I've always felt like the LittleBigPlanet universe had a lot more potential than Sony seemed to give it credit for. Sackboy is iconic and identifiable in a way few video game characters are and platformers have always been tried-and-true formats for delivering mascot characters in the game industry.
Whereas the mainline LBP games tended to drift more towards creation platforms with user-levels overshadowing the brief campaigns, there is tremendous potential for a fully-realized adventure to rival the likes of Mario, Crash, and Sonic. From what I've seen so far, Sumo Digital seems to have finally pulled it off.
At a glance
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Bottom line: Sackboy: A Big Adventure is basically just the PlayStation version of Super Mario 3D World and that's totally fine. The 3D platformer is a genre that's been underserved for far too long so between this and Astro's Playroom, PlayStation gamers are in for a real treat. Despite the cutesy graphics and highly-animated dress-up characters, Sackboy is a platformer that is absolutely deserving of a place in any gamer's library that enjoys the genre or has children and/or someone to play co-op with.
- Gorgeously realized 4K graphics bringing Craftworld to life like never before
- Smooth and responsive gameplay feels fantastic
- Creative level design with tons of hidden areas to find
- Lots of cosmetics and unlockable costumes
- Co-op is absolutely fantastic
- Not very difficult
- No level editor like in the LittleBigPlanet series
- Story is a bit bland, even if charming
Sackboy: A Big Adventure Story and gameplay
As expected the story is far from the focal point in Sackboy. Things start out nice and happy and cheery and then suddenly a big bad guy shows up, sucks up everyone, and forces Sackboy to flee with a new found resolve to rescue his friends. That's about it. You go through levels, collect orbs, and unlock new zones (and costume pieces) as you progress and complete stages. Simple and straightforward, but extremely effective.
I liked how much the environment reacts to your different moves.
Like the free PS5 pack-in title, Astro's Playroom, Sackboy is a 3D platformer with a generally top-down camera angle. Sackboy's moveset is extremely diverse from the outset with a liberal mix of slapping (note: not punching,) rolling, ground pounding, uppercuts, spins, and more. Unfortunately the game does a very poor job of explaining all of this to you since I had to venture into the options menu and read over the "Action Almanac" to get a feel for most moves.
I don't mind things being a bit obtuse when it comes to hiding collectibles behind a peeled piece of cardboard or putting a hidden path off-screen just far enough that you can't quite see it — something Donkey Kong Country always did so well — but explaining mechanics clearly should be covered in the opening level. They're not and I fear that may put off some people, especially younger gamers.
I liked how much the environment reacts to your different moves though, once you figure them out, like having to grab onto spinning wheels to launch yourself or spin against bolts to raise up platforms. It keeps you on your toes to have a steady stream of simple puzzles you can get through quickly rather than getting hung up on large, complex challenges.
The big difference here though, unlike Astro, is that you can't control the camera with the right stick in Sackboy. The presentation is similar to Super Mario 3D Land or 3D World than it is Super Mario Odyssey or other 3D platformers. At first, I was put off by the lack of camera control, but it started to grow on me.
The lack of camera control forced me to adapt to the level itself. Rather than spinning the camera to always see what's in front of me, it encourages me to explore off the beaten path behind, above, or even below where I was standing. Given how hidden and tucked away many of the collectibles and costume pieces are here, this is a very good thing.
Co-op is especially fantastic in Sackboy.
The most impressive pieces of Sackboy were also the most limited — timed speed run levels, mandatory co-op levels, and music-themed levels. Each of these are sprinkled in to mix things up and do an incredible job of injecting nuance into what could otherwise be a relatively by-the-numbers platformer.
Co-op is especially fantastic for this reason. Normally solo levels get modified once you add in more players so that some of the puzzles require multiple Sackboys (Sackpeople?) to solve and then the fully dedicated co-op mandatory levels take everything and crank it up to 11. You'll be throwing your buddy, pushing and pulling objects in harmony, and juggling a ton of different things all on-screen at the same time. It's frantic and chaotic but super fun.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure Difficulty, Levels, and Customization
As a result, other than the obtuse tutorialization, Sackboy seems like a relatively easy game. Difficulty seems on par with the most recent Yoshi and Kirby adventures, so not not quite as difficult as recent Mario outings. Even Super Lucky's Tale is a tiny bit more challenging than what I've seen so far. Sackboy seems to take one hit of damage and bounce back then loses a life on the second hit or if you fall in a pit. You've got a limited number of lives from what I've seen that let you respawn at the previous checkpoint.
Each level has a crafted look and feels almost like you're running through a homemade diorama from a middle school project. Backgrounds are adorned with real-life objects like skateboards, soda cans, and various other bits and bobs to lend a sense of scale for just how tiny Sackboy and his world really are comparatively.
A staple of the LBP games is the customization. There doesn't appear to be a level editor or anything like that in this Sackboy outing, but you do get to equip a wide variety of costume pieces to customize your character. From hats and hair to eyes and shirts and pants, there are a ton of different ways to dress up your Sackboy. You can even change the pattern of the material for his outer "sack" layer, which is really neat. You'll find pieces hidden in levels, earn them as rewards, and buy them using the golden 'Collectibell" currency.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure Should you buy it?
Whether or not you should grab Sackboy: A Big Adventure comes down to your interest level and experience with 3D platformers. If you're looking for something challenging like Crash Bandicoot, then you probably will get bored before even finishing this one. However, if you're interested in something fun, creative, and charming from start to finish that just wants to make you smile, then Sackboy is a great pick.
Online co-op wasn't available yet during the time I spent with it, but local play works wonderfully. My son is only three-years old so he isn't quite there yet to play games reliably, but my wife and I had fun running through a big chunk of the game together. It's just a pure, simple game that's easy to pick up and play and is deserving of a place in all PS5 owners' libraries.
Star of the show
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Another fun platformer
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is basically just the PlayStation version of Super Mario 3D World and that's totally fine. The 3D platformer is a genre that's been underserved for far too long so between this and Astro's Playroom, PlayStation gamers are in for a real treat. Despite the cutesy graphics and highly-animated dress-up characters, Sackboy is a platformer that seems deserving of a place in any gamer's library that enjoys the genre from what we've seen so far.
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