Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review: A familiar, but undeniably delightful adventure
Played On: PlayStation 5
LittleBigPlanet always seemed like a game that only Media Molecule could create and maintain the series’ ideal of play, create, share until third installment saw a new development take the reins. Looking to make Dreams, Media Molecule surprisingly passed the torch to Sumo Digital – who’s biggest series at the time was the criminally underrated Sonic and Sega: All-Stars Racing series. Oddly enough though, Sumo Digital ended up being the right fit with how they not only maintain the aesthetics and ideals that Media Molecule started, but brought new life into the LittleBigPlanet series by giving players new characters to play as and expanding on the create mode. Now, Sumo Digital is back to deliver a new kind of adventure with franchise mascot, Sackboy, with Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
The game is a 3-D platformer that once again takes viewers into the Imagisphere to help Sackboy save Craftworld from a new antagonist named Vex (voiced by Richard E. Grant) after he steals the sacklings in order to have them build a device called the Tospy Turvey that will help him turn the Imagisphere in a world of nightmares and fear. As a whole, A Big Adventure is more a like “A Big Déjà vu” as it really feels like your basic 3-D platformer when it comes to the storytelling and basic mechanics. One of the things that quickly becomes clear is that the story is solid, but nothing too special.
Sackboy carries a lot of delightfully innocent charm that makes him the perfect kind of character to lead his own game outside of LittleBigPlanet and his against Vex and his forces of evil is fun for the most part. It hits the kind of beats many players would expect and the story does have a kind of twist I always like to see of players unexpectedly helping the antagonist. It’s the perfect kind of cute and charming adventure that fans would want to see Sackboy go on and there’s plenty of fun, new characters that are to interact with.
Vex is an incredibly lively and fun villains whose great voice work from Grant and cartoonish, jester personality makes him very memorable. Sackboy has a new companion in the form of experienced adventurer and narrator Scarlet (voiced by Dawn French) whose whimsical sense of adventure drives your forward and has you meet some other wild characters along the way. Each uniquely designed area features a “Creator Curator” that fits to their respective area and comes with some funny, quirky personality traits that set them apart. Characters like King Bogoff (voiced by Lewis Macleod), a crown wearing crab attempts to sell knick-knacks and treasures within The Kingdom of Crablantis, Mama Monkey (voiced by Eve Karpf), who tries to keep her little monkey’s in order while residing in the thick jungles of the Colossal Canopy, and N.A.O.M.I. (voiced by Susannah Fielding), a robot guide through the futuristic Interstellar Junction that has some hilariously dark sides to herself, add some fun personalities to the adventure that constantly give the experience a spark.
Overall, though, the story is nothing all that special and certainly not the most compelling story ever told. However, the game is much more robust than previous LittleBigPlanet story modes and really expands on some of the gameplay from the LittleBigPlanet games to create a fresh experience. While the basic controls are essentially the same kind of mechanics seen in many 3-D platformers (jumping, punching, a very useful dodge roll, a double jump), there are some neat variations that are refreshing. The dodge can actually be very useful as players can move around the map faster by continuously tapping the circle button and the second jump in the double jump being more floating allows for more hangtime to make farther platforms. There’re even some tools that Sackboy can pick up along the way – including a whirling boomerang called a Whirltool, a protective ball that will get them through narrow paths, a grapple hook, and jet boots with robo arms that let players take out enemies from afar. All of these mechanics and tools would be enough to make the gameplay more fun, but Sumo Digital makes them pivotal additions with how they design the levels.
Traversing these levels, which there are tons of, is actually a lot of fun and there’re plenty of hidden paths for players to find in exploring and re-exploring each level. Using the dodge roll to get through small tunnels to new areas, swinging over bottomless pits with the grapple hook, and just being able to auto-climb on high ledges with the double jump offers a lot of great gameplay variety in navigating levels. Sumo Digital also utilizes the frame incredibly well as there’re always hidden paths or costumes parts that can be seen just off-screen and it instantly motivates you to figure out how to get there.
