Create your own game levels, if not a planet

Two years ago, Little Big Planet changed the nature of user-created gaming. Instead of bland, 2-D levels that offered only nominal functionality, “LBP” introduced high-level game creation that impressed nearly everyone.

Little Big Planet 2”

Platform: PlayStation 3

Genre: Platformer; Publisher: Sony

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 5 stars (out of 5)

Two years ago, Little Big Planet changed the nature of user-created gaming. Instead of bland, 2-D levels that offered only nominal functionality, “LBP” introduced high-level game creation that impressed nearly everyone.

Then it went a step further by opening up those creations to a worldwide community.

Playing the sequel — even if you simply stick to the story mode and play through its 30-plus levels — you will be amazed at the depth of style and presentation.

Some levels have you diving underwater or avoiding fire pits, while others recall 8-bit games from the 1980s, giving you a dose of nostalgia. All are wonderfully executed.

Of course, the marquee feature of “LBP2” is creating levels, testing them out and then sharing them online. The sequel has a much stronger filtering system so you can easily search other gamers’ creations to find games you might want to play.

Like any system that relies heavily on user-created content, some games are missing strategic pieces. That’s not the norm, however, and you won’t mind taking the bad with the good because in “LBP2” the good is extremely good.

The year is still new, so maybe it’s a tad early to heap game-of-the-year praise onto any title. But with its robust creation tools and active online community, Little Big Planet 2 should end up on 2011’s top 10.

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded”

Platform: DS

Genre: Role-playing Publisher: Square Enix

ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone

Grade: 2.5 stars

When visiting the past, it helps if you can keep the details in their rightful places. This is the message of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, a game in which the story is told through retelling (and saving) the past.

Jiminy Crickett’s journal of the adventures of our main hero, Sora, is being erased little by little.

Upon further exploration, it appears that evil foes are digitally erasing the journal, thus affecting the future for Sora and others in the kingdom. King Mickey makes a wise decision to make a digital copy of Sora and insert him (and his trusty key-blade sword) into the journal to beat back the darkness and recover the memories and glories of the past.

Ah, if it were only so simple. Besides enemies standing in your way, there are also the game’s shortcomings.

The leveling system is perfect, constantly offering new and better upgrades in attacks, key-blade add-ons and more. But Re:coded’s camera often gets in the way and makes navigation and battle a chore. The levels themselves are slow-paced and methodical, which lowers the energy of the game.

In retelling the past with new enemies and different aspects, you need to feel the game is not merely a retread of something already seen. Sadly, Re:coded doesn’t clear this hurdle, and instead ends up running in place.

Follow Chris Campbell at twitter.com/campbler or e-mail him at game_on_games@mac.com.

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