Before Dreams, Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series was the avenue to let out your creativity in game design. Aside from great platforming, it also introduced gamers to another well-known face of the PlayStation: the lovable Sackboy.
From his debut in LittleBigPlanet, Sackboy has been a popular gaming icon with his cute appearance, and how fun it was to customize his look! This bundle of yarn is stepping away from LittleBigPlanet and into a big new adventure that’s coming to both the PlayStation 4 and 5.
Is this a journey worth taking with Sackboy or would you rather go adventuring somewhere else? Here’s our review of Sackboy: A Big Adventure and for brevity, we’ll just call it Sackboy, cool?
Welcome back to Craftworld, home of the Sackfolks. As they happily live out their lives, out of the blue an evil entity known as Vex captures Sackboy’s people and forces them to build his evil Topsy Turver machine.
Once completed, Vex plans to use it to change Craftworld from a world of imagination and dreams into one of chaos and nightmares. Being the title character and all, it’s up to Sackboy to put a stop to his plans and save his people. Thus begins a big new adventure to save Craftworld.
From the get go, Sackboy’s plot is pretty simple, and it isn’t going to win any awards when it comes to narrative. There’s nothing exactly deep or groundbreaking about the saving-a-peaceful-world-that’s-suddenly-terrorized-by-a-big-baddie plot.
As a matter of fact, there isn’t exactly any backstory about the main villain Vex. He really just came out of nowhere to cause trouble for the Sackfolks, what a jerk. It would have been nice to know more about Vex as he was interesting to watch in the game. But what the game lacks in storytelling depth, it makes up for it in pretty much everything else.
A Big and Beautiful Adventure
It wouldn’t be too far off to consider Sackboy: A Big Adventure the fourth entry in the LittleBigPlanet series. If you’ve been playing it since the beginning, familiar elements return like the Score and Prize Bubbles and the Collectabells that were first seen in LittleBigPlanet 3. Aside from these returning mechanics, Sackboy will not have a Create Mode. Unlike previous games, you don’t get to create your own levels and share them with other PlayStation users online.
I won’t really miss the Create Mode because as early as now, I can say that Sackboy is a great 3d platformer, and a very beautiful one at that. From the moment the campaign cinematic begins to when you’re playing your first level, the game is simply full of charm and wonder.
LittleBigPlanet is known for its vibrant colors and imaginative stages and that tradition is continued beautifully here in Sackboy. Everything you see, even the backgrounds, are such a treat to the eyes that you can’t help but stare in awe while playing. The closest comparison I can think of is like setting foot inside a theme park for the very first time where everything catches your attention, mouth wide open and all that.
This eye candy is seen from start to finish, as the game will take you to many different locales that look significantly different from each other. One minute you’re traversing a jungle themed location and the next thing, you’re riding bubbles in an underwater wonderland. The anticipation of what kind of themed location will be next was enough to keep me going and it was a blast with each new discovery.
As an extra added bonus, you’re able to customize your Sackboy’s appearance with a variety of costumes, either collected as you play or buy in Zom Zom’s store using CollectaBells. These costumes come in individual parts or complete sets, and dressing up your Sackboy really makes up for the lack of a create mode.
Hands down, Sackboy is also a winner in the audio department in almost every way. While the story is simple, the voice actors portrayed their characters with such enthusiasm. Vex’s voice actor, for example, relished in making Vex a charming villain. The same can be said about Sackboy’s wise mentor Scarlet, as well as the various NPCs Sackboy will meet on his adventure.
While there are numerous catchy BGMs that you will hear throughout the game, what really stuck are the licensed music tracks in certain levels that I didn’t know I needed, but here we are. It didn’t actually occur to me that there was licensed music in the game until I started to hear a familiar tune during a certain level, which turned out to be Uptown Funk. It was such a treat that part of the fun was finding out what other tracks the game had, and seriously there were times that I had to stop and listen to make sure if it was something I knew or not.
LittleBigPlanet it is not
Stepping away a little bit from his dominantly 2.5d platforming roots, this is Sackboy’s first foray into full 3d platforming and one of the most striking changes is the introduction of multiple camera angles. Some levels will have the familiar 2.5d view but don’t be surprised when the perspective occasionally changes to an isometric, 3rd person, or even top view angle.
Each level was designed pretty well, because the transition of perspectives kept the platforming fresh. Just when I thought I was going to do some 2d platforming, I’m now walking up walls to advance the level. This experience made my estimated 13-hour campaign exciting, with each level filled with activities that did not feel stretched out.
