Ahead of the launch of Sackboy: A Big Adventure’s release on PS5 and PS4, we had the chance to talk to Creative Director at Sumo Digital, Ned Waterhouse about the game. We got to find out how the game incorporates classic Little Big Planet elements into a brand new game style and find out how the game takes advantage of core PS5 features to deliver a fresh platforming experience.
Little Big Planet games have always had great campaigns, but it’s always been about the longevity through the create mode and online. What will keep players coming back in Sackboy: A Big Adventure?
NW: With Sackboy A Big Adventure we have focused solely on Play. This focus has enabled us to develop a 3D platformer with great character controls, a beautiful hand-crafted world to explore, loads of gameplay variety and chaotic, slapstick co-op multiplayer.
And like all great platformers this game has tonnes of content and loads of replay value. There are plenty of optional challenges to unlock as you progress on your adventure and if you successfully complete the story then there are lots more surprises in store.
Some of the toughest challenges in the game are the Knitted Knight Trials. These optional stages are quick-fire, arcade-y speed runs where you have a single life to complete a hazard riddled obstacle course in the fastest time possible. The final Knitted Knight Trial is the game’s ultimate challenge which I refer to as “my Everest” because, much to the disappointment of the design team, I am yet to complete it.
There is loads of content to unlock and pit yourself against. And if you manage to complete every level then the next question is ‘can you master them?’ There is an ultra-rare costume piece for anyone who manages to master all the levels in the game. I can’t wait to see the first stream or screenshot with someone showing it off – it’s the game’s ultimate bragging rights.
What about costumers and other collectibles? Are they back in full force?
NW: Yes! We have over 60 costumes in the game. Each one breaks down into its constituent parts which you can mix, match and paint to really make your Sackboy your own. On top of that we have added a full emote system so you can wave, salute and even dance. We also have co-op emotes which means you can high-five, hug and chest bump your friends.
How do each of the five worlds differ from each other from a gameplay point of view? Roughly how many worlds within each?
NW: Each world introduces new power ups and gameplay mechanics. Our goal was to create a game with loads of gameplay variety – where no two levels are the same. The final world tests your mastery of the game by taking the gameplay elements you’ve encountered on your journey, combining and twisting them in new and challenging ways. There are at least 18 levels in each of the first five worlds plus more surprises in store once you complete the story.
The game is coming out on both PS4/PS5. Are there any differences between the two versions from a visual or gameplay point of view?
NW: The first thing to say is that this game is great on PS4 and I don’t think anyone will be disappointed if they chose the current-gen version. As a team we were really pleased to be on both platforms because it means that as many people as possible will get a chance to enjoy the game.
However, the PS5 is a more powerful console and it does have some exciting new features which it has been great fun to design for. The visuals on PS5 are amazing – the game looks stunning on a 4K TV! In addition to that, the adaptive triggers and advanced haptics of the DualSense, coupled with the new 3D Audio system, have enabled us to create an even more immersive experience.
Are there parts of the game whether it be collectibles or such that are only accessible via co-op? Why was this decision made if so?
NW: We set out to make an amazing single-player experience. But we wanted that experience to be even better when you enjoyed it with your mates. The whole story can be played from start to finish with friends or on your own.
We have also created a set of specific teamwork levels which twist the challenges you encounter on the main adventure by encouraging you and your friends to work together. You’ll need to communicate, coordinate and collaborate to succeed. And when it inevitably all falls apart it can be hilarious. Because these levels require teamwork you will need at least one other player. However, that can be a mate playing at home on the couch or a friend you meet up with online.
We decided to include dedicated multiplayer content to add even more variety to the game. Because you have to work together it introduces a whole new dynamic to the platforming gameplay. This game is a riot in co-op and I really recommend everyone gives it a try – you won’t be disappointed.
At start of the video, we got to see a task in which you need to find monkeys. Does each level just have one of these tasks or are you performing a number of tasks in every level?
Ned Waterhouse: With this game we set out to create an experience with loads and loads of gameplay variety. So, with each level we mix things up in new and surprising ways, either by introducing new mechanics, combinations of mechanics, a new location, a new objective or even a new perspective. Our ambition was to make a game where every single level is unique.
However, there are a set of goals for all main levels which you will need to complete if you want to ‘master’ them. To do this, you’ll need to discover all the collectables, achieve a gold tier hi-score and reach the finish without losing a life. And if you’re successful you’ll be rewarded with new levels to play and rare costume pieces to customise your Sackboy.
What were some of the main challenges of taking Sackboy into a 3D world?
NW: The transition into 3D was actually more liberating than challenging. Because the world is now 3D, the environments are more open, and this gives players lots more freedom in how they choose to traverse the world.
3D has also given us as developers lots of flexibility to create varied gameplay. We have levels which are very explorative – where you need to investigate each nook and cranny to uncover their secrets. There are epic chase sequences where huge bosses hunt down Sackboy as he races towards the screen, we’ve got top-down precision platforming and even a level where you scale an enormous space rocket. We’ve been able to create all of this variety due to the flexibility of the 3D world.
With the recent PS5 UI, we got to see Sackboy: A Big Adventure used as an example for the new system feature that tells you progress for certain tasks or levels. Does that impact game design at all?
NW: When we started designing for the Activities feature our core game design and structure was already defined. So, it wasn’t so much a case of adapting the design as working out how best we could use the Activities feature to give our players added value.
The Activities system is going to be great for Sackboy players, particularly if you’re a completionist, as it gives you a clear checklist of objectives on your journey to mastering the game. When this is coupled with the Game Help system it means you’re never stuck for long and you can always keep moving forwards.
I’d love to know about the super fast loading speeds and how that impacts a game like this?
NW: We’ve been fortunate enough to have the PS5 hardware for some time. And even now I still can’t get over the speed with which a level loads! As I’ve grown older, I find I have less and less time to play games. So, when I do get chance to sit down and play I really want that time to count. The fact that I can jump straight into a Sackboy level in just a few seconds is brilliant!
Sackboy: A Big Adventure releases on PS4 and PS5 on November 12th.