Ever since LittleBigPlanet 3, I can’t help but feel that my pal Sackboy has been underappreciated. Whether it was the buggy launch of LBP3, franchise fatigue after a trio of similar titles, or the fact that original developer Media Molecule passed on the series to Sumo Digital, many seemed to doubt that LittleBigPlanet and Sackboy would ever reach the heights of the first two games, or make much of a splash ever again. Thankfully for my woollen friend, his latest outing Sackboy: A Big Adventure is excellent. It succeeds in cherry picking familiar elements from the LittleBigPlanet series of games, all in the while ditching the 2.5D gameplay and the Play, Create, Share moniker that defined it, opting to take Sackboy on a quality 3D platforming romp through an exceptionally-detailed handcrafted world.
Scarlet knows her stuff
The story kicks off in the village of Loom, a peaceful and picturesque location inhabited by Sackfolk. Our titular hero is just enjoying the day painting in the heart of the village, unaware of the terror that is about to turn his peaceful world upside down. That terror is Vex, a wicked jester who descends on the village, capturing and enslaving the Sackpeople to assist him with the development of the Topsy Turver, a device that will corrupt the entire planet of Craftworld with nightmares. Luckily for Sackboy he manages to escape, before crossing paths with Scarlet, a Sackperson who comes from an esteemed group of Craftworld protectors known as Knitted Knights. Sackboy is then told to seek out Dreamer Orbs on his journey to find Vex, as they are the only thing that can fight back against Vex’s plans.
The narrative does a great job at being entertaining and intriguing without feeling overbearing. It also does a great job at presenting characters throughout the game, as they are all animated and voiced superbly. While Sackboy only makes some grunts and gasps, notable actors Richard E. Grant and Dawn French do a great job at voicing Vex and Scarlet respectively. Other characters like Gerald Strudleguff and King Bogoff are also tons of fun, and dialogue and performance is consistently impressive throughout the entire game. Both the characters and the story they take part in are quality creations to say the least.
Vex is a quality antagonist
Also of high quality is the gameplay of Sackboy: A Big Adventure. In the LittleBigPlanet series of games, Sackboy had a really floaty and often hard to judge jump, which in turn would lead to many frustrating deaths. Whether it’s the transition to full 3D, or Sumo Digital simply listening to the complaints, the finicky controls that once hindered Sackboy are no longer. He controls with the sort of precision that you’d expect from this flavour of 3D platformer, with a reliable and easy to grasp jump, alongside various other moves such as a roll, spin, ground pound and more.
The aim of the core set of levels is to reach the end of it, collecting as many of the Dreamer Orbs that you can. Each level contains multiple orbs, and while they are often easy to find, you will likely miss a couple on your first run throughout each level. Also strewn throughout levels are Score Bubbles, Prize Bubbles, Collectabells and Knightly Energy. Score Bubbles raise your overall score in the level, with the amount collected at the end deciding whether or not you are worthy of a bronze, silver or gold level completion rank. Prize Bubbles unlock new cosmetics for Sackboy, while the Collactabells can be accrued in each level and spent at Zom Zom’s shop to purchase cosmetic items such as emotes or outfits. Knightly Energy can be gathered in some levels, which in turn grants Sackboy access to special time trial levels known as Knitted Knight Trials. Taken all together, there is a fair amount of content to wade through in Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
Sackboy is no longer a floaty boy
One of my favourite things about many of the levels is that they make use of licensed music, with David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ and Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ being just a couple of examples of some of the tracks on display. The original soundtrack throughout levels that don’t feature licensed tracks is also thoroughly enjoyable, resulting in a soundscape that is quite pleasant on the ears.
Levels can be tackled on your lonesome, or with up to three friends locally. Online multiplayer is coming but won’t be made available until a few weeks after release. Playing with mates only makes the experience more wacky and fun. A select few optional levels require more than one person to play, but other than that the core game can be run through on your own if you deem the quest worth tackling on your own.
While Sackboy: A Big Adventure provides plenty of amusement, it does have a couple of stray threads that let the escapade down. Firstly, the lack of online multiplayer at launch is hugely disappointing, robbing early adopters the ability to play through the experience alongside friends online. Couch co-op is present and is awesome if you have someone willing to join you on the quest to become a Knitted Knight, but the ability to do that depends entirely on whether you have a willing participant and a second DualSense controller. Thankfully my brother was more than happy to play alongside me, as we did with LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet 2 many moons ago. Online multiplayer isn’t far away, but its omission from the launch of the game is a shame I feel the need to bring up.
I also ran into a few bugs and glitches throughout my playthrough that resulted in some annoying moments. While I praised the dialogue and voice acting above, more often than not when watching a cutscene, no audio would play at all, leading to quiet cutscenes that quickly killed the immersion and interest inspired when they played as intended. Voices played in levels without a hiccup, yet my cutscenes were silent other than the odd peep uttered my Sackboy. There were also a couple of occasions in levels where the game freaked out a little bit. One level saw my Sackboy flung high into the sky just steps away from finishing the level, killing him and not allowing him to respawn, forcing me to play the whole level again. Another level saw me get wedged in a wall when using the grappling hook item. These bugs may have been few and far between, but they did frustrate me when they occurred.
Not even the odd bug can stop Sackboy smiling
Although it’s easy to forget this title amongst the more anticipated launch titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a joyous journey that you’d be a fool to overlook. It looks stunning and controls beautifully, providing enough challenge for seasoned platforming fanatics while somehow also being a perfectly suitable jumping in point for novice players. Some odd technical quirks smudge what is otherwise a polished product, but these issues are quickly drowned out by the immense charm of Sackboy and his friends. Don’t neglect this one.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Sumo Digital
- Sony Interactive Entertainment
- PS4 / PS5
- November 12, 2020