The concept of islands are inherently cool, whether they’re tropical hideouts, floating-bases in the sky, shadowy military isles in the Alaskan Fox Archipelago, the beautiful Formosa, or the Island in the show LOST.
Wait, floating islands? Why, yes! a number of these gravity-defying beauties can be found in my yet in-progress (but fully playable & passable) exploratory littleBigPlanet level UFO flight test: kotsu-Heliøn, now with version.05 in the works/in-hiatus since nov2o11. It features multiple pathways to the end-goal, sky-high catwalks filled with mechanical enemies, paintinator-related puzzles, sky-Launchers, various mechanical prizes, and a few optional vehicles, including several variants of the single sackPilot flying vehicle: the eponymous kotsu-Heliøn. (if that sounds irresistibly awesome to you, the level can be queued here at http://lbp.me/v/9j-r7e ~)
There are many existing user-created littleBigPlanet levels that feature creative, ingenious, and beautifully designed vehicles, yet the large bulk of such levels are essentially vehicle-demos with little gameplay to speak of beyond simply operating the machines. A number of these might feature some varied terrain for wheeled or walker-type vehicles to traverse (think the Star Wars ep.VI: Return of the Jedi’s AT-STs), but many of these are bland-looking obstacle courses with little setting or “story”. There are also some well-designed and heavily-armed warplane replicas, but many of these reside in empty levels with no enemies to shoot at nor targets to bomb. Then, out of the few levels that have both a well-designed vehicle and a visually engaging backdrop, even fewer are designed to make the vehicles entirely optional. For an excellent example of optional vehicles, i often refer to the Robot Ride Armors in the SNES classic MegaMan X (or Maverick Hunter X on the PSP if you prefer not to go quite so old-school).
One of the several sections in the game that feature this punching mech can be found in the latter half of Sting Chameleon’s jungle-themed stage; in this section, shortly after ascending a hill, the player—as the protagonist X—will find a Robot Ride Armor directly in his path, which he can pilot to the end of the stage while pummeling reploid-baddies with the mech’s giant metal fists. From a gameplay perspective, choosing to pilot the Ride Armor not only adds some variation to the standard running + jumping + shooting action by offering a powerful short-ranged melee attack, but also gives the player some armor protection with which to survive to the end of the stage (where a boss battle awaits, like in almost all 2D platforming MegaMan games). Yet, should the player choose to abandon the vehicle halfway or simply not pilot it at all, the stage can be completed entirely on foot—and that is what i love so much about it: that the vehicle is entirely optional. It’s an option that can temporarily empower the player, but with some skill and careful weapon-choice, one can take a different approach to pass the level. After all, choice is a large part of what MegaMan/
ロックマン games are about. But i digress.
So, back to littleBigPlanet. That is the type of level that i aspire to create in LBP and hopefully in Flash (moar on that another day): levels where the vehicles are integral to the level-design and gameplay, where the player can still pass the level entirely on foot, and where some bonus areas are accessible only on foot, and others can only be reached by the utilizing the vehicles.
UFO kotsu-Heliøn – mk.IIc mecha影 (the “mecha KAGE” style-variant of the single sackPilot flying vehicle; the Heliøn’s operating tips can be found here)
Flying is liberating! At least if you can stomach the balance-based control scheme, that is.
(There is also a multi-seater anti-Grav controllinator variant, the kotsu-Heliøn: mk.III (AG), hidden early in the level.)
Leave a comment and tell us about some of your favorite vid game rides! >[:)