PlayStation 5 brings Sackboy, the burlap hero of Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series, into a new dimension. In the hands of Sumo Digital, the studio behind LittleBigPlanet 3, Sackboy: A Big Adventure puts a 3D platformer spin on things, with all the colourful creativity of its precursors. It’s missing a little of LittleBigPlanet‘s magic and doesn’t quite capitalise on the PlayStation 5’s possibilities as much as other launch titles, but it’s still a fun, solid platformer.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure takes place in Craftworld, a “fantastical land of pure imagination and innocent dreams” made from paper, wool, and all sorts of other craft materials. But this carefree existence is thrown into turmoil with the sudden appearance of Vex—think The Nightmare Before Christmas‘ Oogie-Boogie, reimagined as a court jester—who kidnaps all of Sackboy’s friends as part of a plot to turn Craftworld into a barren wasteland. Channelling the prophecy of ancient order of “Knitted Knights”, it’s up to Sackboy to stop Vex and save the day.
It’s a simple, classic fantasy setup that lends itself to a journey across all manner of different environments and interactions with an array of eccentric characters. Vex himself is a particular standout, with his comically evil presence and theatrical approach to every scene he’s in. In classic cartoon villain fashion, he’s uncomplicated in his wickedness and takes a humorous approach to schemes of world domination, making him a delightful foe both to be around and to beat up.
Sackboy, ever the silent protagonist, is surrounded by a group of similarly cartoony, straightforward, playful characters—a wise old hermit who recounts tales of the Knights; a quirky, thickly French-accented merchant with an odd habit of giving you money so that you can immediately give it back to him in exchange for goods; an Australian-as-can-be wildlife expert who needs help herding “scootles”; a piratical crab. All their vibrant personalities come together to emphasise the sense of lighthearted joy that runs throughout Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
It’s also a setup that lends itself to the main draw of Sackboy: A Big Adventure: fun, creative levels full of a wide variety of platforming challenges. iety of themes, challenges, and gadgets to play with. Over the course of five worlds, A Big Adventure will take you through quaint little villages and lush forests, to the bottom of the ocean and the depths of outer space. While every level broadly follows the standard platformer goal of making it to the end alive, the things that stand between you and that goal range from the expected jumping puzzles and enemies to slap and/or jump on to non-linear ventures in search of keys, herding of cute little critters, and even bopping along to the likes of “Uptown Funk” and “Jungle Boogie”.
It’s a game that’s constantly introducing new mechanics and ideas, building upon that core platformer framework. Gadgets crop up regularly, not as permanent upgrades but as extra little tools found right when you need them: a boomerang to cut through thorny plants that block your path or break spiky eggs, a grappling hook to help with swinging across gaps and reaching new heights, and so on. Other levels have their own unique gimmick that’s never quite replicated in the same way, like a hazard-laden waterslide in one of the early worlds. Those music levels I mentioned are a particular delight: while not rigidly set up like a rhythm game in that you can still move and jump freely, enemies and traps all move in sync with the beat, necessitating at least a slightly rhythmic approach in dealing with them. They even manage to context-sensitively loop bits of the song and then play choruses at just the right moments.
Unfortunately, all this creative level design can at times be held back by controls that aren’t quite as responsive as they need to be. Sackboy’s movement is sluggish, which isn’t inherently a problem—it was in LittleBigPlanet too, to no real negative impact—but in A Big Adventure, that can sometimes clash with the 3D movement, camera, and some slightly wonky hitboxes to create situations where a jump doesn’t quite land where you’d expect it to or an attack doesn’t quite connect properly. It’s not a constant nuisance, and this is a relatively easy game by design so such niggles are rarely game-breaking, but they’re frustrating all the same and hold Sackboy: A Big Adventure back from truly achieving platformer greatness.
At the time of writing, Sackboy: A Big Adventure also sits in the odd position of being a game designed with cooperative play in mind, but having no sort of online multiplayer functionality (it’ll be patched in towards the end of the year, apparently). Most levels are perfectly fine to play solo, albeit requiring a little bit of extra backtracking if you want to collect every point bubble, but there are also some side levels that are playable only in co-op, which currently requires at least a second controller (ideally with another person attached to it). Strangely enough, there’s a hint text in the game already advising that you can connect with other players online to play these levels, even though that feature isn’t in the game yet.
Compared to other launch titles like Demon’s Souls and Spider-Man Remastered, Sackboy: A Big Adventure takes a very different approach to how it uses the new PlayStation 5 hardware. It’s a decidedly non-realistic game in its art style, but it still uses that extra horsepower to great effect to bring the Craftworld aesthetic to life. There’s particular attention to detail in the textures of all the different sorts of fabric and materials the world is made up of; you don’t have to look too closely at Sackboy to see the individual threads sticking out of his head or the fine details of wool, felt, paper, and what have you that decorates each level.
On the other hand, it doesn’t really make utilise the DualSense features as much as it could. There’s some sense of distinction in the haptic feedback when you interact with different sorts of surfaces, but not nearly to the extent and impact of Astro’s Playroom. There are moments when the adaptive triggers add a tiny bit context-relevant tension—like when you’re pulling a heavy object. But then there are other times where this would be just as appropriate—say, swinging from a grappling hook—but it’s not used, or at least is applied so subtly that I couldn’t notice. This doesn’t detract at all from what Sackboy does well, but in a PlayStation 5 launch title, it also feels like a missed opportunity to show off the console’s most unique features.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is still a fun, enjoyable game with plenty of charm and creative ideas. Some slight control wobbles hold it back from capturing the same magic as LittleBigPlanet before it, and it doesn’t quite make the most of what PlayStation 5 offers, but anyone who enjoys platformers is sure to get a kick out of this one.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is developed by Sumo Digital and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It’s available now for PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PlayStation 4.
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.