Joystiq's Top 10 of 2008: LittleBigPlanet

Upon further reflection, choosing LittleBigPlanet as one of our ten favorite games of the year is the ludological equivalent of Oprah adding an empty journal to her revered list of "must-buy" literature, or the Art Institute of Chicago proudly adding a coloring book to one of its exhibits. Actually, that analogy isn't completely sound -- said journal would have a wildly entertaining, oftentimes hilarious foreword, and the first few pages of said coloring book would have been filled in by Georgia O' Keeffe.

What we mean to say is that the common elements present in the other nine titles on this enumerated list of honors are absent -- or at the very least, extremely faint -- in LBP. The plot for the story mode is Super Mario Bros.-esque in its simplicity, the gameplay hearkens back to an era where providing the player with three commands (run, jump and grab) for their on-screen representation was commonplace, and the visual aesthetic is devoid of amber hues and eye-searing bloom lighting.
However, the genius of Media Molecule's magnum opus isn't imbued in what the developers themselves created for the prospective inhabitants of their texturized world -- it's in the tools that they've provided. Finally, players can breathe life into the virtual worlds they've been imagining since they pressed their very first power button, and picked up their very first controller.

The "teach a man to fish" proverb is often alluded to when describing games with a heavy focus on user-created content. Etched into the shiny backside of the LBP disc is more than just a mere fishing lesson -- the game provides its most dedicated players with a damn near-boundless Build-A-Fish Factory. We've yet to have an idea which we couldn't bring to fruition in some form using the game's expansive toolset. A motorbike race across a desert? A modern-day rendition of Ice Climbers? A pinball machine? An immolated, six-eyed duck with crab claws that sings Morris Day and the Time covers? All terrifyingly within the realm of possibilities.

We imagine that Media Molecule's proudest moment since the game's launch was not its warm critical reception, but rather, the first time a player published a level that rivaled one of their own in terms of quality and creativity. We recall clearly the first such level that we played -- it was a pretty startling moment for us as well, as it was the first time we realized that the tools we had in our possession were used to create the story mode we'd been tooling around in. Media Molecule had unknowingly issued the purchasers of their game with an invitation, or perhaps even a challenge.

"Think you can design a game better than us? We'd like to see you try."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.