Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review
Sackboy gets his time in the spotlight.
It feels like Sony never really took full advantage of Sackboy at his peak. During the PS3 era, LittleBigPlanet was a runaway success with children and families, and it looked like Sackboy was primed to become the next big face of PlayStation. However, despite a handful of sequels, a portable game here and there, and even a karting spinoff, the LittleBigPlanet series never got a dedicated platformer that could go toe to toe with other PlayStation pillars like Crash Bandicoot, Ratchet & Clank, or Sly Cooper. The focus on creating and sharing levels turned off the wider audience, and while the LBP community remained incredibly passionate about the franchise, it seemed like Sackboy was going to be permanently shelved after LittleBigPlanet 3.
With every new console generation, however, there comes a need for family-oriented games to pad launch lineups, and now Sackboy finally has a shot at the big time. With Media Molecule shifting focus to Dreams, a new team is at the helm to deliver a Sackboy experience that ditches the series’ original “Play, Create, Share” philosophy in favor of a tightly-designed platforming adventure. Sumo Digital’s take on the LittleBigPlanet universe is immensely charming, a blast with friends, and a surprising showcase for the PlayStation 5’s unique features.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure’s setup is as simple as they come: Craftworld is under threat from a big bad guy named Vex, and Sackboy is the only one who can stop him. The story isn’t the game’s strong suit, but the characters you meet over the course of your adventure are far more memorable than the plot. From the eccentric costume salesman Zom-Zom to the lovable Scarlet, each character in the game is delightfully endearing.
This extends to the game’s visual style and art direction as well. Like the LittleBigPlanet games that came before it, Sackboy: A Big Adventure’s aesthetic draws inspiration from arts and crafts. The levels are lined with cardboard cutouts and scribbled decals, and household items like books and boxes are the building blocks of most stages. It’s a simple style, but an effective one. Each environment is packed with tiny details and visual surprises. The game is a joy to look at, especially running at 4K/60FPS on PlayStation 5.
The soundtrack is also surprisingly good. The original score is catchy and upbeat, and each track meshes well with the stage it plays on. The real star of the show, however, is the musical levels. There are a handful of stages that play real-world licensed music and have their enemies and environments synced to the songs. The first one you encounter, for example, is set to Uptown Funk, and enemies roll around and things pop out of the ground according to the beat. A few platformers have included musical levels in the past, but Sackboy’s implementation of them is especially enjoyable.
Of course, a platformer is nothing without the platforming. Sackboy: A Big Adventure takes a page out of Super Mario 3D World’s book, offering mostly linear levels and taking camera control away from the player. Sackboy has a wide range of moves at his disposal. His main jump is floaty, giving you more than enough time to adjust your landing spot on the fly, and he has a Yoshi-like flutter jump that gives you a bit more control mid-air. For combat, there’s a slap and a grab, but fighting is far from the focal point of the game. Instead, these moves are mostly used to interact with the environment, hitting switches, pulling ropes, and swinging on sponges. Interacting with the levels and solving environmental puzzles are the highlight of the game, and while there are a few difficult challenges in the game based solely on platforming, most levels are about clever usage of the environment and nearby objects.
The game can be played by up to four players in local co-op, and it feels like that game was built with multiplayer in mind. Solo play is still enjoyable and you can play the whole thing from start to finish alone, but the wide-open areas feel designed for a group of sack folk rather than just one lone Sackboy. Certain levels even require more than one player, which is something carried over from LittleBigPlanet. There’s no online multiplayer at launch, so if you can’t find a group of friends to gather and play this game or if you don’t have a second controller, you’ll have to play alone for the time being. A patch is coming that enables online multiplayer on PS4 and PS5 before the end of the year, however, so you’ll be able to play with your friends online if you wait a while.
While Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a cross-generation game available on both PS4 and PS5, the game really shines on Sony’s next-generation machine. The visuals aren’t the biggest upgrade over the PS4 version, especially when compared to the PS4 Pro version, but the DualSense controller completely changes the game. Much like the PS5 pack-in game Astro’s Playroom, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a showpiece for the new controller. The adaptive triggers and haptic feedback accentuate every action from the tug of a rope to the spring of a bounce pad, and I can’t imagine playing the game without them. If you’re searching for another game to test out your controller’s functionality after finishing Astro’s Playroom, look no further than Sackboy.
Unfortunately, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a bit overshadowed by its competition in the launch lineup. Normally, a family-oriented platformer such as this has little to no competition when a new console launches. There wasn’t much competing with Knack on the PlayStation 4, so that was the go-to family-friendly game for the first few months of that generation. Sackboy occupies that same space this generation, only this time Sony has built a free platformer of a similar quality that comes pre-installed on every system. Astro’s Playroom is just as good as Sackboy, even better in some regards, and it’s hard to overlook that fact when Astro is free and Sackboy is a full-priced game. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue (a Call of Duty review doesn’t necessarily compare the game to Battlefield, for example), but you can’t avoid the comparison when literally every PS5 owner has Astro’s Playroom installed on their system on day one. Astro looms over Sackboy in a way that’s hard to ignore.
Still, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is an excellent platformer that’s a blast with friends. The 3D platformer genre has been criminally underserved these past few years, and this game is absolutely worth playing if you’re a fan of games like this. It’s dripping with charm, has some fun secrets to discover, and it makes excellent use of the DualSense controller. It’s also still great on PS4 if you haven’t picked up a PS5 yet, and the PS4 version includes a free upgrade to the PS5 version so you can test out the DualSense features when you get your new system. Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a ton of fun, and I hope this isn’t the last time we see Sackboy in a dedicated platformer like this.
- This article was updated on:November 16th, 2020
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
- Available On: PS4, PS5
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: Sumo Digital
- Genre: Platformer
- US Release Date: November 12, 2020
- Reviewed On: PS5
- Quote: "Sackboy: A Big Adventure is dripping with charm and makes excellent use of the DualSense controller."