. Sorry man. Didn’t know this meant that much to you. Start with this one.

That screenshot looks terrible.

Yes. But trust us. You’ll love learning the level.

That looks like something some pre-schooler drew. Using I don’t know what.

Stop it. It’s an undersea shooter. You’re that bright thing at the bottom. Cleaning up toxic waste and shooting mutants.

Well. Okay. That sounds cool. But you’d better not be wrong about this.

After the jump, learning to love again

For those of you who’ve learned that faithfully clicking past the jump yields a column full of surprises beyond some silly burlap platformer…I apologize. I’ll return with more of that next week. I promise. For this week, however, it’s all about the sackboy. He’s back. Which is to say, I can finally log back into the PlayStation Network for reals and play some community levels. So I figured I’d play a few and share my first-day-back favorites with you. Starting with the best of the day. The one you see in that horrid screenshot at the top of this post.

I know it looks crappy. I know that. But this was my favorite of the dozen or so community levels I played this first time back on the PSN. The level is called Clove 2: Depths -Area 01-, which is a singularly doofy name, agreed, but the level combined just enough frustration with learning that it ultimately hooked me. As I played it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, but I found myself loving it. There is the possibility that I was feeling belligerent. A good friend of mine disclosed to me this week that he hated twin-stick shooters, so I was primed for wanting to love a level like this, one whose designer describes it as a “top down shooter”. This level was perfect for starters. Just enough challenge.

Getting back into the community levels of Little Big Planet 2 was kind of weird. There were things I’d forgotten. Assumptions. Like the Join Us/Play on My Own option that pops up before every level loads, but which has been entirely absent from my life for weeks. Given that this was my first time back in the online community in weeks, I figured I’d start out solo when playing my next level, 3D Snowboard Survival Challange (Full Version), but then allow any others who wanted to play into the level as I played it. Yes, I know that’s not how you spell ‘challenge’. I’m well aware of that. Let’s just stipulate that there’s an understood ‘[sic]’ after community level links from here on out, if weird spelling or grammar pops up. Or…um…up pops.

My first couple of times trying this level I did try letting others join in, which was a total disaster. Every time I did the level would hang, or just straight up terminate and give me my crappy score or force me to wait while the others were giving feedback. This made me paranoid. Were they lodging complaints about me? Did they think I’d booted them? It’s not my fault!

I’m sure that’s not what was going on, but it does bring up some of the collateral damage of the unpleasantness of the last few weeks. Do I figure these are problems with the network as Sony works out the kinks? Do I blame the level designer? Is my PS3 freaking out? Are jerk-users taking advantage? Who knows? What can I reasonably rely upon at this point as a base assumption for how the network should behave? I have no idea.

Thanks Sony, for turning me into a Beta tester. I appreciate paying hundreds of dollars to become that for you.

Back to snowboarding, though. This is a terrible level if you like snowboarding games. It has nothing to do with those whatsoever. It’s much more along the lines of those old arcade-style games where you sit at the bottom of the screen and have to dodge crap falling out of the sky. Except you’re the thing falling, down the mountain. I include this because I liked learning it, once I got past the mulitplayer hiccuping. At first I thought the level was just about dodging. Then I died a bit. Next I realized it was about jumping too. I died a bit more. Next I learned that those weird things I thought were frozen rubber duckies (pictured) were actually snowmen I was supposed to hit for points. Yes, I realize now that had I paid more attention to the directions I might have picked these things up earlier. Tonight I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to read or ruminate or consider. I just wanted to play. And learn levels by playing. I just wanted to get away from my obsessing brain and let it play.

So I was kind of turning off my active thoughts tonight. Which is why I wound up with a favorite level I’d already played, but didn’t realize it until I was well into the level. The level in question is The Mind Factory, a level where you can control platforms using the right stick. I played this level and loved it back when I was doing the daily version of this column, and playing it again here made me happy all over again. It’s just the right mixture of frustration and pleasure.

Which I cannot say for the final level for this week. A level I really liked, but which, in the end, tipped too far to the frustration side of the scale. That is to say, I slammed my fist down in anger one time too many, and thus did not finish it.

I like a lot of what Metallic Industries inc. was going for. I really do. It’s got one of the niftiest little puzzles I’ve seen yet, one where your sackboy has to jump into open metal barrels going down a conveyor belt. There are jump pads inside the barrels, so you’re timing your jumps into the barrels with harvesting community bubbles and landing in the next open barrel. If you land on the conveyor, you die of electrocution. The idea is really cool. The timing of the visuals is a bit off and it never really looks like you’re jumping into the barrels, but it’s a cool idea. It was enough to win me over. Sadly the level went too far. For me. It pushed beyond today’s frustration level. Which was, necessarily, set at “escape”.

This is fine, and not the level’s fault. I include it for you who have been starved these last weeks for community levels and don’t want to weed through the crap. I couldn’t finish this one. I really liked it, I just couldn’t stick it out.

For those of you still reading, who are lovers of LBP2, I’ll include one more level. This one was beyond the over-frustration of the previous level. This one went up to “Fuck You” level for me. Too much fire and burning, so I had to give it up. Still, I think there’s a good level there. I just wasn’t up to the challenge. Not after the day I had. If you are up for it, give it a shot. It’s called Sakrificed.

Lesson of this week: escape doesn’t mean not thinking. Anyone who loves puzzles will understand this. I’ve understood it more when it comes to movies than when it comes to games. How to put this? Hmm. People I love have said of going to the movies, “I just want to be entertained.” Meaning they don’t want to think. That’s cool. Not the way my brain works when it comes to movies, but okay. But I used to think of games the same way. That they were about shutting off my brain. So if a friend suggested a game requiring more concentration than a shooter, like an RTS for instance, I’d balk. I’m coming to understand that working through the puzzles of more challenging games affords my brain a different avenue for escape.

Here endeth the lesson.

Next time, American Idol reminds me of something I keep forgetting. No really, I’m serious.

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