After a few initial, post-launch hiccups last week, LittleBigPlanet has taken off rapidly. Hundreds, if not thousands, of PSN users have been uploading a continuous stream of homemade levels to the game’s straining servers, with varying levels of quality and dedication. And because of that, LittleBigPlanet has become like every other service that relies on user-driven content: for every good thing someone creates, there are dozens of half-assed, broken levels made by people who think smoking weed is automatically HILARIOUS.
Of course, that also means there are a lot of diamonds in the rough. If you know how to find them, LBP can offer you some incredible levels made by talented, dedicated people (sometimes a little too dedicated, maybe). And while the huge amount of content out there means we can’t claim that the levels we’re about to showcase are necessarily the “best” (c’mon, that’d be like trying to find the best videos on YouTube), we can guarantee that they’re slick, (mostly) smart, a lot of fun and absolutely worth your time. And we’ve recorded video of each of them, just in case you’re still not sure. Here are our picks:
Some of you are inevitably going to look down your nose at this and any other level that’s inspired by an existing game, but Demon Skull is nonetheless a fun, surprisingly beautiful homage to the God of War series. It begins innocently enough, with verdant backdrops, Sackboy-shaped Kratos statues and chests full of red-painted score bubbles that take a about a second of continuous grabbing to open. But before too long, you’ll be pushing a caged Sackboy up a ramp to “sacrifice” him to a blazing furnace, carefully positioning a motorized cart to haul around a giant, leering head and taking an obligatory trip to Hades, where you’ll shove a bunch of screaming lost souls into a fiery pit.
All of this is complemented by a few gigantic, elaborate deathtraps; our favorite involves a bloodstained wave of stone columns that squash anything that fails to run through them as quickly as possible. Of course, it’s not the complete God of War experience; that would take a pair of chain-blades and constant bloody dismemberment, both of which are – at best – tough to replicate in LBP’s happy platform-hopping world. But if you’ve got some Kratos-themed preorder bonuses that just seem out of place tromping through African savannahs and Dia de los Muertos-themed weddings, this is a pretty kickass level to run them through.
Many of you might have already seen this excitingly named level on YouTube during LBP’s public beta phase, and those of you who have already know its secret: while a simple calculator that can add and subtract might not seem like much, the real draw here has nothing to do with the equations. No, the reason to dive into LBC is the machinery behind it all, which extends for what seems like hundreds of feet above the main calculator interface and consists of an insanely complicated-looking network of color coded switches encased in a few dozen floating enclosures.
The level even includes a jetpack, enabling you to fly up and see it all for yourself once you’re done playing with numbers, although you won’t really get the full effect until you’ve looked at it in the game’s Create mode. Do that, and you’ll see an enormous network of wires – normally hidden during the Play mode – that make everything more mind-boggling and confusing than you already thought it was.
So while Little Big Calculator is far from being one of the most enjoyable or exciting LBP levels, it’s definitely one of the most technically impressive – as well as one of the few that indicates a level of dedication that may border on insanity.
Given the relative simplicity of most user-created levels in LBP, The Azure Palace is huge, complex and ambitious. Not content with creating another land-based level, user gevurah22 ingeniously sprinkled the level with strategically placed jetpacks, which help create an illusion of swimming through an underwater ruin. The aquatic theme is helped along by the level’s puzzles, which include locating statues to weigh down switches and protecting a special key that – when used correctly – can open multiple doors and make you nigh-invincible.
The real highlights of Azure Palace start to come around the level’s midpoint, when you’re chased by a giant sea monster that starts spewing electrified bolts in your direction. Escape it, and you’ll have to carry your precious key through a series of increasingly tough deathtraps that can destroy you – and it – in an instant. Lose the key, and you’ll miss out on the level’s final reward, thereby giving you a reason to go back and try again. And while we’d normally be pissed about that, The Azure Palace is pretty and interesting enough that we didn’t mind exploring it a second time. Or a few more times after that.
Yeah, hanging onto that effing key is kind of tough.
This is a fairly short race level, but we strongly recommend playing it for the following reasons: 1) it’s awesome, 2) its wooden, rocket-powered airplanes are a blast to fly (and almost possible to control, with practice) and 3) you get said airplanes as a gift to use in your own levels if you complete the stage.
Also, once you’ve reached the finish line, you’re only half-done; now it’s time for you and your friends/opponents to pile into a weird, open elevator and blast through the air along a twisting glass track on a bizarre roller-coaster ride to the level-end goal. There’s not a lot to this level, granted, but what’s here is ingenious - and a lot of fun.
(Oh, and don’t bother doing a search for “hikouki” – it’s in Kanji.)
While the multi-part riddle in geosautus’ creepy haunted mansion is kind of a headache to keep track of, it’s a clever throwaway addition to one of the more moody, atmospheric levels we’ve seen so far. Of course, this being LBP, there’s still something inescapably cute about the whole thing. (And that isn’t helped by the glowing tombstones near the level’s end, either, which all carry silly, rhyming epitaphs.)
It could also use a few more actual monsters to jump out and menace players, but the Mad Mansion’s spooky touches – like the shadowy coach that ferries players to the front door, or the elevator that suddenly breaks and plummets into the basement – make this one of the few LBP levels to approach genuine creepiness.