The levels are also aesthetically gorgeous with the updated engine and contain that visual charm that has made the series so special. A Big Adventure maintains the series’ look of the worlds and areas having an arts and crafts design that’s incredibly pleasing to the eye and creates a vibrant environment full of personality and charm. Every time you interacted with something in the area and it changes the environment to either offer a new path or bring out a colorful character, it really put a smile on your face and offers a different kind of satisfaction for exploring. It’s even great how Sumo Digital really steps it up a notch with the kind of levels they offer and how it basically keeps players on their toes with a variety of challenges.
There’re levels where players will be put on a monorail ride to collect items and stay alive, times where players will be tasked with helping a Creator Curator, levels that will have them racing the clock to get to the end, sections that have you running from impending doom like you’re Crash Bandicoot, and even levels that pit them against mini-bosses. There’re even times where players will have to keep the beat as certain levels are actually set in time to songs like Uptown Funk and Toxic. These levels were easily the most visually impressive to see as literally everything (platforms and enemies included) moved to the beat of the song and it’s actually great how other songs can be heard in the score of certain levels.
The game also does progression incredibly well as players will have to obtains orbs from the levels in order progress to new levels or take on big, bad bosses at the end of an area. It always feels like there’s a reasonable opportunity to earn orbs through levels and different challenges and makes it satisfying to sort of earn your way to fighting bosses and taking on new challenges. It’s also great how the game builds in difficulty and offers incredibly fun challenges both in and out of the main storyline. For players looking for some challenges off the beaten path, they can tackle challenging Knitted Knight challenges that have them race against the clock as well as hidden levels they can find by exploring the overworld map. Even the enemies, which are pretty strong in terms of variety, start to become more challenging as players progress and it creates a fun challenge that’s constantly reinvigorating your interest.
With great challenges also come great rewards as there’re plenty of collectibles they can find along their journey and by completing special objectives. Players can earn costume pieces and emotes they can use to customize their characters by reaching point goals, collecting gifts around the map, and completing levels without any deaths throughout different levels. They can also earn collectabells throughout levels that they can spend at Zom-Zom’s tent. That’s right, Zom-Zom makes a big return after his stint in LittleBigPlanet 3 and is back to offer new costumes and emotes for players to purchase. While you can easily earn colletibells in levels, Zom-Zom offers some fun bonus opportunities to earn tons of bells. The costume variety here is easily among the best in the series and I love how your costumes choices are even in the custscenes. There’re are tons of great costumes players can choose from and give Sackboy their own unique look. Whether it’s making Sackboy wear a frog suit, look like a Las Vegas performer, become a wild punk rocker, a fire-breathing dragon, or mixing different costume parts together to create an all-new look, players have a lot of design options to choose from.
While Sumo Digital nails a lot of aspects of turning LittleBigPlanet into a 3-D platforming adventure, it’s also very apparent what they miss out on. The way they set up cooperative gameplay is a little disappointing. It’s nice to have levels designed to play with up to four friends, but with no access to online multiplayer it limits the options for players to find friends to play. It’s also a shame to see that other playable characters from LittleBigPlanet 3 (Oddsock, Swoop, and Toggle) couldn’t come along on the adventure even as background characters or cameos. The biggest omission though is that there’s no create mode for players to create their own levels. It’s not something that was a necessity with this game since it’s more of a spin-off from the series, but it’s definitely a big blow that could’ve add a lot more to the game. Certain gameplay mechanics also don’t feel as tight as they should be. The grab mechanic doesn’t always connect, especially when trying to grab after using the grapple hook, and while I know this is more of nitpick, the sound effects for actions could’ve been stronger since punching doesn’t always feel that satisfying and gets stale after a while.
Overall, Sumo Digital delivers another great LittleBigPlanet experience that puts Sackboy in the spotlight for an adventure that undoubtedly familiar, but also an undeniable delight. It’s certainly impressive to see how A Big Adventure treads new ground for the series while maintaining the aesthetic style and charm that fans have come to know and love about the LittleBigPlanet series. There’re definitely some missed opportunities that keep the game from being top tier entry for the franchise, but it never keeps the game from being a big and lively adventure.
*All Photos Used Here Were Taken By the Author*