The game "LittleBigPlanet 2" isn't more atmospherically artistic than "God of War III," "Limbo" or other masterful games of the past five years. But it's pretty astonishing in the art department.
To my eyes, the look of the game harks back to the visual styles of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Coraline," the found-cardboard-art of Guillermo Munro Colosio (the younger) and modern urban-American street art.
But wait, let's talk about the action first: You portray a little guy or girl named Sackboy or Sackgirl (the gender is your choice), traveling the world's big continents.
Your body is made of sackcloth. You get to dress up with robes, bunny ears, or scores of other clothes and accessories.
And for nearly the whole game, you move little Sackboy from left to right, and up and down, across platforms. That side-scrolling action makes this game a simple throwback to gentler gaming eras.
But the artistry is so fresh, varied and creative, you may find yourself wondering constantly how each next level will look, feel and move.
My favorite setting takes place in a cupcake factory overrun by evil.
It is up to you to take on that evil with your cupcake-cannon helmet. You fire cupcakes out of a cannon atop your helmet. Those cupcakes land on bad guys, who are often evil cupcakes with spikes for hair.
The chef who invented this cupcake helmet calls it, "the most accurate sniper trifle I've ever made," which could be the punniest dialogue in this witty little game.
I guess what I'm telling you is, if you are allergic to cute things, this game will destroy your immune system.
You want cute? There is a garden level, where you take on fiery demons, with your helmet that shoots water out of a little cannon.
When demons set the ground on fire, your TV screen goes red with flames. When you douse those fires with your helmet water, vegetation magically returns to a glorious green glow as grass and flowers sprout lovingly.
Yet another level is all Victorian flower patterns, doilies and iron works. And another level looks like an H.G. Wells idea of what machine factories would look like in the future.
Add to all that the aural texture of lovely jazz, harp music, indie-rock and electronica.
This is such an artists' game, it comes with a level builder. That is, you can build your own levels, using items and tools from the game. You can upload those levels on the Sony servers, for other gamers to download and play.
The first "LittleBigPlanet" came with its own level builder, and gamers created 3.5 million levels that you can still download through this sequel. Amazing.
The reason I won't say this sequel is artier than "God of War III" and other masters is because major games are generally intensely artful. What separates "LittleBigPlanet 2" are the artists' inspired style choices. No rival games look like this. It is a splendor that at times takes my breath away.
("LittleBigPlanet 2" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3 -- Plays fun. Looks amazing. Moderately easy. Rated "E." Four stars out of four.)
Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.