Media Molecule took to the stage at Eurogamer to applause normally reserved for rockstars and with good reason too. Forget motion control, forget 3D, forget fitness games and minigame-stuffed party titles, if there's been one truly revolutionary thing to hit mainstream gaming in the last few years it comes courtesy of these guys.
Play Create Share might just seem like a mantra to some, a nifty tag to help facilitate user interaction. But it goes much deeper than that. At a convention housing a career fair, following an address on Thursday that advocated taking education by storm and showing the public that game design is not only a legitimate, but also important, career option, it was telling that of the four men presenting Little Big Planet 2 to an expectant audience, three of those men had been hired straight out of the community.
Power to the people might seem to be a hackneyed term, but it's clear that the guys at Media Molecule believe in it and, with Little Big Planet 2 they're continuing the path upon which they set out with the first title, but with a jaw-dropping level of additional depth should budding designers desire. The tools on offer this time around make the original game look like it simply gave you empty bog roll tubes and sticky tape.
Understandably, some gamers out there will just want to play around with the pre-existing levels and let others in the community take the lead with the level editing gear. But there are new treats in store for everyone. For starters, Media Molecule have placed much more of an emphasis on the characters – Sackboy and chums – rather than the levels. Whereas in the first game it was very much a case of '90% of the cool stuff we'd implemented was part of the level design', now the interactive nature of the game has been elevated thanks to a barrage of character upgrades.
First up? The grapple hook. Sackboy and friends can latch on to surfaces, reel themselves in and swing to reach higher areas. With physics playing a huge part in the game's engine, the developers took great pride in highlighting the ability to make use of the 'conversation of angular momentum', flinging Sackboy higher by reeling in the grapple at the same time as swinging about like Tarzan.
Next? The Grabinators – power gloves that allow Sackboy to shift scenery around (including between layers), as well as his companions too, the latter making for some rather frenzied hilarity.
The final two additions, though, were utter genius. The first, an emitter nicknamed the Creatinator, allows Sackboy to essentially fire things out from the top of his head. And by 'things' I literally mean anything. The developers gave us some helpful examples from 'a water gun' to 'exploding sheep'. With two members of the dev team showcasing the capabilities in real-time, the screen at the front quickly devolved into a fight between giant rubber band balls and a flamethrower. As one of the team pointed out, 'the only limit is your imagination. If you wanted to, you could quite feasibly throw houses at one another!'
Finally, and it was something they'd return to later on, the team revealed the Controlinator - a character feature enabling the use of vehicles, and other driveable objects/creatures, in the game. During a live demo later in the presentation we'd see exactly what the Controlinator could add to the game.
Taking the opportunity to showcase the new toolset live, the four developers began taking requests from the audience in order to build a level. First up, the theme. A good many suggestions were shouted out from Supermarket Sweep to Theme Parks, but eventually the team settled on Survival Horror. The enemy as chosen by the audience? A gigantic zombie panda, programmed to lumber after Sackboy and emit flames.
LittleBigPlanet veterans probably won't bat too much of an eyelid at such strange goings-on, but there were still a barrage of chuckles. Sackboy needed to be able to defend himself and so, after a round of anarchic voting that included shooting sandwiches, footballs, pasta, vomit and cheese at the advancing panda, it was decided that instead the last two should be combined. It seems that vomiting dairy products onto an undead, endangered Chinese bear is the only way to prevent it from eating you.
Furthermore, a quick whip around the audience for shopping bags allowed the team to stage said madcap mayhem 'in' a Tesco after photographing the bag with Eye and splashing the resulting image all over the background.
But the team weren't done. Asking for requests to showcase the new Controlinator, it was demmed that the best fit for Sackboy would be a tank that could fire apples. Fantastically, as the devs showed, the new engine allows for such items to be built both side on and top-down, with the emitter used to fire apples, laden with the new splatter effect. Then they switched the apples to make them explode which was far funnier than it had any right to be.
We'll update you with more from the session, as well as our hands-on impressions, but for players, creators and sharers alike, and as this beaming, applauding and whooping audience would testify, LittleBigPlanet 2 is shaping up to be one hell of a game.