Weekly Little Big Planet: wooda coulda shoulda

, | Features

His name is Cowboy Bob and he needs you to help him recover the Golden Apple from the Cave of the Alligator Mouth…or something. I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to a word he said because he was utterly useless as a collaborator. That’s why he’s not pictured. He did nothing to help me. He’s part of the level, and we’re supposed to be working together, but he is total dead weight. Now I know how my friends feel when we play co-op. In fact, he got himself trapped in a cage from which I had to liberate him, so he gets extra minus points. Cowboy Bob, you suck at this game. My friend, we are simpatico!

Your level, however, does not suck. I liked it a lot. It’s called Wooden Perfection, and believe me, I wrestled quite a bit with what to do with the title of this entry. I’m not going to lie to you, the word ‘sporting’ was part of it for a good long while. But since this isn’t a political blog, I decided against using that headline.

This is about gaming, and in that vein…er…

After the jump, the planet core

My apologies to those of you loyal readers used to finding something other than Little Big Planet below-the-fold here on the column. I promise to return to that format next week, like gangbusters. What I’m finding, though, is that since switching from the Daily Little Big Planet column many weeks ago, I’m getting a backlog of cool community levels. Thing is, new levels keep coming. So it’s like a news junkie bookmarking articles he intends to read at some vague later date. Except that the news keeps coming, and that later date never comes. So the bookmarks stagnate.

Please indulge me, then, while I quickly highlight some of that backlog of community levels. Understanding that there are folks like me who love this, and there is a vibrant community of designers who deserve a bit of recognition.

In last week’s column I railed against cinematic levels. I don’t play LPB2 to watch movies, and I don’t care to see your sackfolk recreating my favorite films. However, if you want to drop my sackboy into a movie scenario, and let me play through it, that’s something else. Especially if it’s even a mildly clever level, as is Batman – The Joker’s final stand.

This isn’t the hardest level I have played in the community arena, but it hooked me. Even though the connection with the brand/property/source material is tenuous, it works. Is this due to the fact that I have come to love The Joker as a character so much? Perhaps. I didn’t used to. I couldn’t have cared less about him before Heath Ledger played him and Christopher Nolan introduced him in The Dark Knight. Now I find him enthralling. So this might be what makes this level work for me. It might also be that it just hit the sweet-spot as far as difficulty is concerned at the moment I found it. Last week I praised a level for being more difficult. What I’m finding is my reaction to difficulty levels in the community world of LBP2 is fluid. This is another thing I love about how this game works. Sometimes I need a challenge. Sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I need a surprise. Need to have my expectations messed with a little bit. For that…

…I turn to Mushi Mushi Mushroom Land. The way it ends is a simple and weird little thing that surprised me. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of the game, but I liked how it messed with my head. Furthermore, I have no idea what that picture is about in the screenshot I snapped above. Absolutely no idea. But I like that it messes with my head.

Moving on, then, to nostalgia.

As far as homages or ports are concerned, this Space Invaders iteration–Space Invaders: Retro Arcade–is just okay. You only face three waves of invaders and the level is easy to beat. Adding insult to injury, after you beat the level you have to work a minor escape puzzle that saps your score. Weak on the designer’s part. Include another wave. Don’t do that dopey penalty thing. It’s annoying–much like voice over bits by level designers…ahem–and has nothing to do with the game you’re honoring. Most importantly, it keeps knocking me down the leaderboard. Still, I have to say I’ve played this level a bunch of times and it’s a nice level for a bit of mindless relaxation. I praised longer levels last week. Little bite-sized levels like this are good too. Especially after…

NEW FEATURE! Fuck You of the Week.

That’s a picture from Ancient Temple of Xax which I liked playing quite a lot until I didn’t anymore and finally found I was yelling “FUCK YOU!” so much that quitting really was the best solution.

I hope some of you play this level and come back to laugh at me after beating it soundly and easily. I just got too frustrated. A certain amount of frustration is what we’re looking for when we play games, but this level just had me cursing too much. I’m speaking particularly of the point in the level when the giant flaming turd is falling from the sky and you have to jump past it and move past another pillar on a moving platform without getting burned then timing another jump without getting vaporized. And you keep getting bounced back to this save point. Over and over and over again. I nearly threw my controller across the room.

Why do I include it here, then? Because I liked what I could play of it, and wonder if what I can’t do is based on my own limitations. We shall see.

This is one for you, LBP junkies. I’ll do this with the column every few weeks, as a kind of makeup. For those of you who couldn’t care less about LPB, the regular column will be back next week. And in addition to that I’m cooking up another game diary. I thought I’d have it up before now. Weeks before now. But I’m finding that the game in question deserves quite a bit more of my time than I’d initially thought it would. I’m loving it, having a hard time with it, and finding it much more disturbing than I would have imagined.

Look for that soon.

For now, well, even though I said I wasn’t going to honor him with a screenshot I’m going to leave you with a picture of my useless partner Cowboy Bob. He’s no help in the level, but at least he’s got a decent beard. Again…simpatico.

I leave you now, in search of lost cities as I endeavor to escape from a sewer while protecting helpless nerds.

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