Christien Murawski

Weekly Little Big Planet: paging Statler and Waldorf

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Why do we always come here
I guess we’ll never know
It’s like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show

Let’s see…adorable Muppets? Check. A mess of costumes and decorations? Check. Some new playable levels? Check. “Attract-O-Gel” that gives my sackboy the power to walk on the ceiling? Check. Cloning Hat? Pictured. All that should combine to make some most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational DLC.

Then why do I find myself siding with those crotchety old blowhards in the balcony?

After the jump, not time to get things started Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: a muppet of a sack

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Let’s Meeting Circus troupe. A breath of fresh air after a real dry spell in the community levels of late. This week was especially harsh. Then this level comes along with a circus theme, with Muppets. Muppets? What? I suspect this has something to do with the fact that it is a competition entry, and not a tribute to Bret McKenzie’s recent win, although I can find nothing about the specific contest (LBPC7) other than other entries. No worries. Playing this level was prize enough.

The name of the level and the translated text within it are bonuses though. “Did you watch the present swing? It was great force!” I find these things so endearing, and touching. Far from poking fun by including them, I must admit a slight sense of awe. If I were to have to take a whack at titling something of mine in Japanese characters, I wouldn’t have the slightest clue where to begin. I love it when these LBP designers at least try to do so. Many thanks, Attacker444. You made this with one week? Damn. Well done.

Weekly Little Big Planet: gear head

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That little gear in the middle there, between the two bigger gears? I shot that out of my head. Or rather my helmet. My gear hat. Cog hat? Whatever. It sprang fully formed from my head either way and wedged as you see it, forcing the larger gears to turn and raise the wall over to the right.

InterKinetic. It makes to lull you to sleep with its rocking-cradle tick-tock feel and lullaby music, and then it gives you a gear hat. Add gear hat to the list of things in LBP I want to have in real life, along with fire hat. Go ahead and take cupcake hat off the list. I’m sick of cupcakes already. But then I’m a pie man.

Weekly Little Big Planet: my kingdom for a…

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New rule: designers who don’t bother to state explicitly that the level I’m about to play is a versus level should be smacked with a sackpuppet. I don’t know if such a thing as a sackpuppet even exists, but I’m willing to invent one for just this purpose. Jumping into a level and then being told, after the level loads, that it is really for more than one player drives me bonkers. That must have happened five or six times the last time I played, and given the length of my load times of late, it really is too much to take. You’re making me just want to ditch my PS3 controller in favor of grabbing my iPhone and checking my Ascension turns, something that will not take much to persuade me to do. You really want to do that?

LBP CUP 2011-William Tell Overture, does not have this problem. While it is indeed a race, you race against the clock so a versus tag is not necessary. What’s more, after you’ve galloped Fred Flintstone-like for awhile, the level becomes something totally other. Weird. Unexpected. Kind of wonderful. No tags needed for that. However I would love to be able to just bloop back, TiVo style, to where the shift occurred, because I can’t quite figure it. A quick replay would be nice.

Speaking of replays.

after the jump, what the hell just happened? Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: hurricane, you got clout

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One thing I’ve been clear about in playing community levels, one might say to the point of harping, is that I don’t care to go into a level that is a movie. I don’t want to sit through your sack-version of the Scream movies, or watch you remake Indiana Jones with LBP design tools and no real gameplay. I have better things to do with my time. Therefore, I tend to automatically avoid levels described as “cinematic” in the review notes, because more often than not this means I’ll be watching instead of playing. I don’t play games for watching. I have real movies for that.

The drawback here is that in avoiding “cinematic” as a descriptor I miss out on some levels that are not movie remakes, but play like your sackdude is in a movie. This week’s level, Hurricane Edna, is one of those. I took a chance on it because I remembered playing another level by its designer, Kelitorious, last year. It was called The Casino Robbery, and while it had pacing problems I liked it. Hurricane Edna is much leaner, but still very cinematic, in the best possible sense.

Weekly Little Big Planet: enter the void

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Kind of a cool image, huh? Creepy. Evocative. But how does the level play, you rightfully ask. Okay. Fair enough.

I have no idea. My PlayStation is currently waging a war with my LAN. This happens. Usually when there’s an update for either the system or for LBP. My network and that game just don’t get along. The update process starts and my Internet connection gets banished. So this week’s level is one I played a few weeks ago that I meant to revisit. I’d love to do so, but, you know…the war. That’s actually okay, though, since another game has had my full attention all this week, and it requires neither my PlayStation nor my home network.

After the jump, banished and it feels so good Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: objet d’art

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I have this thing for objects that become characters, or that we come to see as characters, in movies and games certainly, but also in life. I love how my little boy can get lost in a conversation with one of his beloved stuffed animals while I’m voicing it. That willing suspension of disbelief always came easy to me — I remember as a child totally going along with my dad when he wanted to pretend his Fiat X1/9 was an X-wing on our way home after seeing you-know-what — and I’m happy to see my son shares this.

But stuffed animals and pets are easy. I like it when something that doesn’t normally have personality — a truck, a weapon, a tire — feels like a character. Maybe it’s having watched the excellent and weird Rubber again while working up my end-of-the-year list for the movie podcast that’s influencing me, but this week’s level, Super ball deluxe, hits that spot for me. Part of it is the physical design: the ball plays like it has weight and texture, say the heft of a bocce ball with the slipperiness of a bowling ball spinning down its lane. It’s more than that though. It’s got personality, and as Jules observes in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.

