Even since the original LittleBigPlanet released on the PlayStation 3 back in 2008 the game’s main character Sackboy has been one of the more recognizable PlayStation mascots. Developer Media Molecule finally gave Sony a character and game to fill that Mario hole they had in their portfolio. Sackboy would go on to make an appearance on every other PlayStation system since although the games not made by Media Molecule didn’t have that same magic to them. For that reason, I was a bit skeptical when UK developer Sumo Digital announced Sackboy: A Big Adventure for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 earlier this year. While I always wanted to see Sackboy in a ”3D Mario World” type of game I wasn’t sure if Sumo was the right team for it given that LittleBigPlanet 3 had some issues. After finishing it on PlayStation 5 I’m pleased to say that my worries were for nothing as Sumo Digital has crafted an unmissable adventure that the whole family can enjoy.
The story in this game once again takes place on Craftworld and follows our cute little puppet hero Sackboy. This time, an evil jester named Vex has unleased his evil machine called the Topsy Turver onto Craftworld which is sucking the joy and imagination out of it. It’s up to Sackboy to step up to the plate, become a knitted knight, and put an end to Vex’s plan. Along the way, Sackboy is assisted by some other characters such as a mentor character named Scarlet and a fun shopkeeper named Zom Zom among others. Every one of them is charming and the British voice actors portraying them deliver memorable performances. Dawn French plays the role of Scarlet while Richard E Grant plays the villain Vex and both of them were probably my favorites in the game. I wouldn’t say the story does anything new but for a game meant for the whole family it serves its purpose of setting you on this adventure and is delightful throughout.
While the LittleBigPlanet games consisted of 2.5D levels, Sackboy: A Big Adventure finally unleashes us into full on 3D platforming levels just like Super Mario 3D World. There are five different worlds in the game each of which is made up of a variety of levels and you can play through them all solo or with up to four players locally. The game was supposed to have online multiplayer as well but that is now going to arrive in a patch either before the end of the year or early next. When it does arrive players with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 copies will be able to play together. It’s a bit disappointing that it wasn’t ready for launch but hopefully it won’t be much longer before we can team up with other sack people online. For my playthrough I played some of it solo and some of it in two-player co-op with my wife. Both are enjoyable but if you have the option to play co-op I think that is what the levels are best designed for.
Sackboy has never felt better to control than he does in this game. While this is a platformer jumping is no longer the only ability Sackboy has. You can now roll, slap, perform air dodges, flutter about in the air for a few moments, and more. The controls are easy enough so that gamers young and old can both pick this up and enjoy it but there is room for mastery as well. Once you learn how to combine these different moves together, you’ll be able to finish levels much faster and without taking damage. Every level is full of a variety of enemies that you can dispatch by jumping on them, slapping, or with another ability. The game handles damage by letting you take one hit before getting hit another time will cost you a life. You get a few lives to start with but more can be earned while playing. Reaching checkpoints in the levels will also restore any of your lost health. At times you’ll run into some fun and imaginative boss battles that will further test your skills. I won’t spoil them but each one is really fun to take on.
The level design in this game is fantastic and while it starts off simple, they become more challenging as you progress further. Each world has an environmental theme to it and will have you doing different things to traverse them. Sometimes you’ll just be using your regular abilities while others you might be swinging on grapple hooks, floating using hover boots, or using warp pads to get around. Some of the levels aren’t quite as good as some of the others but as a whole the game delivers. I’ll also say that the size of some of the areas you go through seem like they were clearly designed to have multiple players in them so when I was playing by myself, I felt like they were kind of empty at times.
Levels can be completed pretty fast once you know what you’re doing but there is plenty of reason to replay them. Hidden throughout each one is Collectibells of two different types. One you’ll earn from defeating enemies mostly and they get tallied up at the end of a level to give you a bronze through gold rating. The other type is more hidden and when found can be taken to the shop to redeem for new cosmetic items. Orbs can be found and are needed to progress further in the game while cubes are another item that can be found to unlock speedrun levels called Knitted Knight Trials. These are where the mastery over the controls I talked about really come into play and they add another fun challenge to overcome to what is already a pretty meaty package. There is also co-op only levels included which my wife and I really enjoyed tackling. I’m looking forward to playing through them again with four players when the online co-op arrives. In total you can probably get 15+ hours of gameplay out of this game which is more than I was expecting going into it.
Sackboy and Craftworld have never looked better than they do here thanks to the power of the PlayStation 5. Every colorful level is full of intricate details whether it be the stitching on Sackboy or the threads on the various materials in the world. It’s just simply beautiful running at 4K and 60fps and thanks to the SSD you’ll be zipping into and out of levels in a flash. The Activities feature built into the PlayStation 5 also makes it easy and fast to jump back into any level that you still need to clean up while tip videos are also available to provide hints if you find yourself stuck on something. The DualSense’s haptic feedback and triggers are also used to help convey the feeling of moving across different surfaces and using different gadgets. I also need to talk about this soundtrack because it is one of the best surprises of this game to me. I won’t spoil anything because I think part of the reason I loved it so much was because I went in not knowing things about it but let’s just say that the tunes here are catchy and also familiar and some of the levels are actually built around the song itself which is brilliant. Finally, the game has a total of 46 trophies including a Platinum for the trophy hunters out there. It will be challenging but it’s a fun, varied list to go after should you want to.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is an excellently designed 3D platformer that is full of fun, imagination, and charm. It’s the perfect game to pick up with your PlayStation 5 to give the whole family a reason to crowd around the next generation console. While the lack of online multiplayer at launch is disappointing this game still has plenty of content to play through while we wait for that patch. The imaginative level design, beautiful visuals, and surprisingly good soundtrack will have you and the family smiling from ear to ear until the end.
*Sackboy: A Big Adventure is available now on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Review copy provided by PlayStation for this review.