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Plugged In

“Gaming’s Youtube” proves it’s not such a little planet

Plugged In

LittleBigPlanet 2

Platforms: PS3

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LittleBigPlanet 2's star cracks a grin

Although
it's a lovable, character-packed platform game in its own right, it's
not new release LittleBigPlanet 2's supplied levels that are making
headlines this week. Instead, it's the game's astonishing array of tools
for creating your own -- a suite of intricate gadgets and gizmos that'll let you pull its gameplay apart, reassembling it as anything
from an action-packed shooter to a Rock Band-style virtual instrument.
Limited only by your imagination, and with the ability to share your
creations with a world of other players, it's gaming's Youtube.

Which is also one of its weaknesses, according to critics. Like many complex
tools, you're going to have to spend a little time learning how to use
everything properly -- and by "little" we mean "enough time to finish
two or three regular video games."  If you're looking to reap the huge
sense of satisfaction that'll come with generating something truly
marvelous, you're clearly going to have to invest some time in mastering
its intricacies.

Regardless, it's hauling down a seriously impressive set of scores from critics,
propelling it to a stellar 93% on review aggregation site Metacritic.com. Heading the pack is Joystiq's Griffin McElroy, who praises both its design tools and its
out-of-the-box levels, which many saw as a weakness of the original
game.

LittleBigPlanet 2 is "an incredible platformer," he says, "categorically and exponentially
improved over its predecessor, but there's a much larger picture that
might take you a few evenings of madcap, freeform architecture to
discover." Even at this early stage, McElroy says, participants in the
game's beta test are using the tools to produce levels that rival
anything the game's developer has produced.

So is the praise universal? Nearly, but many critics express
disappointment that some of the original game's flaws haven't been fixed
-- its imprecise controls, for example. Destructoid's Nick Chester, in a 7.5/10 review that's among the game's harshest marks so far, sums it up.

"The sense of discovery and magic that the original game had isn't there in
the sequel, mostly because we've seen it before," he says. "For all its
new gimmicks and flashing lights, LittleBigPlanet 2
can still be best described as a great way to make substandard
games...it's relying on a concept that was brilliant two years ago."

Such are sequels. LittleBigPlanet is still a regular in the Playstation
rotations of plenty of gamers -- and it's comparatively rare to see a
major release that's not only family-friendly, but will give younger
gamers something to engage their creative sides, even if they skip over
the subtleties of its toolset. 2011 is shaping up to be a great year for
Sony fans, and it's off to a stimulating start.

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Also Available This Week:

Echoes of the Past 2: The Castle of Shadow

Platforms: PC

Ancient curses, spooky amulets, perplexing puzzles -- it's either a Scooby-Doo
episode or a new historical hidden-object game, and considering this is
Yahoo! Games and not Yahoo! Seventies Television, you're probably
assuming the former, and you're right. Plus you can try it out for free
right here. Jinkies.


Mass Effect 2

Platforms: PS3

Not content with being one of the best games of 2010, Mass Effect 2 is
apparently attempting to be one of the best games of 2011 as well,
courtesy of its appearance this week on the PS3. Considering it's
rocking upgraded graphics, packs much of the downloadable content that
graced the Xbox 360 over the course of last year, and is still a superb,
sweeping space opera that'll grip even sci-fi skeptics, we're rating
its chances pretty high.

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon


Time Mysteries: Inheritance

Platforms: PC

Eat your heart out, Sonic: today's discerning ring-collecting gamers are
playing Time Mysteries: Inheritance. Only here the bad guy is an evil
time traveler, and rather than just giving you extra lives, here the
rings power a crystal ball. Speed your way over to the free trial.

Get More Game Details | Download from Yahoo! Games


Plants vs. Zombies

Platforms: DS

What do vegetarian zombies eat? Graaaaains. Also, plants; or they do if you
believe this addictive, easy-going smash hit from the makers of
Bejeweled. We've bought it on PC,
we've bought it on iOS, we've bought it on Xbox, and blast it, we're
going to wind up buying it on DS too. Because it's just that good.


Mindjack

Platforms: PS3

Boasting a neat brain-hacking gimmick and an innovative multiplayer mechanic
that lets other players jump in and out of your game, shooter Mindjack
also drops this week. But Square -- maker of the immortal Final Fantasy
series of role-playing games -- has had a spotty record of late, and
Mindjack's solitary review at the time of writing is a nigh-disastrous
4/10 from IGN. We'd suggest you try before you buy, unless you're completely out of your mind.

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