Weekly Little Big Planet: red all over

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When I first read the title Black and White platformer, I got excited. A level all in black and white would be a nice change of pace. That didn’t pan out, as you can clearly see from the fireballs in the above screenshot. I still had a blast with the level in spite of this little letdown, and in spite of the weird thrusting phallus sections. Maybe I’m misinterpreting that part though. Sometimes a pointy column with a slightly bulbous tip is just a pointy column with a slightly bulbous tip. You be the judge.

Speaking of judging, it’s Sackie Awards nominations time! Yep. Sackies. That’s what they’re calling them. Get your nominations for your favourite levels of 2011 in before 06/02/2012, and seeing as there’s a ‘u’ in favourite, please note that the deadline is February 6th, not June 2nd. Also, my mention of pointy columns followed by an announcement of the Sackie Awards is entirely coincidental. No need to page Dr. Freud, I assure you.

Weekly Little Big Planet: freestyle

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Simple and beautiful. FreeFallin’ [3D Skydiving], our first community level of 2012, does come with a warning–or should I say warnin’–about motion sickness. If you’re prone to it, beware. When I first started playing shooters many years ago I would get queasy. Now, not so much, but I found I had to be careful with this level and play it only a few times a session. It’s worth trying, just beware.

Speaking of motion, I’m seeing an increasing number of community levels that require Move. Will this continue to be a trend in 2012? While I hope not as Move is not something I own and I’m not sure I have the space for it, I’m guessing the answer to that question will be yes. We already have to deal with a Move warning screen every time we boot up the game, so that’s probably the direction we’re headed. It will be interesting, at the very least, to watch how the LBP community deals with it going forward.

In the meantime, welcome to 2012! What say we go jump out of a plane?

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet: top levels of 2011

Weekly Little Big Planet: this goes to 11

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About a year ago we started featuring levels from the game LittleBigPlanet 2 that were designed by players of the game, levels which the designer of the game, Media Molecule, dubs Community Levels. We posted daily levels for a couple of months, and then shifted to featuring a level a week, often with an extended column about something else after the jump.

To say the community of LBP designers is a robust one is to grossly understate. I would not have imagined the game’s fans could support a year of such scrutiny, but it did. Easily. Along the way we found some dreck, to be sure, but by and large playing the publically designed world of the game proved an adventure, and a lovely and rewarding one at that.

After the jump, ’11 levels that made us squee Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: gone viral

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The full name of the level is The Virus: Chapter 4 – Part One – Forgotten Dreams. I don’t know, maybe this is an homage to the goofy title formatting of the Mission Impossible movies. The good thing about having a title as clunky as that one is that it prepares you for the awkward sack dialogue to follow, and such preparation is necessary because there is a lot of awkward sack dialogue to follow. Way too much.

Still, I’m a sucker for a level like this that feels like it’s part of a larger work. Probably The Trilogy conditioned me for that early in life, or perhaps Tolkien. Whatever did it, The Virus colon Blah Blah dash Flibberty dash Gibbet gets good once you slog past the opening dialogue, and that makes me want to explore more of the parts of this little world.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet.

Weekly Little Big Planet: sack physics

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Coal Cart Calamity is too hard for me so far, which doesn’t bother me a whit. Judging by the comments and reviews, I’m not alone. I’m also not alone in loving it, as the level won this month’s Little Big Planet design contest (LBPC4). Dubbed Sackscience, the contest challenged designers to mess with the laws of physics in the LBP world, which I didn’t find out until after I played the level a few times but makes total sense. As I played it I couldn’t help but think of physics. Seriously. Me! So from that perspective, the entry is clearly a success.

I could explain all the things I love about it besides the lovely frustration it provides, but I think I’ll just say one word and let you discover the rest for yourself. When you do, get back here and tell me what to do with the coal-drop ramp thingy. It’s driving me crazy. For now, the one word I promised:

Magnets.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet

Weekly Little Big Planet: bunny, ball ball

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That’s me up there with my girlfriend. She’s kind of shy. We both are, actually. This is clear because we close our eyes for every picture. Every single time a picture gets snapped during our little level, Super Bunnio, we close our eyes. Either we’re shy or we just share the same tic.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little down because we just can’t seem to get together. Oh, I know, everything looks nice in that picture with that cute little heart and the butterflies, but things are about to get weird. So weird. This gust of wind up and carries my girlfriend away, and so I have to do all this combo-jumping and eat a bunch of carrots to try to get her back. The combo-jumping is kind of cool, actually. In my normal bunny life I don’t get to do much of that. But then a couple of times I turn into a ball all of a sudden and start drilling through the ground like some kind of deranged hedgehog and I finally find her and then another gust of wind comes up and…well…it’s…

Weird.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet

Weekly Little Big Planet: racing jones

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“A good racing game never ends.”

Since level designers who don’t get how to create tension without life limits receive my derision, it is only fair that a designer who does get it, who creates tension in a simple level without using that threat, receives my praise.

Color Race. The title is unfortunate. It smacks of lack of forethought, like the person who signs up for a blog with only one name for it in mind and has to think up something on the fly because his one choice is unavailable. But who cares? It’s a great little race. Simple. Quick. Easy to reload. Not overly difficult, but still tricky. How do I know that it’s great? Because I felt compelled to keep playing it. Over and over. 99 times to be exact, with “just once more” counting for about thirty of those plays. I never broke into the top ten, but I came close.

Best of all, the only penalty for death is loss of time, not loss of game. I’ve been jonesing for a race since listening to the guys talk about racing games on the Qt3 Games Podcast. This one hits the spot and will tide me over until I get the chance to fire up Midnight Club: Los Angeles again.

Click here for the previous Weekly Little Big Planet