The New Faces of Platforming

Thursday, November 6, 2008
Let me be honest: platformers are not my bag--never have been. Yes, I played and enjoyed the original Super Mario games, Mario 64, etc, but I rarely am compelled to beat platformers.

While there are exceptions, (Psychonauts, I'm looking at you), in general, platformers have weak stories, average gameplay and, often, shoddy controls--anyone remember Bubsy the Bobcat?

Yes, the platformer has undergone evolutions and mutations in the long years we've been playing them. But it was only recently that I came across two games that I feel have truly changed what it means be a platformer.

The first of these is Little Big Planet. A sidescroller, LBP is based on the one mechanism that has and probably always will define platforming: jumping.

Aside from this, however, the game has taken every other facet of the genre and jumped light years with them. It delivers the simple, classic fun of any treasured platformer--I myself was again and again reminded of the joys of first playing Super Mario Bros. 3--and it increases the depth (both literally and figuratively; LBP has three planes of depth rather than the traditional one), adds in a fantastic level creator that gives the players all the tools necessary to match or even surpass the developer created levels, and, of course, it brings back the simple fun of playing with friends. And by playing with friends, I mean one, two, or three friends who can be as close to you as the couch or across the nation or world. In order to complete levels, players must help each other get through, rather than hinder--nobody wins until everyone reaches the end. This creates a sense of camaraderie seen few times before in platform gaming, if ever.

LBP is beautiful, customizable, creative, silly, and and at the end of the day, fun. It's changed platforming forever because in a post-LBP world, the game has moved from the hands of the developers into the hands of the players, joining us all into a community of, in LBP terms, "Creator Curators", enabling us to create our own worlds and share them with one everyone, guide and help one another through them, and reap the rewards together. Little Big Planet has made gaming an even better place to be.

Next: A closer look in the Mirror