LittleBigPlanet was meant to be the game that got everyone playing together. It was supposed to be fun and accessible, but underneath its cute appearance lay a game that could make hardened games journalists cry. One mention of the 'Electric Wheel' in the office makes most of us curl into a ball and slip into a coma, hoping that the world will be alright again when we awaken.
To put it bluntly, at times the original LBP was bloody frustrating.
This has been rectified in a sequel that is not only more forgiving, but offers increased variety in gameplay styles, a better cast of characters, charming and technically brilliant visuals, and a suite of creation tools that let you make just about any type of game imaginable.
What divides most people's opinion of LBP is the floaty controls, which result in Sackboy lacking the platforming skills of genre favourite Mario. If you didn't like the way he loosely jumped about in the original, you're not going to like it here. What has been almost completely ironed out, though, are the frustrating checkpoints. LBP1 forced you to replay entire levels if you ran out of retries, only for you to then spend time getting to the exact same point and then die over and over again. Throughout the entirety of LBP2 I only ever had to return to the beginning of a level when fighting the final boss, which is kind of a mixed blessing. On one hand this sequel is a less stressful experience, but on the other it's also almost completely devoid of challenge.
Sackboy's efforts to defeat the Negativitron - an evil dragon-like robot that is travelling around Craftworld and sucking up all the creations - take him across a range of joyfully created levels, introducing him to a handful of quirky characters who work for a group known as The Alliance. The story might be fluffier than Sackboy's insides, but the madcap journey and amusing dialogue more than fill in the blanks. There's more of a spectacle this time, too, with vastly superior cutscenes that are both dramatic and expertly crafted.
It's a jolly good campaign that does its best to keep things fresh. Standard running and jumping platforming is, if anything, in the minority here, with Sackboy generally carrying some form of gadget or riding an animal. The grappling hook lets you swing about, the water gun puts out fire and a set of gloves allow you to throw movable objects. This might all sound trivial, but it makes for some of the most diverse gaming styles ever seen in a single platformer. At one moment LBP2 feels like a floaty Mario; at the next it's like Bionic Commando, or a 2D Ratchet and Clank. And all that is before you factor in the animals.
You can fly bees in stages that are closer in style to R-Type than Super Mario World; nip about on a caterpillar; fire a gun from the back of a camel; smash your rabbit's bum through blocks; and whiz about in a rocket-powered hamster. None of these animals or gadgets overstays their welcome, and each is used to solve puzzles and defeat enemies in a variety of ways. The grappling hook is the most satisfying to use, propelling Sackboy into the air if the release is timed correctly. This mechanic is used to great effect in a battle against a giant robot close to the end of the game, in what is the most epic set-piece seen in the series to date - although the final encounter did dampen my enthusiasm due to some stressful swinging.