Ever since making his debut in LittleBigPlanet on the PlayStation 3, Sackboy has found a home at PlayStation. With Sony’s platforming icons from each generation typically moving on or fading into obscurity, our burlap buddy has been left to carry the torch (with a little help from Astro Bot) as the platform’s family-friendly mascot. While his birthing franchise did a lot to put powerful creation tools in player’s hands, and eventually led developer MediaMolecule to move onto the incredible Dreams, Sackboy’s latest outing foregoes that idea in favour of a pure, standalone platformer in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
If you’ve any history with the LittleBigPlanet games, you might remember that they were 2.5D platformers with a heavy focus on physics-based puzzles and collectibles that fed the user creation experience. As platformers they were certainly competent enough, but floaty controls and three games worth of the same thing meant the series didn’t quite have staying power. A Big Adventure developer Sumo Digital actually took over from Media Molecule with the third LBP game, but where those games took inspiration from other 2.5D puzzle-platformers, this new title is more reminiscent of Super Mario 3D Land/World’s pseudo-isometric action. Very reminiscent, in fact. And it may just be the best fit for Sackboy yet.
Sackboy’s home of Craftworld has been invaded by a maniacal, clown-like fella named Vex, who’s bent on transforming the landscape of imagination and creativity into something decidedly more depressing using a machine called the Topsy Turver. Along with a sackperson named Scarlet, who reveals to him the possibilities of an entire Creatorverse full of sack heroes, he sets off to take down Vex once and for all. It’s basic, unintrusive stuff then, but a decent stage set to carry Sackboy’s adventure across five distinct worlds (and then some) collecting a whole bunch of stuff. Orbs to unlock new levels, costume bits to dress up with and more, this is the LittleBigPlanet collectathon experience through and through, only from a new angle that makes it feel like equal parts 3D Land and Yoshi’s Crafted World.
While A Big Adventure takes more than a few cues from Mario’s isometric outings, it does at least cribs some of its better ideas. Rather than focus purely on players’ platforming skills (like a certain, recent game starring a bandicoot), the game’s difficulty ramps up rather gently with the real challenge coming from locating every last collectible in each level. This self-imposed ceiling makes it a great fit for players of all ages and skill, though it does come with its own caveats. Early levels can feel a little too toothless, especially when playing solo and the wide spaces meant to accommodate up to four players start to feel like a trek. Levels also often feature one-chance collectibles, either with a limited window of time or finite opportunities to reach them, making replays necessary. It’s a common thing in these types of games, but with comparatively slower action and longer levels it stings a bit here.
While he’s not particularly fast, Sackboy does at least control a whole lot better here than in his prior adventures. He feels right at home in 3D, and despite a perspective that can be tricky to work with I almost never felt like controls, level design or camera were working against me – any time I died was purely my own fault. Even as later worlds and levels start to introduce new tricks and gimmicks the game continues to feel fantastic to play, which is a stark contrast to LittleBigPlanet’s often-frustrating platforming physics. Playing on the PlayStation 5 also has the added benefit of some subtle but welcome use of the DualSense’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Surfaces that feel noticeably different in hand and triggers that tighten when holding objects aren’t just parlour tricks, they add a tactility and a new level of feedback that actively helps in reacting to the on-screen action.
The power of the PlayStation 5 doesn’t stop there though, because Sackboy: A Big Adventure is positively gorgeous to look at. From its cobbled-together craft aesthetic to its lively, film-like animation and modelling work it’s a real treat. While I haven’t played the PS4 version to make a comparison, the flawless 4K60 presentation on Sony’s new hardware is hard to go past, not to mention the lightning-fast load times. The game is actually a great example of how developers can utilise the unique UX features of the PS5 to make game’s even easier to consume in short bursts and it’s likely why it was the title used to first show off concepts like Activities.
I also need to make special mention of the game’s music, which I was expecting to be perfectly serviceable platformer fare but in actuality is wall-to-wall certified bangers. Nearly all of the original compositions are fantastic, full of colour and perfectly suited to their respective environments, but it’s the surprising use of licensed music and cheeky covers that make it. One of the earliest and best examples is a level that actually moves along to a rendition of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk, Rayman Legends-style, but there are also plenty of homages to left-of-field pop songs like Junior Senior’s Move Your Feet that put a big grin on my face whenever I’d pick up on them.
THE PS5 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER. WE LOVE BRINGING YOU THE BEST GAMING AND TECH BARGAINS. WE MAY GET A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE THROUGH AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIPS
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the hessian hero's best outing yet. Tighter platforming controls and a fresh perspective go a long way to reinvigorating the franchise, and it helps that the whole thing is positively stuffed with charm from beginning to end. Levels that feel lonely when played solo, and worse, levels that aren't accessible at all in single player dampen the experience, but not enough for platforming fans to dismiss it. If you've just brought home a shiny new PlayStation 5 there's also a lot here to showcase what the console is capable of in both visuals and the user experience, making it well worth considering as part of your launch library. Viva la Sackboy!
Vivid, charming and gorgeous aesthetic
Sackboy controls better than ever
Plenty of content and replayability
Original music, cover tunes and licensed tracks all slap