Since I got my PlayStation 3 in 2010, the LittleBigPlanet series has always meant something to me. It was one of the first PS3 games I played and I loved how creative the series was. What I think has made LittleBigPlanet and its spinoffs stand out to me personally is that it has always reminded me of my mom who passed away four years ago. She was always a creative, crafty person and whenever she’d see me play it, she’d stop what she was doing and watch it. It’s this random gaming memory I’ve had and whenever a new LittleBigPlanet game or something from Media Molecule is announced, I always think of her.
With Sackboy: A Big Adventure, developer Sumo Digital has taken what made the series special and expanded upon it. Instead of the usual play, create, share style for a LittleBigPlanet game, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a 3D platformer that still has the charm and style Media Molecule put into the series back in 2008. Thanks to its awesome level design, music, and visuals, it’s one of the best platformers out this year and is a solid reason to pick up a PlayStation 5.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure follows Sackboy in Craftworld as Vex, the game’s main villain, kidnaps Sackboy’s friends and aims to use the Topsey Turver, a device that’ll turn Craftworld into a land of terror. From here, it’s up to Sackboy to defeat Vex and become a Knitted Knight, which is one of Craftworld’s legendary knights. Over the course of the game’s 10-hour story, you’ll explore five different worlds that are packed with levels to complete, characters to meet, and challenges to overcome. The story is charming and filled with a lot of heart. Each character you meet has their own quirks and they never overstay their welcome. Here and there, you’ll get a story cutscene in each world but it never overshadows the level you’re playing. The writing and humor throughout also aligns with what we’ve seen from the LittleBigPlanet series in the past.
As you play each level, you’ll have to collect orbs that are scattered around. In order to make it to each world’s boss battle and the next world, you’ll have to collect enough orbs to proceed. Usually, the orbs are either in hidden parts of the world, in secret rooms, or are in plain sight. For the most part, orbs are fun to discover and each level cleverly hides them. However, some may require help from a co-op partner which can be annoying for those playing solo. If you need help finding any, the PlayStation 5 version features help videos that show you how to find each orb. It’s a helpful feature, but it also doesn’t feature any voiceover explaining what’s being shown. That said, each video is short and gets to the point.
With each world you visit, you’ll take on missions that have a ton of variety which keeps things exciting. Where Sumo Digital has evolved the series is increasing Sackboy’s skillset. Instead of only being able to jump and grab things, Sackboy can now do things like punching and rolling on the ground. Some missions will have you on a moving platform while others have you dodging hazards to reach the finish line.
One of my favorite levels is a water-based level where you’re going inside bubbles and moving onto the next at just the right time. At first, levels won’t be too difficult to complete but it gets harder over time. Missions in the last world, in particular, have a lot more going on which really tests the skills you’ve built up throughout the game. What can be annoying sometimes is if you get knocked out by an enemy twice, you die and have to go back to the last checkpoint. Thankfully there are plenty of checkpoints in each level; however, being able to be hit twice before dying can drain your four lives quickly depending on your skills.
For those that don’t want to worry about losing your four lives in each level, there’s an option to have unlimited lives which is a nice touch. Like other LittleBigPlanet games, platforming can be a little finicky and you won’t always land where you meant to. There were several times where I’d jump or grab onto one specific part of a level but then fall to my death or get knocked down by an enemy. Sumo Digital has improved so many things on LittleBigPlanet’s gameplay and the platforming still feels great, regardless of some hiccups.
By far, the standout levels are ones that are aligned to the beat of licensed music. One level features Uptown Funk and it was such an amazing surprise. Others contain music by Brittney Spears and Foster The People. From the environment to the enemies, each aspect of these music-based levels is synced to the songs perfectly. There aren’t as many of these as I’d like to see, but they’re so well done and breathe new life into the game. These levels also complement the game’s original music which has that signature LittleBigPlanet sound. Each song is lighthearted and warm, while also immersing you in each world.
In some levels, you’ll get to use power-ups. The main ones thrown at you are rocket boots with repulsors, a throwing star, and a grappling hook. These among others pop up throughout each world and make the levels far more fun. The power-ups aren’t just tacked on for no reason either, as the levels are built around them. For one, like the throwing star, some missions require you to throw it on a surface that teleports you to another area of the level. Meanwhile, the boots and repulsor have you flying from one part of a level to the next while defeating enemies. Like the music-based levels, the power-ups were a highlight of Sackboy: A Big Adventure for me. Each one is so fun to use and they help from each level feeling stale one after another.
Towards the end of each level, you’ll come across boss battles before moving onto the next world. In other worlds, there will also be mini-boss battles thrown in, too. For the most part, each battle isn’t too difficult. However, they’re all kind of structured the same way in that they each have three phases to them. Where they start getting repetitive comes when Vex is the boss battle. His battles don’t really evolve much over time with the only difference being that he’ll add one or two more challenges to overcome.
With every level in the game, you can also play with up to four people. Currently, the game doesn’t support online play but that’ll be added by the end of this year. You can, however, play through local co-op. The levels are designed with co-op in mind and it’s a blast to play with other people. It’s a mode that doesn’t feel tacked-on and it fits the game well. There are even stages in each world that are co-op only and put your teamwork to the test. Even though co-op being a major part of the game, you can still play all the levels by yourself. The addition of co-op is just a feature that makes the game even more enjoyable.
Throughout some areas, you can also find cubes that unlock Knitted Knights trials. These are timed levels that’ll put your skills to the test. Depending on how quickly you finish one, you’ll earn orbs that can help you get closer to unlocking certain stages. Like the story levels, the Knitted Knights trials are fun but very challenging. Each is well-made and makes you want to try again for a better score. In addition to unlocking Knitted Knights trials, you’ll also have the chance to obtain different costumes. Some of them are unlocked depending on how many bubbles you collect throughout the story but others can be purchased in Zom Zom’s shop which is located in each world.
As a PlayStation 5 launch title, Sackboy: A Big Adventure features stunning graphics and lighting. Its visual style reminded me of games like Yoshi’s Crafted World and Kirby’s Epic Yarn which all have this hand-crafted feel to them. Each of the game’s five worlds have a distinct style that is bursting with personality. The lighting also helps each are pop so much more. While not a graphically intensive game, it’s a great showcase for what the PS5 can do in terms of making creative platformers that anyone can enjoy.
Besides its graphics, the PS5 version also takes advantage of the DualSense controller. Depending on what surface you’re walking or running on, the controller will vibrate in a similar way to a game like Astro’s Playroom. A missed opportunity though is that it would’ve been cool to see the game use the adaptive triggers whenever you’re using a power-up. For example, when you’re charging your repulsors, the triggers could have used some tension. Another potential use is whenever you’re picking up an object or enemy, there can be some resistance before you let go of the button. These aren’t major, but they’d be cool features to add to further use the DualSense and its cool technology.
There’s so much to love about Sackboy: A Big Adventure. The levels are so inventive, creative, and fun to play. The game is filled with so much content, including levels that continue to unlock once you’ve completed the main story. There’s also the ability to purchase costumes, re-do missions to get a higher score, and so much more. Levels are filled with so much variety yet each one fits into each world so well. With each level I played, I could tell Sumo Digital put a lot of thought and love into each aspect of the game. From Sackboy’s moveset to the enemies and locations, it feels like a step up from other LittleBigPlanet games. While there are already so many great PlayStation 5 games to play, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is one you shouldn’t sleep on.
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