[Before I start, I just wanted to say that if you are sensitive and you don't want some of the cute little surprises about the new LBP Metal Gear level pack ruined, you probably shouldn't read this.]
I'm not accustomed to my partner Amanda keeping tabs on PSN updates. If it's a new Aquarium simulator on the Wii, she's got you covered, but she wouldn't know what a Crash Commando was if it jumped out from behind a crate and bazooka'd her in the face and I believe she thinks wipeout hd is a skiing game. So needless to say, when she got home and handed me the credit card, saying “LBP. New levels!”, I was a bit surprised. It wasn't that I didn't know about the new levels and costumes, believe me, I knew. But I figured I couldn't get them because I blew 70 bucks on PSN last week (two of their gift cards, a $50 and a $20, we finally got them at target around here), and even suggesting that I wanted to buy something else would be asking for “that look”.
It's funny too, because the new levels and costumes were MGS4 related – not exactly a game she's been known to pop in and play on a whim. Of course, she did watch many of the cut scenes with me, and I think she even squirt out a tear or two during the more heart wrenching moments, but I don't think her thoughts on the game went much further than “Oh, it's sad that all that bad stuff keeps happening to the old man with the bandanna!”
So it was nice to have her support on the download. To have her be so demanding about a game that wasn't WiiPuzzle Number 36 was sweet. The real question is, how did she like it and of course, what did I think about it. Well, first off, she didn't like it. She LOVED it. In the last 2 hours we've played through the entire set, not getting all the stickers, but completing all of the 5 new levels, and we stopped only because she has to get up early in the morning and the rule is that we have to play it together. Which I don't mind because playing with her actually adds a challenge – but don't tell her I said that.
So what were my initial reactions? I was a bit tickled with the direction they went with the story, lampooning the ridiculous number of Trophy levels on LBP by suggesting that Liquid was busy polluting the Little Big Planet with them using some kind of overly complex machine. It was actually pretty funny, and the final scene was really engaging. We got down to our last life, and just barely made it by the skin of our teeth. A GOOD boss fight on LBP? YES!
The weird story line wasn't the only surprise the level pack had in store for me. I mean, I fully expected the new guns and familiar aesthetic of MGS4 to freshen things up – even the music, but I have to say that the stealth gameplay completely caught me by surprise. It's funny too, because with the 3 layered playing field of the game, it's perfect for hiding from the search lights that sit at the top of the level. The first time we hit a search light and heard that familiar alarming sound, and the doors dropped down trapping us so that we were materialized by the turret – well, I jumped out of my seat and I also got a warm feeling in my heart. I knew this little level pack was going to make a game I already adore EVEN BETTER! Which, if you asked me a week before I even knew this level kit was coming, I would have told you was impossible.
So aside from the surprises, how did it play? Very well. Each level, even the introduction it seems, offers multiple plays. Similar to the pack-in levels on the disk, they use sticker triggers to have you play through more than once. A sticker you may need at the beginning of the level could be found at the end, so you have to play through once, get it, and then go again and place the sticker on the trigger to get the reward. The difference here, which I first noticed with the VR Mission, is that, with the placing of the acquired sticker, not only did I get rewards, but the entire level transformed, becoming a new, harder level. Turrets appeared where there were none the first time, the floor dropped out in certain places. It become much more challenging, letting us utilize the new shooting and dodging mechanics we'd learned our first go through.
My girlfriend, who really isn't into shooting games, had a little trouble with aiming and fighting with the guns at first, but I was there to get her out of trouble most of the time. And soon she was running and gunning like no tomorrow! Speaking of the shooting, I loved the way they handled the aiming, very similar to the aiming in Crash Commando – R1 shoots and you aim with the right stick, giving you a full crescent range of motion.
So the real question is, is it worth it? Hell yes. I'm actually surprised they didn't charge the usual 10 bucks this time around. I suppose we can chalk it up as a christmas gift, although no one will notice. Most people seem to only want to complain when gaming companies make mistakes, but they never want to give them props when they are nice!
Anyway, if you own LBP and you haven't picked up the expansion yet, what are you waiting for! And if you've decided to wait on getting LBP altogether, the shear range of possibilities this download offers is definitely the nudge you've been waiting for.
If you're on LBP, my PSN is NEScrozen. Lets do a time run on the VR level together. The name of my character? Solid Sack.... Yeah, I know.