Platforms: PS5, PS4
Sony’s stuffed mascot returns to herald the launch of PlayStation 5, but the dawn of a new console era also means a rather different approach. Unlike the core LittleBigPlanet games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the first ‘pure’ platforming outing for the adorable cloth character, and how you feel about that shift that will greatly determine how much you enjoy what’s on offer here.
If you enjoyed the scripted campaigns, the gentle adventure, the effortless charm and cute whimsy of Sackboy’s world in the previous games, then you’re in for a treat – there’s more of that here, in spades. If, however, you were more invested in the creativity suite, the numerous ways to craft your own levels or experiences, and the ability to share those designs with friends, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The closest this comes to collaboration is the ability to play levels with friends (although even this isn’t live at launch – expect a patch before year’s end).
The biggest change of all though is the absence of Stephen Fry narrating. This is a more direct adventure for Sackboy, so rather than Fry’s omnipresent voice from beyond, players are guided in-universe by Dawn French as Scarlet, a mysterious explorer who pops up throughout the story to push Sackboy in the right direction. Both French and Richard E. Grant – who gets to ham it up as outlandish villain Vex, who has kidnapped and enslaved Sackboy’s friends – are great additions to the LittleBigPlanet universe, and are clearly having a lot of fun with their roles.
Gameplay wise, it’s all fairly “platforming by numbers” – Sackboy still happily jumps around levels, grabbing and pulling objects to rearrange the world, collecting bubbles and gently bashing enemies. There’s a shift to full 3D environments, rather than the fixed 2.5D perspective of the previous games, although camera angles are typically locked for each level. Despite the apparent simplicity though, later levels pack in considerable challenge, and given that one of the rewards for each level is to complete it without dying, there’s incentive to replay for those perfect runs. Completionists will also appreciate the array of items to find in each world, from dress up items allowing you to kit out Sackboy in a variety of colourful and outlandish costumes, to imagination energy orbs which in turn open up new areas and levels.
Perfect for younger players just getting started with gaming.
Two areas where the game excels though are its music and how well it uses the DualSense controller on PS5 (version tested). The soundtrack is a brilliant mix of genres, both original music and licensed tracks, all of which are deftly incorporated into Sackboy’s world. Background characters and even the architecture may bounce in time with the tunes, making everything feel alive. Sound pulses from the DualSense too, from the sounds of Sackboy’s feet or his plaintive wails if he falls off a ledge, while the haptics provide some real immersion into the world – resistance when pulling something, little jolts when punching, even a gentle pulse when you double-jump to reflect Sackboy’s mid-air flails to stay briefly afloat. It’s a great use of the hardware to subtly improve the play experience.
It’s all a treat to look at too, with developers Sumo Digital building locations out of stunningly detailed materials that maintain the handcrafted look of Sackboy’s past adventures. In 4K, the fabrics, cards, threads, and buttons look almost impossibly real, making everything feel a bit like an interactive puppet theatre. It’s a delight.
While Sackboy: A Big Adventure lacks the depth of its parent games, it still proves itself a great little platformer that beautifully exploits the PS5 hardware. Perfect for younger players just getting started with gaming, and more than capable of working its charms on older ones who fancy a more relaxing affair.