Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet franchise was notable for how it enabled its players to be more than just that. They could be creators, too; a point driven home by the series’ tagline – ‘Play, Create, Share.’ But with the birth of Media Molecule’s Dreams, which allows players to create virtually anything, the point behind LittleBigPlanet was rendered moot, leaving many to question what’s next for this franchise.
Frankly, I’m glad Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the answer. Rather than let the whimsical setting and character designs from LittleBigPlanet go to waste, Sony entrusted Sumo Digital to rework those elements into a delightful 3D platformer that is stitched together pretty well.
What Is It?
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a whimsical platformer that has the titular Sackboy running, jumping, punching, and puzzle-solving his way across levels decorated in colorful fabric, cardboard cutouts, and other crafty materials. With new movement options and upgrades woven in to accompany the franchise’s new direction, Sackboy’s first 3D adventure promises a new type of experience LittleBigPlanet fans haven’t received thus far.
Why Should I Care?
Sackboy’s style of platforming doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; Sackboy can run, jump, dodge, punch, and collect upgrades throughout levels. The final item on that list perhaps does the most to mix up Sackboy’s gameplay. These upgrades can be as simple as a boomerang, or as fantastical as a suit that lets you fly around and fire energy volleys out of your hands.
Regardless of what they are, they’re a pleasure to use, especially considering most have levels and puzzles built entirely around them. The variety of them and how they’re spaced out between levels (you’ll never have two levels back to back with the same upgrade) ensured I never felt like one was overstaying their welcome or that there weren’t enough of them. They feel like a nice added layer on top of Sackboy’s fundamentally sound platforming gameplay.
Through hours of clearing gaps, making precision jumps, and taking down enemies, I always felt in complete control of Sackboy thanks to how well he controls; none of my in-game failures or game-overs felt like they arose due to a cheap level design or otherwise unfair elements, but rather as a product of a misinput or other error committed by myself.
The stellar controls particularly come in handy when tackling the Knitted Knight Trials — Sackboy’s speedrun challenges, which also effectively showcase how dynamic this game’s movement can be. Repeatedly mashing the dodge button forces Sackboy to curl up into a ball and roll around Sonic-style. Allowing for significantly faster movement throughout a level, this tactic that comes in handy for these time trials. This and other risky methods, like diving in midair to clear wide gaps, ended up bleeding into how I played the rest of the game’s levels as well. If you play Sackboy and think it might be a little too slow-paced for your tastes, I strongly advise checking out the Knitted Knight Trials to spice your play up a little.
Of course, Sackboy can also be a perfectly chill, slow-paced experience if you want it to, and you’ll still get a lot out of it. There’s a lot to collect around each level; bubbles increase your high score, bells can be used to purchase clothes for Sackboy (the actual clothes themselves can be found around levels as well), and finally pearls are hidden around each level, which are used to progress the game’s story.
Similar to Stars from Super Mario 64, you need a certain amount of pearls to access the final level of each world. Collecting them is mandatory, but the act of collecting them feels inconsequential. While playing the second world, my progress was stunted because I didn’t have enough pearls, resulting in me having to comb over past levels to grind them out. This made for an experience that felt stagnant and boring, compared to how much fun I was having hopping through levels without a care. Consequently, I resolved to thoroughly search for pearls in every level going forward. But being forced to indulge this activity that doesn’t feel rewarding felt like a grind. Entering a new world should always be an exciting feeling, but it’s dampened a little once you realize you have to meet a pearl quota each time.
Fortunately, the bosses behind those pearly gates at least feel worth the price of admission. All of them are sure to put your platforming prowess to the test in one way or another. One boss has an attack that takes away your lives, adding to the tension of that encounter. Another one incorporates light puzzle solving elements, tasking you with completing a prerequisite objective before dealing out damage. Each one provides a climactic encounter that bookends their respective worlds quite well.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Sackboy is in no short supply of charm. Craftworld looks like a beautifully realized homemade DIY craft project, Character designs range from stuffed monkeys to knitted folk like Sackboy, and dressing Sackboy however you please never gets old, feeling akin to customizing your favorite doll/action-figure.
The soundtrack is similarly delightful. The original tracks featured in the game are certainly a treat, but what surprised and charmed me the most was the amount of licensed music featured here. You’ll frequently play levels featuring songs such as “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie or “Toxic” by Brittney Spears, and hearing one you recognize feels similar to hearing a classic hit on the radio. It makes for a pleasant surprise each time, and each song pairs up well with the charming atmosphere on display.
All things considered, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a well-crafted effort to take the LittleBigPlanet franchise in a new direction that still maintains the infectiously charming personality of its predecessors while hardly skipping a beat. Personally, I’m glad to see Sackboy front and center for the first time in a while, and I sure hope it won’t be the last.