You couldn’t think of a more iconic character from the PS3 era than Sackboy. While other prominent PS3 titles had an Xbox exclusive they were competing with, LittleBigPlanet was a game wholly of its own league, with its charming kid-friendly approach and deep level designer. When the PS5 was announced, the world would once again get more Sackboy with Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
This time, they’ve decided to change up the LittleBigPlanet formula a bit, focusing more on the game’s story. Was changing up the formula worth the risk? Or are we ready to say goodbye to a character described as “Top tier in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale”? Read on to find out.
LittleBigPlanet games have always been light on story, usually involving Sackboy saving Craftworld from some horrible being symbolizing negativity. In that sense Big Adventure is no different, as Sackboy now has to stop the evil Vex as he kidnaps all the denizens of Craftworld.
It’s not exactly the deepest narrative, but it works. There’s an obvious bad guy, and the ever-lovable Sackboy has to go on a quest to stop him. Sackboy’s fulfilling a prophecy to be Craftworld’s Knitted Knight, which takes you all across the galaxy before your showdown with Vex.
There’s also the case of the game’s animations, which are absolutely amazing. The opening cutscene has Vex terrorizing Craftworld, and he emotes so well that you’d swear this was an animated feature rather than a game cutscene.
Naturally, the game’s music is amazing as well. Rather than lean too hard into that “this is a children’s game” vibe, the game’s levels feature music that sounds legitimately inspired. It’s glad to see a lot of effort went into making this game feel equal if not better than its predecessors.
Even better still, A Big Adventure has a whole suite of accessibility tools. These include multiple colorblind modes, an unlimited continues mode as well as fonts for gamers with Dyslexia. One note I’d wish is they had a way to toggle between the scientific names for the colorblind names and a more layman’s terms, since both are kind of important.
We don’t nearly talk about accessibility as much as we should, but with a game targeted at kids like this, it’s really good that they’d made it so accessible. It’s definitely a good showing, even moreso for a first-party studio.
So you may realize A Big Adventure looks a little different than Little Big Planet. Sackboy is finally free of the shackles of a 2D layout, and can do more than go left and right. The game has an isometric perspective, with plenty of interactive objects for Sackboy to mess with. You still have limited lives just like the original Little Big Planet, though picking up objects in the world can get you easy access to more 1Ups so you can continue your Big Adventure.
Sackboy’s controls make the jump to 3D a lot better than you’d expect, with all his movements feeling very responsive. That being said, some of the puzzles can be a little confusing at this angle, and it’s not hard to misjudge two things as being next to each other when they’re actually not, getting you into a sticky situation.
The game has a lot of similarities with the 3D Mario games, with progression tied to how many “Dreamer Orbs” you can collect. You won’t be allowed to pass to the next world until you’ve hit the minimum, which is a good way to incentivize exploring.
It also helps that the game’s quite easy, so you won’t really have much else to do *but* seek out Dreamer Orbs. Admittedly, there’s some demographic tomfoolery at work here since the game’s clearly targeted at a much younger crowd.
But overall, locking progression behind collectibles is incredibly par for the course for A Big Adventure. The game’s about exploration, it only makes sense that the quality of your exploring is what’s going to get you into new levels. These orbs are more than just hidden in bushes, though, with some of them requiring minigames to collect.
Sackboy also has a plethora of gadgets, not unlike his original incarnation in Little Big Planet. You get new ones every time you clear a world, meaning you’ll be getting more options as you go through the game.
Personally I’m a big fan of the Whirltoll, a boomerang-like device that makes getting far away objects much easier. There’s also a grappling hook, which you can use to pull switches you otherwise can’t get to.
Both Easy And Hard
Similar to Little Big Planet, Sackboy has limited lives, and each life can only take two hits. Thankfully, dying doesn’t reset the world, and any orbs you’ve collected or crates you’ve smashed will remain even when you respawn.
It’s a neat little feature, and helps emphasize the fact that this game’s supposed to be fun. When you’re thinking about children, it’s important to think about how often you’re going to run into fail-states. So it’s very thoughtful that even dying isn’t necessarily a failure, since the stuff you did still carries forwards.
Those looking for additional challenges can look into the Knitted Knight challenges. These really put your abilities to the test, making you complete strict platforming in the quickest time possible. You unlock these by collecting Knight’s Energy, one of the hidden collectibles strewn throughout worlds.
Fun With Friends
Additionally, the game supports up to 4-player local Co-op. You and all your Sackboys can run amok, clearing levels together.
The co-op is a shared screen rather than split-screen though, so expect some bickering over players who just refuse to move forward, or the inverse friend who keeps wanting to push forward and not explore.
The game will also have online co-op, but that’s not available yet. The online co-op will come next month in an update.
Dressing Up Your Sackboy
Another carryover from the original games, Big Adventure lets you customize your Sackboy, with all manner of costumes. You can buy these from the ever charming Zom Zom, who sells them for you in exchange for Collectabells you get by exploring.
We haven’t dug deep enough to see all the outfits, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t have a library to rival Little Big Planet’s, which included costumes based on Tron and Final Fantasy.
There are also bonus levels with Zom Zom, where you can dramatically increase your funds, This really gives off a Super Mario World vibe, which is great considering the overall tone for the game. It’s also just a great way to relax and focus on dressing up your sackboy, as you reach for more Collectabells.
Combat is arguably the weakest part of the game, as Sackboy can swing around a prop to hit certain enemies. I say it’s the weakest because he’s still got his grab and push/pull mechanics from Little Big Planet, so much so that having him physically “fight” enemies seems off-theme and redundant.
That being said, the enemies that require using Sackboy’s other tools are incredibly satisfying to deal with, owed in part to the game’s overall charming aesthetic. There’s a bug-like enemy who spits projectiles at you that you need to pull the tail off of, and it’s done in such a cute way that it’s hard to not get a chuckle every time Sackboy gives it a yank.
There’s even a bull-like enemy, embodying the trope of “enemy that charges forwards and is weak on its back”. The game gives you options to deal with it that don’t really involve the attack button, it makes it feel like an afterthought added by an exec who wanted more action in the game.
While the core of Sackboy: A Big Adventure is incredibly solid, it’s not immune to having some gripes. As I said before, combat often feels redundant, and the fact Sackboy has a childlike voice really detracts from the fun of the character. It’s the fact that that’s clearly an english-speaking person’s grunts that bugs me, since it feels like he’s going to break out into an MCU-style quip at any second.
There’s also the issue with comparing it to LittleBigPlanet. While an adventure game is all fine and dandy, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the freedom that LittleBigPlanet gives. That’s not a mark against the game, but I hope Big Adventure exists alongside LittleBigPlanet the same way we make distinctions for 3D Marios and sidescrolling Marios, rather than Big Adventure just being “The new Little Big Planet”
That being said, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a completely lovely platformer, and is sure to bring many kids the same kind of joy the older generations had with the 3D Mario games. Personally I’d recommend giving the PS5 version a go, since our PS4 sounded like it was at death’s door trying to run the game.
It’s charming, it’s delightful and there’s so much to do, and we’re glad that Sackboy continues to be one of Sony’s big mascots.
|Delightfully well animated||Sackboy’s voice|
|Has a lot of the original Little Big Planet’s charm|
|Enjoyable for gamers of all ages|
Game reviewed on PS4. Review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment