The lights are on
Media Molecule might not be as prolific as some of my other
favorite developers, but the studio's reinvention of the 2D platformer is one
of my standout memories from this generation of consoles.
The word "innovative" gets thrown around a lot in the video
game industry, but rarely is the praise actually warranted. Formula tweaks, UI
redesigns, and gameplay gimmickry are all too often referred to as innovative,
along with every variation of shooting something with a gun that developers
have come up with over the years.
When I think back on the concepts and features introduced in
Media Molecule's debut game, however, the description isn't just apt – it's an
understatement. LittleBigPlanet not only allows players to create their own
content to extend the life of the game, but makes it easy to find and download
new content from your fellow players.
I'm a big fan of games that provide level editors to players
(which sadly still seldom occurs on consoles), and Media Molecule did a
remarkable job with LBP's creation tools. Not only can you create your own levels
from scratch, but the versatile engine also takes physics and materials into
account, and allows you to make your own mechanical contraptions. Long before the
release of Minecraft, players were coming up with surprising creations in
LittleBigPlanet, and have continued recreating movie
systems, and different
genres in LBP 2. The series' latest milestone put the number of
user-created levels at eight
million; a lot of games boast "infinite replayability" but LittleBigPlanet
is one of the few series that comes close to delivering on that promise. Even
more importantly, Media Molecule pioneered sharing content, creating its own self-sustaining
community while providing a blueprint that numerous developers have since
Media Molecule's projects share a design aesthetic that I
can only describe as unabashedly happy. In an industry that's obsessed with
violence and war, Media Molecule reminds players that games can still just be
fun, lighthearted affairs; I can't help but smile when I see Media Molecule's
cutesy characters and creative worlds. I love explosions and headshots as much
as the next gamer, but Media Molecule's work provides a nice respite from all the bloodshed, and I'm looking forward to its upcoming Tearaway
as another cheerful diversion from the battlefield.
When Game Informer tackled the great debate of whether video
games are art, LittleBigPlanet was my go-to
example, as a series that both has its own creative and artistic merit, and
also provides players with editing and sharing tools to express themselves. Based
on the developer's demo
at the PlayStation 4 reveal, the studio is still trying to nail down what its
next project will entail, but the hallmark attributes of user-created content, community integration, and creative expression are all present. I'm glad Media
Molecule has successfully carved out its own niche in the industry, and I can't
wait to see more of what the studio is working on for next-gen.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.