Weekly Little Big Planet: failure is an option

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I was never much of a flight simmer, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong in my little fighter plane up there. Going down in flames is probably the wrong move. Unfortunately it’s the move I’m best at executing, so every time I played this week’s level, Angels of the Sky, it ended the same way.

This means a couple of things, most notably never seeing the final boss of the level, which is supposed to be a formidable Zeppelin that has threatened to devastate the city. I’m bummed about that. Not about the city. I don’t even know what city I was supposedly protecting. I wanted to see that Zeppelin. Any time there’s a Zeppelin involved I want to see it. Of course my failure also means the destruction of several trusty RX-01 fighters. What I should have done is land my plane. I don’t own that plane, the taxpayers do!

I failed this level every time. Yet still I picked it as this week’s featured level. Curious.

After the jump, my ego writes more checks

I really shouldn’t be picking this level. It has a couple of things I really hate, most notably, a life limit. I cannot for the life of me understand why community level designers do this to their levels. Don’t they understand that they are just making it easier for me to give up on what they’ve probably spent many hours designing? I’m not just saying it that way to pretty up the fact that I’m a quitter. In the case of Angels of the Sky I’m truly annoyed that I missed out on the later design elements. The designer, PSYNTENS, took pains to model the different waves of planes on old aircraft. I’m annoyed I missed out on some of those, as well as the aforementioned Zeppelin.

I’m giving Angels of the Sky a pass on my usual life-limit complaint, however. I really should have been able to beat the level in spite of that as there are power-ups along the way that restore your health (or, rather, that of your RX-01). I didn’t recognize these until a few plays in when I started getting frustrated that shooting those floating blue pentagon symbols was having no effect. In my defense I was distracted by the fact that I could shoot enemy parachuting pilots out of the sky for a reward of fifty points. Each! I always find it weird when you get to shoot another creature in Little Big Planet with anything other than a paint gun or a creatinator or a water hat or something. Not that I’m against the general shooting of folks in games, it’s just that LBP is so sweet and cute that picking off little helpless surviving pilots as they gently float to the earth, even if they are supposed to be my enemies, is jarring. It’s also kind of cool, though, so this is more of an excuse than a complaint.

I’ll go back and give Angels of the Sky some more tries though. I liked this simple shooter with its cool design-elements, and not just because the little shadows on the clouds were so nifty. I’d rather play a level like this and never get to meet the boss, than have to play a level with a dopey one.

You appears on a jungle, & your objective its simple. You can beat the army of the sad baby?

The best thing about Metal Gear Planet is that your sackboy does indeed go toe-to-toe with the sad baby mentioned above in the designer’s notes. As I played through the level I doubted this would be the case, figuring I’d just trade paint with all the little dudes in his army and that would be it. But no. I met the sad baby and traded paint with him too. Ho-hum.

Designers should have to submit levels like this to some kind of LBP community panel before they can append homagey names to them. Now I haven’t played much Metal Gear Solid, but I’ve played enough to know that this level has nothing to do with that game whatsoever. I wish the designer had just called this Paint Gun Planet, or more appropriately Water Gun Planet, since the combat reminded me of a kindergarten water gun fight in which the combatants end up standing a foot away from each other and unloading their pistols in each other’s faces at point blank range. The whole level is really just an exercise in whether you can click your R1 button faster than the AI can click his.

Finally this week I ended up with a level that shall not be named.

Most of the time level designers for whom English is not a primary language still endeavor to come up with a level name that has English words in it. I’m still not sure why this is, but I am thankful for it most of the time. The level pictured above had no English words whatsoever, just a bunch of what I assume are Japanese characters. I assume they are Japanese because the letters “jpn” follow the characters, but this could mean something else entirely. Just Play Now, for instance. Or Jester Plays Naughty. Who can know? All of the description/instruction text is in jpn-ese too, and all of the hint or flavor text within the level is as well. I have to say, this was just fine with me.

I had absolutely no idea what was going on in this level, and I really liked that. It’s good to get hints most of the time. I do like it when a designer understands how to do this well. But having to play through a level that not only gave me no hints, but gave me hints in a language I could not understand and thus made me wonder if I was missing something pleased me for some reason. I don’t know quite why. Maybe I felt like it raised the bar a little bit.

So LBP is teaching me that it is okay to be challenged more than I’m used to by a game, and that it’s fine to fail from time to time. Huh. Maybe it’s time to spend less time with LBP and Rock Band and Pinball FX and more time trying more difficult real-time strategy games.

Maybe. For the time being I think I’ll just focus on recognizing power-ups when they come along.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet