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Published December 30, 2012

You want the most effective demonstration of the Wii U’s potential? Boot up your PS3, sync up your Vita and go download the LittleBigPlanet 2 Cross-Controller Pack.

Not exactly what you were expecting to hear, right? But if you’ve been clamoring for something more involved than dropping blocks in New Super Mario Bros. U, or you want something that expands upon the ideas found in that promising Rayman Legends demo, look no further. In the six levels included in the pack, you’ll see touch-centric rhythm games, platforms that turn along with the Vita’s tilt and sections that play out across two separate screens simultaneously. There have been other meaningful DLC updates to LittleBigPlanet over the years, but this is the most significant new feature set since the sequel introduced multiple game genres.

And with the tools offered here, in theory, the LittleBigPlanet community can go way beyond what Ubisoft is doing with Rayman Legends co-op. In Rayman, the player with the Wii U GamePad can move around Murphy, a fly (I think) who can pluck items out of the ground and tickle enemies to lower their defenses. It’s certainly much more fun than the typical sidekick modes we saw on the Wii, but all players are always playing in the same virtual space. But with LBP‘s “wormholes,” you can send a player to another world entirely. In one mini-game included in the pack, the Vita player can see the outside of a rocket ship and steer it away from enemies and debris. Players on the television might not be able to see what’s going on outside the ship, but they’ll certainly get rocked back-and-forth as they scurry towards the goal.

There’s some of this going on in the community-made levels, too. One stage I came across demonstrated working escalators that could take Sackboy down into a subway tunnel (on the Vita screen). Others turned the Vita into a controller for an RC motorcycle or railway line. These concepts are incredibly cool and just begging to be expanded upon. (It’s telling that many of the current levels have “work in progress” or “proof of concept” disclaimers.) The big questions, for me at least, is whether that’s going to happen.

There are some pretty big hurdles to get past, both technical and cost-related, but the number one thing working against the Cross-Controller Pack is timing. There are still unbelievably gifted amateur designers cranking out levels on a semi-regular basis, but I can’t help but feel that LittleBigPlanet‘s moment has passed. The series still has some life left in it, and the major entries in the series (1, 2 and Vita) are some of my favorite games in the last five years. But it’s clear that Media Molecule has wisely moved on*, and this particular DLC pack is going to be accessible to only a sliver of the entire user-base. One needs only to take a look at the relatively small number of Move-compatible levels to see what we’re facing.

But even though I’ll be sad if we don’t get much beyond what’s already offered, I still think that the Cross-Controller Pack is huge. It’s fully-realized in a way that Mario‘s “Boost” mode isn’t. It’s an even stronger argument for “asymmetrical” multiplayer than Rayman and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and I hope those who still have any interest in LittleBigPlanet embrace it.

*This is probably the last big LBP2 DLC, isn’t it? Heck, this might be the last “official” new LittleBigPlanet content we get! But it’s rather remarkable how malleable the series is when you think about how it’s been able to incorporate just about every single input option the PS3 (and Vita) has – the PlayStation Eye, the Move, Vita Cross-Play…even Sixaxis to move Sackboy’s head. 😛

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