Weekly Little Big Planet: through a glass brightly

, | Features

‘Neath the black
the sky looks dead

In addition to all the crappy cinematic levels that seem to have infested Little Big Planet since the PSN went back up–look, once again, I do not play LBP2 in order to see your crappy homemade sack-movie. I own stacks of movies and the backlog of films I need to see is…well it’s more movies than you can imagine. I came here to play, get it? Stop. Just stop–I’m experiencing a ton of levels that are just too damn dark. Enough of that too. I can’t see what my little sackboy is doing! So unless you’re making a McCabe and Mrs. Miller homage level, cut it out.

That might be why when I came across this week’s level, white dust sea, I was immediately into it. As you can see from the above shot, darkness is not this level’s problem. If anything it was almost annoyingly bright, but after all the gloomy levels it was a welcome change. That and the fact that it is a long level. I’ve been seeing a good deal of that lately, which is also a welcome change, especially when accompanied by a reasonable uptick in difficulty. This one took me a few tries to finish, and I still cannot figure out how to get most of the golden apples, but it won me over by being bright, long, and hard. I know, I know. TWSS.

So, to recap: long, bright levels = good. Sack-movie adaptations = bad. Hmm. Speaking of movie adaptations…

after the jump, the cunning use of flags

My son is reading the Percy Jackson books and is digging on them pretty hard. I figured they’d be too old for him–he’s only six–but my wife got The Lightning Thief for him anyway, just to see what would happen. The book sat on his dresser for a couple of months, largely ignored, as he worked his way through some Encyclopedia Brown I’d gotten him and books about Bionicles and then started into graphic novels he found at the library at school. Every couple of weeks his mother would try to nudge him toward the book she’d bought him, and most decidedly away from the comic books, but he wasn’t biting.

Then one day he picked it up and before we knew it he was done with it. Bam. Just like that. So we got him the second book. Gone. Ditto with the third. In a couple of days. Kid reads like his mother, which is a blessing because it takes me forever to finish a book. He’s about halfway through the fourth after taking a slight detour to read a book of short stories and interludes about the Percy Jackson world that he and his mom found at the book fair. Before bed one night he asked me to read one of the stories from that little book to him.

In the story the characters are at camp and are playing Capture the Flag. I almost had to catch my breath. It wasn’t fully a biting-the-madeleine moment, let’s not get carried away, but it did get me thinking.

It’s been years since I thought of Capture the Flag outside the world of video games. I think I might actually have to go back to before I was first introduced to Unreal Tournament, now that I think about it. Back when I first started going to my friend Tom’s weekly LAN party more than a decade ago. Since that time I have only thought of the game as CTF, as a video game type, not a real thing. Which is weird, because I have vivid memories of playing the game in real life at Boy Scout Camp in Colorado, where we augmented the traditional rules by adding Pine Cone War to it, whipping pine cones at each other’s heads as we sprinted through the forest.

And I wonder why I’m a slow reader. Good times.

I don’t much care for the writing of these Percy Jackson books, but I couldn’t be happier that my kid is getting interested in mythology as a result of reading them, and I only really have to read them at night before he goes to bed anyway. He reads them to himself otherwise, and since he loves them so much, my wife thought it might be cool to show him the movie they made of the first one. Since I’m a bit anal about what PG films my first grader sees, I insisted upon previewing the film once it showed up in its little red envelope.


Here’s the thing. I think I might be able to stomach letting him watch a crappy movie. There might be some advantage to that in helping him cultivate taste (let’s avoid getting into a debate about the prequels at this juncture). I might even be convinced to get past feeling it is age-inappropriate for him (did I mention I was anal about this…that’s a polite word for what I am). What I will not get past is the desecration of the game of Capture the Flag. That violation I will not brook.

In the movie the kids are playing Capture the Flag at their little half-blood camp, running through the woods and smacking each other with swords in a manner far less gory than the way we wielded pine cones back in the day. Percy Jackson happens upon the other team’s flag, but before he can get it he has to have a showdown with some other demigod. He wins in a horrifically inept sword fight and grabs the flag, hoisting it in the air as his team cheers. Victory! Weee!


Deep breath.

Look, everybody knows you have to return the flag. Don’t they? Doesn’t everybody know this? This can’t just be me. That’s what makes it such a great game and such a great game-type in something like Unreal Tournament. A really good game of CTF establishes an ebb and flow as teams strategize and parcel out their resources. Who is charging in for the other flag? Are we going to leave someone at the base to guard our flag or go for an all-out assault? Who is protecting our flag carrier? Who is going to hunt down the bastard who took our flag? We’re up two points, should we send somebody out for the third or just camp here at base and run out the clock?

I still remember truly satisfying LAN matches of CTF from years ago. Matches where it came down to the final second and I was carrying the flag, my last protector fragged, and the other team’s final dude peppering me with his flak cannon as I got back to base in the very nick of time. That feeling, that deep-adrenaline feeling of being the flag-carrier in that situation, especially on a simple map like Facing Worlds when your buddy in the other room (at our LAN parties it was always Cain or Steiner) is sniping and you have to jump like an idiot to stay alive. Or trying to get a bead on their carrier before he hits his mark and the timer terminates. Or hunting down their carrier while you yourself are also carrying a flag. One false move and they win. Damn. I love that.

How do you not include returning the flag? Idiots. I refuse to let my son watch your movie.

Now then, how long before I can start setting up CTF matches for my kid and his friends? They’ve already played laser tag at birthday parties, which was a good primer because of the base assault element in those matches. But how about a good physical game of CTF off somewhere in the woods. I suppose I’ll have to wait a few years. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to convince the guys to reinstall Unreal Tournament at Shoot Club to get my fix. And then send replays of the game to Chris Columbus and company.

Damn filmmakers. Get off my lawn.

Lesson of this week: dumbing down sucks.

Here endeth the lesson.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet.