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Sackboy: A Big Adventure review – reinstated mascot


Sackboy: A Big Adventure – the PS5’s family friendly option (pic: Sony)

The star of LittleBigPlanet returns in a new 3D platformer that sports four-player local co-op and some of the best visuals on the PS5.

At the start of our Astro’s Playroom review we mused about the PlayStation’s dalliances with various would-be mascots and how during the PlayStation 3 era Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet was the closet thing Sony had to one. The games were big but never quite so big that Sackboy became a major superstar, which isn’t surprising as, like Astro, he’s completely mute and in his default form not very visually interesting. It’s been a bit of a surprise to find him making a comeback, but we have to admit this game is a lot more fun to play than any of the LittleBigPlanet titles.

We remember speaking to LittleBigPlanet director Mark Healey about Dreams, when he admitted that he was more interested in creating software that allowed other people to make games than he was in making games himself. That absolutely shows through in the LittleBigPlanet titles, which are great tools for creativity but fairly mediocre 2D platformers. Original developer Media Molecule aren’t involved in this though, which lacks any real creation tools but is a much better game.

Sackboy’s new game is no longer a side-on 2D platformer but instead has a top-down camera angle, so it’s 3D but only in the isometric sense. It comes across like a mix between Super Mario 3D World and the Lego movie games, with an emphasis on four player co-op and some wonderfully bright and colourful visuals. It’s clearly intended as the family friendly antidote to Demon’s Souls and in that role at least it works very well.

Of all the PlayStation launch games that were suddenly announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Sackboy seemed the least surprising – as nothing about its gameplay seemed to require it being next gen. That is true but that doesn’t mean this isn’t also a visually stunning game. All of Sony’s first party games have been and although the idea of a game being made out of arts and crafts displays, with lots of cardboard cut-outs and crêpe paper decorations, is now a little overused by both Sony and Nintendo a lot of Sackboy looks essentially photorealistic, despite the fantasy setting.

What little there is a of a plot still pays lips service to the original LittleBigPlanet concept of people’s creativity finding physical form, with the evil jester Vex trying to steal it. None of that matters as you explore five themed worlds though, unencumbered by concerns of storytelling and just enjoying the imagination at work.

That imagination does take a while to become evident though as it’s a slow build-up until things get interesting, especially the interminable first world that’s themed around yetis and icy mountains (although there’re no slippy slidey sections). The name’s not lying about being a big adventure and there’s a mountain of content here, that gradually gets more unpredictable and less restrictive as you progress.

The basics are very simple though, with Sackboy moving rather slowly and using a weedy little punch to fend off bad guys. Combat isn’t a big factor in the game, and it’s a long while till you meet any enemies that pose a real threat, but there’s also a spin and jump attack, plus what is essentially a bottom bash and a Yoshi style flutter move to keep you in the air for a few seconds. You can also grab onto anything that’s made of sponge, which is used both for platforming obstacles and for certain bad guys whose tails you have to pull to defeat them.

The infamously floaty jumps of LittleBigPlanet have finally been exorcised but still, on a mechanical level, Sackboy isn’t particularly interesting or original. The level design is great though, and once things start to get going in the second world you’re not only jumping around on generic video game platforms but on the top of moving trains, that keep stopping and tempting you into grabbing more collectables, or using a boomerang like weapon to cut down plant stems and raise and lower platforms.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure – co-op makes everything better (pic: Sony)

This is even more fun with extra people playing but unfortunately the game’s online options aren’t going to be released until later in the year and the middle of lockdown is not the easiest time to find three other keen gamers to play with. It’s clearly perfect for Christmas Day entertainment though, which is no doubt why Sony thought it important to make sure the game was ready in time, even with missing features.

In terms of LittleBigPlanet style customisation you’re constantly picking up new costume parts which can be mixed and matched as you want, exactly like the original games. That’s all though, as there’s no creation tools or editor functions for the game itself. What there is instead though is a huge range of accessibility options that have become standard for Sony exclusives since The Last Of US Part 2 but here allow you to fine tune the difficulty and controls in almost every way conceivable.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a lot of fun but the worst thing about it is probably the LittleBigPlanet association. Sackboy is, purposefully, a blank slate and while the costumes are mildly amusing they’re no compensation for a character with an actual personality. He’s also quite slow and lacks the mechanical precision and harder challenge of Super Mario, while also missing out on the humour and puzzles of the Lego games.

We can’t help thinking it would’ve been much better to create a brand-new character and world, but Sackboy is something people have heard of and so that’s what Sony went with. We’d say the end result is a game that’s likely to be forgotten fairly quickly after launch but when the online update is added it has a chance to establish itself as something more enduring. And if nothing else, it’s encouraging to see Sony acknowledge that not all its exclusives have to be grimly serious single-player games.



Sackboy: A Big Adventure review summary

In Short: Another gorgeous looking first party PS5 game, with some fun and imaginative platforming, but even with four players at once it lacks that certain spark that would’ve made it a true launch essential.

Pros: Superb presentation and highly accessible gameplay for all ages and types of players. Increasingly inventive level design offers a regular stream of new ideas. Fun four-player local co-op.

Cons: The pacing is off in terms of the slow movement and too many boring, predictable levels at the start of the game. Sackboy is a pretty dull hero, with few other characters of note. No online at launch.

Score: 7/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PlayStation 4
Price: £59.99
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Sumo Digital
Release Date: 12th November 2020
Age Rating: 7

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