During your romp through each of the levels in Craftworld’s different locales, exploration and interaction is highly encouraged to be able to “complete” a level. This is how you’re going to get those coveted CollectaBells and Score Bubbles after all.
Now while it’s possible to get every Dreamer Orb or be able to finish a level on your first try, it might not always happen. Fortunately, the game is very generous in how it keeps track of your record, especially of Dreamer Orbs. You’re free to focus on one goal at a time and you don’t need to re-acquire Dreamer Orbs you already got the first time.
A less difficult Crash 4
While Sackboy is not as difficult as Crash Bandicoot’s latest game, don’t expect it to completely hand you every collectible on a silver platter. The game is still a challenge to play, especially if you’re aiming to get 100% in every level. The fact that every restart deducts an amount from your Score Bubbles is enough motivation not to mess up. Add to that the different puzzle elements that you need to figure out to get some of those hidden goodies and you’ve got quite the task ahead of you.
Overall, the puzzles in the game are not very difficult, but will still require some work and risk taking on your end. It’s especially brilliant when you see a platform nearly off screen that looks accessible but the camera won’t move unless you take that leap of faith and only then you’ll discover the path to a Dreamer Orb. Moments like these can be found throughout the game and it does lead to quite the feeling of accomplishment.
Vex’s minions are out there to stop you and there’s quite the assortment to deal with. As cute as they are to look at, they’ll want nothing more than to take out our hero. Fortunately, Sackboy is prepared as he can slap, spin, and nosedive enemies into submission.
It’s also great that some levels will offer tools that are not only needed to advance but can be used in combat as well. The Whirltool, for example, is a boomerang that can cut through thorns but also doubles as a ranged weapon. There are other cool stuff that Sackboy can pick up like umbrellas and…a fish. Yes, a fish.
It’s possible to complete the game alone and my initial 13 hour playthrough of the main story campaign already included some backtracking for Dreamer Orbs, but that number can be bumped up because of that extra element of fun because playing through the game with other Sackfolks, whether it be online or through local coop, though at the time of writing online multiplayer has not been enabled yet.
Not All Glam and Glitter
For all its charm, we also have some gripes about Sackboy. The new perspectives were definitely a fresh take for the series, though honestly they are sometimes frustrating, especially the isometric views.
If the latest Crash Bandicoot game reminded us of anything, it’s that precision is very important for a platformer. Some sections of the game made it particularly hard to gauge how far you’re jumping or where you are going to land, making it more frustrating that it should be. The same can be said during the top view sections of the game, where you won’t see exactly how high you’re jumping so you might end up getting hit instead of stomping on an enemy.
Despite the inspired level design, the same can’t be said about the bosses and sub-bosses. They’re not complete pushovers, and some will prove to be challenging, but they often repeat mechanics and patterns that make them easier than they should be.
There were also some weird glitches like a screen going completely black on the world map, but you know the game was still running because you can hear it and button prompts were still coming out. Also, in some levels, dialogue boxes were still appearing long after you’ve left the NPC you were talking to in the stage.
What We Liked:
- Creative level designs
- Great voice acting
- Amazing soundtrack and use of licensed music
- Beautiful graphics
- Fair difficulty
What we didn’t like:
- Top and isometric views made platforming sometimes difficult
- Repetitive boss fights
- Various forgivable glitches
Verdict: Buy It!
Sackboy: A Big Adventure offers a great platforming experience that has the right balance of difficulty and eye candy, despite some of the minor glitches and frustrating perspectives. The experience pointed to a well optimized game, with minimal loading times that would sometimes make you wonder if you were playing on a PS4.
With the game coming out on the PlayStation 5 as well, this playthrough only made want to try the game out on the next-gen console even more because if Sackboy was already able to deliver a great gaming experience on the current generation, with amazing graphics and decent loading times, then it would be safe to say it will run even better on the PlayStation 5, with all of the bells and whistles.
What else can we say? Sackboy: A Big Adventure is worth experiencing, even on the PS4. While the PS5 is the obvious choice for this gem of a game, Sackboy was still a joy to play from start to finish and let’s just say that even after finishing the story, there’s still something left for the completionists out there.
After experiencing everything that Sackboy: A Big Adventure had to offer, it’s definitely much clearer to me why Sackboy remains such an endearing video game mascot. The PlayStation may not have a single official mascot, but this game is definitely a reminder of why Sackboy is such a strong contender for that title. He’s back in top form and this is simply an amazing adventure you won’t regret taking.
*Sackboy: A Big Adventure was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.