LittleBigPlanet is a beloved franchise that punctuated the vibrancy of the PlayStation 3 era. Debuting at GDC 2007, the Media Molecule creation charmed developers and audience member’s alike with its physics driven game design, gorgeous Pixar inspired visuals, and revolutionary “Share, Create, Play” mechanic.
After selling 4.5 million units and achieving universal acclaim, Media Molecule would go on to make a sequel, LittleBigPlanet 2. However, the game’s iconic mascot, Sackboy, wasn’t done yet. He would find himself in a multitude of offshoot titles. Whether it was LittleBigPlanet Karting, Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves, PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale, or a bite sized PlayStation Vita romp. Wherever you saw Sackboy- fun was to be had. However after the release of LittleBigPlanet 3, it seems like Sony has decided to put this IP into the vault, never to be seen again for the next 6 years.
Fast forward an entire decade later and we find ourselves at the Future of Gaming PlayStation 5 event. Playstation Studios debuted one game after another with an emphasis on diversity, creativity, and technology. Out of the many announcements there, the one I was most surprised by was Sackboy: A Big Adventure. A stand-alone 3D Platforming game by Sumo Digital. A game where our lovable little hero escapes the confines of the second dimension- and leaps into his own solo outing.
So in my best Stephen Fry impersonation, I can joyously say- this is Remote Play’s review of Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
Much like a Saturday Morning Cartoon, Sackboy: A Big Adventure opens with all things normal in the village of Loom. Suddenly, the main antagonist, Vex, manages to invade the city (think Bowser ruining Peach and Mario’s day for the umpteenth time, and you get the picture). Vex is planning to abuse the resources and townsfolk to power an army of Evil Machines. Sackboy, our hero, manages to escape, and it’s up to him (and you the player) to make things right. Simple, poignant, and something anyone can universally appreciate.
Before we continue, I’d like to point out just how well scripted this entire sequence was. One standout about Sackboy is the awesome voice acting. Sumo Digital hired some of the best in the business with all manner of expertise from theater work to cinema. These include Dawn French (as Scarlet), Richard Grant (as Vex), and Lewis MacLeod (as King Bogoff). The story while light on actual complexity is pitch perfect and in a word: adorable! Dialogue is delivered with a self-aware tone managing to make me chuckle multiple times through my run through.
That’s not to say other areas in the audio design were a step below too, the foley and sound effects in this game amplifies the cheery nature of the game. The music, which the LittleBigPlanet is also very well known for is used for incredible effect in this game. I don’t want to give away any surprises, but there will be a few levels that will make you smile with how it mixes the music and the gameplay especially when it uses pop songs that are known by everyone. To say that this game is an audio delight is no exaggeration.
Gameplay sheds the skin of prior LittleBigPlanet titles. Gone are the days of Play/Create/Share. Instead, the fine folks at Sumo Digital designed Sackboy: A Big Adventure around a curated narrative driven adventure. I actually prefer this method, because for as much as I reminisce fondly on the LittleBigPlanet titles, they lacked a cohesive level-to-level quality. In those games, it was always more about teaching you how to build a level, and less about you having fun playing one.
Sackboy has very simple, but effective tools at his disposal. You can run, jump, and punch your way through the world. Later on in the game, you’ll get some more variety that makes things far more interesting (and musical). Ultimately, if you’re 5 or 55, the game should be easy to pick up and play. Accessibility options are also included, so if you are playing with someone who is bound to die a lot in the game, an infinite lives option is just a few clicks away.
There is one annoyance I have. Sackboy’s inherent floatiness. Pressing the Jump button, Sackboy has a rather obtuse way of leaping into the air, hanging on to air time, and then landing. While it’s nowhere near as troubling as it has been in the 2D outings, in this iteration, it seems to still show its DNA. The isometric view can also cause issues if you are trying to land a jump, when even the simple action of trying to stomp on enemies will cause you to miss more than you should.
Collecting Bubbles, Costumes, and all manner of items is an absolute delight. Levels are simple enough, and don’t exactly impose a burdensome challenge, but the key here is FUN and accessibility; not brutality. Lastly, Sackboy inherited one trope from previous titles, and that is 4 Player Couch Co-Op. Sumo Digital is planning an update with online play, but as of this writing, this update is yet to be released. The game does support Shareplay, which while limited lets you play with a friend before the patch comes around.
Graphically, the game is enchanting. Materials like cloth, fabric, metal are gorgeous to look at thanks to the game’s PBR shading. While running around the world, each and every surface looks almost as if you can reach out and touch it. A soft depth of field effect separates the player from areas in the distance. And the best part? All of this runs at 60fps.
In my 10 hours with Sackboy: A Big Adventure, I had a wonderful time. Sony Interactive Entertainment, over the last few years has invested heavily into hardcore focused, big budget, AAA games. So it’s refreshing to see a new-found emphasis on giving an old I.P. and one that is universally lovable, an all new outing. Sackboy isn’t without flaws, nor is it the best at any one thing, but it’s one that can be enjoyed by anyone. Bluntly- Sackboy: A Big Adventure is charming, imaginative, and quirky. Full stop.
A review code was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Sumo Digital / Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 12/11/2020
Platforms: PS5 and PS4
Version Reviewed: PS5
“Sack-boy: A Big Adventure is charming, imaginative, and quirky”