As a solitary, curmudgeonly gamer with control issues who doesn’t get out much, I don’t have a million and one stories involving co-op play in games. In the early days, my siblings and I used to hand off SNES controllers to play rounds with Mario, which is one form of co-op play, but not the kind I’m thinking of here. In terms of actually having to cooperate with other players to help everyone make it through a game, I can really only remember two such experiences. Yep, two instances of cooperative play in which I took part. And one was probably my worst experience ever with a game, and the other was near the top of my favorite experiences. Let’s start with the bad news first.
The Adventures of Cookie & Cream
If you follow me with any regularity, you’ll often see me cite Cookie & Cream as one of the worst gaming experiences in my life. After a few years together and appearing sound in our relationship as gamers, my husband and I purchased this cute and cuddly-looking game for the PS2 with nothing but feelings of joy. Joy in the fact that we would get to complete a game together as a happy go-lucky couple without a care in the world. And the game was simply adorable with its almost-cuter-than-real-life-bunnies main characters, two wittle wabbits named Cookie and Cream. In this split-screen game, each player had to maneuver his/her bunny across a course that was divided in two, helping the other character along the way by opening doors, catapulting them over walls, obtaining power-ups, etc. Both bunnies had to complete the course into order to move onto the next. The premise sounded simple enough, and we were more than willing to help each other succeed, both in life and in games.
Well…it didn’t take long for us to realize that we were, perhaps, not completely compatible in all things. Being two rather stubborn people with low tolerance levels, we were confounded by each others lack of coordination and premeditated thought when it came to those stupid rabbits. I have pretty bad timing in games generally, but Cookie & Cream put it on display for my husband to witness first hand. And he was so determined to win, that my nerves often failed when I struggled to keep up. And when I got nervous, I yelled. And when I yelled, he yelled. And when we both yelled, we got evil looks from the neighbors. We tried to play the game several times, but the anger reared its ugly head each time, no matter how hard we promised that we wouldn’t get mad. Never again Cookie & Cream! You hear me! NEVER AGAIN!
After Cookie & Cream, we both went back to our happy, single-player selves. And no matter how many co-op games came along, we always looked at them with the same thought: “Remember what happened with Cookie & Cream…” Nearly a decade passed before we decided to give co-op another go. The game at hand was Little Big Planet. Its praised reception notwithstanding, we were still very, very skeptical. Thankfully, our cynicism was proved very, very wrong.
Little Big Planet
Little Big Planet doesn’t require co-op play, but it is quite a lot of fun with a partner or two. Not only is it the only co-op game that my husband and I have successfully played, but it’s also the only game I’ve ever played online. We played a couple times with one of his online friends, and we had a blast!
When Little Big Planet was released, it promised to usher in a revolution in the way we played and interacted with games. I’m not entirely sure that was really the case, but LBP was like no other platformer I had ever played before. With its tactile-looking levels, great physics engine, and imaginative interactivity, LBP is a game that just needs to be experienced. Seriously. If you haven’t played the game, you gotta. You just gotta!
Anyway, while LBP offers tons of fun in single-player mode, co-op mode is where it shines. Some levels open up to allow two or more players to explore different scenes in a level. There are special co-op sections that require at least two players to reach otherwise inaccessible areas and special items. Bonuses are awarded to teams that complete each stage. But the best part: if someone totally uses up all their lives, the other player(s) can attempt to finish the level. Sometimes there can be a little lag if you’re waiting for someone to catch up, but it’s never a rage-inducing wait. And the sackboys and girls are so insanely cute to watch on their own! I had no problem dying off completely only to watch my husband and his friend complete a level. The game was so nice in so many different ways that it made you want to help the other players and see them succeed. I can say with the utmost certainty that LBP is the best co-op game I’ve ever played.
LBP was a glorious co-op success for us, and we found the same happiness in LBP2. That said, LBP did not cure us, or at least me, of my co-op phobia. I’ll never quite shake the Cookie & Cream memories, unfortunately, so I’ll leave most co-op play to those who truly enjoy it.