Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review – A Charming Platformer That’s Light On Inventiveness But Big On Fun

Sackboy makes sounds with his mouth now and it’s weird. He hasn’t started quipping like he’s Nathan Drake, but he makes effort noises and screams upon death, which is a bit harrowing considering he has the vocals of a toddler.

Sumo Digital is back with another sackventure after taking the reins from Media Molecule with LittleBigPlanet 3. Only this time it’s not about creating things – it’s an adventure, as the title suggests, and all you can do is play through the levels its creators have designed, rather than build them yourself.

The journey begins in Loom Village, Craftworld, where the sackfolk are enjoying an idealistic life. Until, suddenly, Vex, Bringer of Nightmares, rips through the fabric (eh? eh?) of reality, sending Sackboy on a planet-hopping mission to stop the big bad from building a machine called the Topsy Turver.

You explore an overworld that’s reminiscent of something like Overcooked, with secrets to find, bonus levels to unlock, and shops to visit to unlock new outfits. Each level contains a set amount of hidden collectibles, called Dreamer Orbs, and you have to find a certain amount of these to progress to the next region.

Immediately, Sackboy feels different to control. You still grab things with R2 and you still jump with X (he can also mantle if you fall slightly short of a ledge), but the physics have been completely reworked – Sackboy has clearly been reading up on Sonic the Hedgehog because now you can tap Circle to turn into a ball and roll around. You can also slap enemies to death by pressing Square, or jump on their heads like they’re goombas. There’s something a little off about the movement, though.

Like most platformers, it starts off by easing you in. I expected the pace to pick up as it went on. It does get slightly more difficult, but everything is just so slow. Jumping and walking feel like trying to punch someone underwater. There’s no sense of speed unless you’re swinging from sponges with the grappling hook (called the “swingamajig”) or sliding down fish scales (which is weirdly satisfying, by the way – look at those scales shave away as you go. This is next-gen, baby).

The presentation is superb, as you’d expect. Pull the camera in close by squeezing L2 and you can emote and wave your arms around like in the LittleBigPlanet games – from this perspective, you can see every stitch and each bit of frayed fabric sticking out of Sackboy as the background blurs out with depth of field effects. Later on, you go to a sci-fi world where everything is metallic, reflective, or neon. Early on, everything is plush and quilted, the world flexing as you move through it.

Next-gen truly is in the materials, and this playful platformer shows it off. It’s just a shame it feels so archaic elsewhere. Saying that, it’s nice to actually have a decent kids’ game release with a new console, and you do have to take the target audience into account here – this wasn’t made for a 33-year-old man who’s still mad about Brexit.

That’s not to say there’s nothing cool here, either. There are flashes of Tearaway, Media Molecule’s PS Vita platformer, in some of the levels. These highlights feature licensed music tracks, the entire level moving to the beat of Britney Spears’ Toxic or David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The tracks are remixed and dynamic, reacting to what happens on screen as every enemy and piece of scenery wiggles and throbs to the rhythm. They’re joyous and I wish the entire game was just these levels forever.

I’m also a big fan of the podium finish, which is the same as LittleBigPlanet, except it picks a winner from your group – you can play this with up to three other players in co-op – and zooms in on them for a photo, allowing you to strike a pose with your arms and face. There are other flashes of creativity in missions where you herd animals or roll around geometry in a snow globe, and I’m also a big fan of the time attack races. I didn’t get the opportunity to try the exclusively co-op levels, but I’m sure they add something to the experience too.

One of my frustrations would also be alleviated a bit by co-op. The Dreamer Orb requirement at the end of each region often forced me to backtrack through levels I’d already done to unlock the next area – being able to play the optional co-op missions for extra orbs would have been a godsend and reduced the amount of grinding I had to do. I like that these levels are designed to be replayed and mastered, but I want to see the story through first.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a decent platforming game that’s stuffed with charm, if a little lacking in imagination, which is a shame for a franchise built on creativity. Saying that, if you’ve got children, this is a must-buy for some family-friendly PS5 fun.

Next: PS5 Console Review: Next-Gen Look, Next-Gen Feel

Version tested: PS5. Sony provided a copy of the game for review.

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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.

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