As a creative soul with a love for offbeat & dark humor, the LittleBigPlanet game series has provided me with a terrific platform for developing rocket powered, baby doll laden adventures for roughly half a decade. But in the dark crevices of my mind still burns the haunting question: “Can I make something even more outrageous?” The recent release of LittleBigPlanet 3 might just be the answer that will let me sleep at night (in that, I will leave others sleepless).
Before we go any further, I’ll quickly provide you with a résumé of sorts that should diminish any doubts you may have about my credentials. Some of the better titles from my catalog are Rocket Baby Race, Babydemic, Piranha Death Race 800 and The Chronicles of Chicken Guy. If you own a copy of LittleBigPlanet 2 or 3, I encourage you to pause here and go play a couple of those levels before continuing.
It’s worth pointing out that LittleBigPlanet 2 (2011) expanded significantly on the level-building tools of its predecessor, and LBP 3 is following suit in ways that many of us never imagined. If you’ll indulge me I’ll give you a glimpse into some of these new features, but in doing so I’d like us to focus on my personal favorite ongoing character, Chicken Guy. The next couple of paragraphs will be pretty anecdotal so bear with me here.
Throughout much of college, my friends and I worked together to create a number of disturbing levels in LBP and LBP2. Our favorite by far was Escape from Taquería! (2010), a dark tale wherein players become trapped in the dungeon basement of a taquería restaurant and must escape its deadly traps (including an enormous scientific experiment made of baby doll parts called the Black Water Monster).
This marked the first appearance of a chicken drumstick with a creepy face and the voice of a babbling child – Chicken Guy was conceived, and it was definitely an accident. Throughout the latter half of this level, Chicken Guy provides a loose definition of commentary that lies somewhere between an attempt at narrative and apologetic compensation for our lack of competent level design skills. Explaining this in writing doesn’t do it half justice, so definitely play the level if you can. And if that doesn’t leave you completely traumatized, follow it up with Escape from Taquería 2 (2011).
These two levels were made collectively by our group, but shortly thereafter I took on the task of exploring Chicken Guy’s backstory with a solo project, The Chronicles of Chicken Guy (2011). Canonically speaking, this takes place prior to the Taquería timeline and follows our hero’s transformation from a regular chicken drumstick into a sentient being who becomes determined to free his brethren from the chicken factory from whence he came. It’s loosely a soul searching story mixed with tongue-in-cheek democratic undertones.
Since its release, I’ve made multiple attempts to continue this series, most notably in the forms of The Chronicles of Chicken Guy: The Miracle of Life and Chicken Guy Chronicles: Redemption. None of these have been completed due to a simple lack of time and creativity, but with new technology might come new opportunities for our finger-lickin’ friend.
LittleBigPlanet 3 was announced earlier this year and released in November. Until now I’ve heard practically nothing about how it was received, and to be honest I was a little scared that the franchise had finally overstayed its welcome. Any skepticism I had going into it quickly subsided when I saw the surprisingly amazing intricacy of the story levels, more so than in any of the previous titles. Not only in the way that the levels are built, but the way they are presented and uncovered, provides a very refreshing experience that has left me really impressed.
But of course we’re here to discuss the custom level creation tools which, as I’ve already briefly mentioned, continue to be nothing less than a fantastic building platform in LBP 3. But is it enough to take Chicken Guy to the next level and weave even greater bone-chilling tales? I don’t exaggerate when I say the game includes dozens of new tools and power-ups, but I’ve chosen 3 that could possibly bring back Chicken Guy in the most glorious ways possible.
1. The Hook Hat
One of five new power-up “hats” that LBP 3 introduces is called the Hook Hat. If you played Bioshock Infinite then this concept should be immediately familiar to you. Essentially it’s a Daft Punk helmet that gives you the ability to grab onto and slide along sky wires. It may not sound impressive in itself, but when combined with other elements like bounce pads and portals into seamless fast-paced sequences, it’s actually a really well implemented feature.
We can only guess what kind of possibilities this could add to Chicken Guy’s new adventures. Maybe El Boss (his arch nemesis) has built a flying chicken processing factory and you have to zing along between buildings avoiding monster babies with machine guns. Or perhaps in a highly classified underground base, you have to zip across pits of lava to find the vault that contains the secret fried chicken recipe. Imagination is a beautiful thing, and I’m pretty sure Chicken Guy: Infinite would be a defining point of my life (possibly as my final step into madness).
Be sure not to read that as “velociraptors” (although Jurassic Chicken could be something to consider). Velociporters are just a fancy term for portals. Much like in the Portal games, these can be placed virtually anywhere in your levels and will retain the player’s speed when he or she passes through them. I haven’t personally come across a way for players to actually place the portals themselves in-game, but the community has very likely already figured that out.
As for Chicken Guy, perhaps we can take a bit of inspiration from Portal 2’s story and have players traverse El Boss’ long abandoned chicken laboratories, using portals to solve inexplicably placed mind-bending puzzles. Or even better, we could use the portals as a storytelling device to jump between vastly different areas of a level, essentially acting as a Stargate or even simulating time travel. I’ve previously wanted to explore the backstory of El Boss and the roots of his relationship with Chicken Guy, so maybe it’s time to let players alter the characters’ past in some significant way. Surely you couldn’t resist a game called Deep Fryer Time Machine?
3. Top-Down Features
Owners of LittleBigPlanet 2 might be initially confused by this statement, as we’ve already had some ability to create top-down games for a while. It still takes a bit of finicking to accomplish something like this, but at least we now have more full-fledged tools meant for this specific purpose. This should mean that developing complex top-down levels is now a bit easier than it used to be, and it looks like many people in the community have already figured out how to get this to work properly. One story level in particular (“Furry Soles, Hot Coals”) is styled this way, and call me crazy but it feels vaguely reminiscent of something out of Starcraft II or League of Legends. If nothing else it could be tweaked to represent those types of games pretty easily.
This isn’t something I’ve considered before, but it could be time to approach Chicken Guy from a new perspective (hah) in the form of a real-time strategy game. Maybe on the verge of the chicken-pox-alypse, he has banded together the last fighting forces of chicken-kind to wage an epic battle for Earth against El Boss and his doomsday army of super-babies equipped with military grade hot chili peppers. League of Chicken sounds amazing, so if you steal this idea and make it yourself I will sue you into next week. (Just kidding, you would totally be my new best friend.)
This short list doesn’t nearly do LittleBigPlanet 3 the justice it deserves, but if you were looking for a normal game review then you would have stopped reading ages ago. For fans of the series who haven’t already tried out this installment, I can’t recommend it enough. (Although if you have the PS3 version like me, be prepared for some disappointing loading times on par with LBP: Karting).
As far as Chicken Guy goes, only time will tell if we see a resurgence of his wild and wacky adventures that simultaneously challenge your hand-eye coordination and your sanity. The new tools mentioned here, and many others like it, have definitely gotten my creative wheels turning again. And who knows, maybe this has left you inspired to take on the series yourself and accomplish something truly great. Or something truly terrifying. Ideally both.