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LittleBigPlanet 2

The biggest little sequel at E3

The world's first date with Sackboy was a charming one, but the pressure to perform is on for the second date. LittleBigPlanet 2 follows from a phenomenal first impression and its array of new features promise to build on that, even if it won't be a revelation. A myriad of small additions from new story mode stages and themes to new gadgets and even the ability to create mini-games build upon the groundbreaking original.

Joining the more than 2 million player-created levels drafted within the first games that are compatible with LittleBigPlanet 2, the ability to create mini-games are easily the biggest new feature. Two were on display: bumper car-wannabe Crashy Bashy and a deathmatch-style 2D romp called Rocket Funland.

Crashy Bashy puts four players into a bumper car arena enclosed by an electrified fence. The goal is to nudge the other players into the electrified field, which earns you points; naturally, whoever has the most points when the timer runs out wins the game. Guiding your vehicle is done with the left analogue stick. Pressing the X button activates boost, which is effective in shoving a competitor into the electric fence; however, miss and you can boost yourself into the fence (which I managed to do a few times).

The second mini-game, Rocket Funland, involved a completely different style of gameplay. Instead of top-down bumper cars, here you fire rockets in a low-gravity level. Jumping around with the left analogue stick and X button, you aim and fire rockets using R1 while aiming with the right analogue stick. A clock counts down the time, with the winner being the player with the most points. Since the low gravity makes Sackboys and girls float through the air, nailing a player with a rocket is a matter of predicting their trajectory as they glide back to the ground. Rocket Funland was more enjoyable than Crashy Bashy; the latter just seemed too random to be fun.

Mini-games aren't the main attraction in LittleBigPlanet 2, though. An all-new story mode with 40 original levels is promised, of which I was able to take one stage for a whirl. A total of six themes will appear through the course of the story: Techno Renaissance, Steampunk and Cake, Neon Propaganda, Fluffy High-Tech, Designer Organic, and Hand-made Arcade. Part of the new Techno Renaissance theme, the level was set in a tower filled with all kinds of mechanics contraptions. Springboards bounce Sackboys up the tower, although avoiding electrified walls placed precariously near these springboards made scaling the tower difficult.

A new grappling hook helps in just such situations. Fired with a tap of R1, the hook grabs onto the nearest object attached to a long rope. Holding the X button winds the rope up, which in turn pulls you toward the hook and the object to which it's attached. If you're near another player and fire the hook, it'll grab them and you can pull yourself to them. It should made multiplayer a little easier in allowing you to pull forward players that fall behind.

Other gadgets promised include a pair of power gloves that enable you to pick up heavy objects and hurl them, as well as the aptly named Creatinator, which can generate objects of your choosing. How the latter works is a point of curiosity, but it wasn't available in the levels shown. Details on the Creatinator, additional themes and levels, and other untold features will be coming soon ahead of the game's holiday 2010 release.

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