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Published January 1, 2000

When LittleBigPlanet launched in October 2008, users logging onto the community page were greeted with countless “trophy” stages and other spam that paled in comparison to the story mode’s masterpieces. However, while those obnoxious bubble-grabs still litter the “highest rated” list, more amateur level designers have begun to tap into the game’s deep set of tools – these guys are finally fulfilling the promise of the “play, create and share” mantra that Sony continues to push.

We’ve compiled our own personal favorite stages below. We acknowledge that these may not be the “best” that the game has to offer, but they represent an exponential leap in quality over the launch levels and in many cases are absolutely stunning. Be sure to visit our boards and let us know if we missed your own picks.

Justin’s Pick: Lost Tomb of Anubis by Nattura

One of the joys of playing community levels in LBP is that you’ll often find gems where you least expect them. Take the generically named “Lost Tomb” above. How many lost temples/tombs/castles/caves do we really need? It’s thematically right behind fire and ice levels in the platforming cliche handbook. But when you first boot up Nattura’s creation, you’re immediately made a little uneasy by an introductory trek across the desert. Your little Sackboy is just a silhouette running past howling “winds” and crumbling pyramids, with sand dunes weaving up and down. There’s a lonely atmosphere that’s more in step with Ico or Shadow of the Colussus than the bright, cheery worlds Media Molecule gave us, even though it’s in keeping with the story mode’s world culture motif. Once you get into the actual pyramid proper, close inspection reveals that the walls are rather sparsely decorated, but you’ll probably be too lost in the gloomy lighting and somber music selection to care. The level design never provides the same thrills, and it’s definitely on the easy side, but like the best LBP levels, it’s about the experience.

Nick’s Pick: Run Sackboy…Run! by superskag

Perhaps it’s the unbridled yet often intimidating creativity found among the LBP community that has kept so many of its fans from creating their own levels. But for all the tangled webs of wires I see that power super complicated, mood setting stages, there’s levels such as “Run Sackboy…Run!” which, despite the unfortunate title pun, recaptures everything fun and innocent that LBP represents at its best. The level itself is a fast-paced obstacle course, running no longer than two and half minutes at its max yet capturing almost every enjoyable play mechanic found throughout the main game – you’ll swing, jump, fly, slide and yes, run, back and forth across a myriad of different surfaces, watching amusing sticker placements in the clouds as you hover by and never crossing too frustrating of a gap on your journey toward a point-hemorrhaging finish line. The use of the race-timer is perfect – you’ll either attempt to screw over your simultaneously racing friends or stick it to everyone else on the leader boards (I clocked in myself at rank 37,722). Either way, it’s hard to deny the simplistic brilliance of this mini gauntlet – it’s a Sackboy speed-run, and man, can that little guy move.

Kaz’s Pick: Lost in the Pacific 1, 2 and 3 by SJEPAP

A trilogy? Yes, amongst the pantheon of one off race levels and paintball gun arenas there exists LittleBigPlanet creators still trying to produce “normal” content for the game. I have to admit, it had been quite a while since I’d last braved the content of LBP. I wasn’t expecting to find the greatest content since the last time I waded through trophy level after trophy level was so lackluster.

Did I strike gold? No.

That doesn’t mean that these levels don’t have merit. In fact, the only thing holding these levels back is the still frustrating multi-plane platforming of LBP itself. It’s most interesting to see the progression of the creator as each level was made. I’m not sure the time between levels but the consistency of style and steady improvement of lighting and level design is readily apparent. I loved the creative workarounds for water and I liked the throw away motif and story despite itself. (Also of note: the nifty credits and title screens.)

Coming back to LBP has really made me wish there was a stronger integration between LBP and the PS3 itself. I’d love to see developers’ picks and top rated levels advertised on my XMB. It’s be a nice reminder to dust off my copy of LBP and reward these creative people with hearts and stars.

Tom’s Pick: Pet Sackboy by Hymanator

After coming back to LittleBigPlanet for the first time in quite a few months, I was pleasantly surprised to find more user-created levels designed to follow my own style of playing the game. I’m all for challenging platformers, but the controls in LittleBigPlanet never seemed tight enough for me to want to attempt the trickier challenges made by users. To me, LittleBigPlanet is less of a game and more of a showcase for creativity. I prefer a level that is simple to traverse and lets the controls take a backseat to the theme, allowing me to enjoy the tricks the user has employed to make their level special.

In “Pet Sackboy,” your Sackboy starts off in a  really cheap and plastic hamster cage with just a wheel and no decorations, I really wished they had gotten inspired by the top hamster cage selection that’s available these days. Today’s modern hamster has a lot more options than just a simple wheel. After busting out, you are free to explore a house with the occupant away, getting into all kinds of mischief. The music is suitably cheeky, and it’s a lot of fun to climb about and activate the various giant-sized furniture and appliances. Furthermore, there are lots of little details like soda bottles and cereal boxes complete with user-made labels. Each object in the house acts much like you expect it to and is well made within the confines of the game: the microwave zaps your Sackboy to a crisp, the sink rewards you with bubbles for pushing a sponge in, the toaster launches you through the air to the top of the refrigerator, the recliner undergoes a leisurely transformation, and the TV springs to life when you step on the remote control. The level makes good use of space and it’s never difficult to tell where you should go next, a problem I experienced with several of the other user-created levels I’ve tried recently.

Overall, it’s difficult not to smile when imagining a Sackboy scurrying around your house and getting into trouble while you aren’t home. While it won’t blow you away with atmosphere or dazzle you with technical wizardry like some other levels, it’s a cute idea that’s well executed and won’t take much of your time.

And while Tony’s busy with medical school interviews and travel, we didn’t want to exclude him from our Sackboy family. Look for “him” on the article hub.

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