Sackboy: A Big Adventure may be a departure from the user-generated, level-fashioning focus of its forebears, but what it lacks in customization, it more than makes up for in fun.
The story in Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a simple one: an evil red and blue jester named Vex has decided to kidnap all the Sacklings in Craftworld in order to have them build his ultimate doomsday machine: The Topsy Turver. This dastardly device will transform Craftworld into a barren wasteland, devoid of creativity and imagination, so naturally, it’s up to Sackboy to help save the day and rid the land of Vex and his evil cohorts. You’re not alone, thankfully, as the order of the Knitted Knights, the self-proclaimed brave protectors of Craftworld that strive to protect it at all costs from the forces of evil, are there to aid you in your quest, along with many other mysterious but helpful characters.
After you’ve escaped Vex’s tyranny by jettisoning off in your cardboard rocket just in the nick of time, you land in the Gardens, a wonderful land full of plush grass made of felt and an assortment of colorful, fabric flowers. The biggest difference you’ll notice in this game if you’ve ever played a LittleBigPlanet title before is the change to fully 3D platforming. Gone are the left and right directional confinements and now Sackboy and his pals are free to fully explore his surroundings. It’s a welcome change, as it feels like an evolutionary step of the series, especially since it launched with the Playstation 5, and puts our little patchwork hero in the leagues with Mario and other cherished platformers as a result.
Sackboy can do a lot more in his world of fabric surfaces and stitched-together stages during this adventure, too. Jumping, grabbing objects, using grappling hooks, and bounding off jump pads are typical Sackboy things, but there are new goodies such as a boomerang that helps you quickly dispatch foes and destroy obstacles in your way and a rolling ability that allows you to dodge attacks and roll into tunnels that lead to new paths. Beyond punching baddies to bits, you can dodge and press attack to turn our yarny friend into a spinning blur of fists, similar to the attack of a particular bandicoot. This attack is good for dispatching foes but also allows for quick work of poppable balloons filled with score bubbles and boxes left all over the landscape.
There are secrets in every campaign level of the game, and it often takes a keen eye and sometimes fast fingers to uncover each bauble, be it a prize such as a new costume piece to deck yourself out with or one of the Dreamer Orbs that are required to unlock boss levels. There’s plenty to look out for, plus you gain additional prizes for collecting a specific number of score bubbles and ‘collectabells’ in order to walk away with a gold trophy when you get to the scoreboard at the end of each level.
After collecting up several bells in levels, you can take your hard-earned trinkets over to Zom-zom’s to buy costume pieces and emotes, or simply change into costume pieces you’ve already acquired. It makes the intensity of collecting everything worth it to then turn that effort into silly costumes to galavant around in. Costumes are something that have been around since the first game, but they still have got the same charm as always.
On the sprawling overworld for each area, there are portals that take you to each level. Once you beat a level, your path continues forward, sometimes unlocking branching paths that uncover multiple levels for you to play. Most of the levels just follow the theme of the world they are confined within, but every once in a while, the game throws a music-reactive platforming level and turns the whole formula upside-down. Dancing along to Bruno Mars or David Bowie as the level reacts and moves along to the beat is just amazing, full-stop. I think the Rayman games are the only other titles I can think of that deliver such an amazing, music-fueled experience from start to finish. Again, these levels are few and far between, but they really sold the whole game for me, and they certainly add to the charm of playing a game that just exudes fun from every exciting moment.
Even though every level has a unique twist on the platforming formula, only a handful of enemies make up who you’ll be facing in each one. It’s a small complaint, as you’ll likely be having too much fun with the running, jumping, and rolling throughout the gorgeous dioramas that it won’t bother you in the slightest. Additionally, once you have enough of the Dreamer Orbs, you unlock the boss fight, and that’s where the action really kicks into gear.
Boss fights are larger than life characters or creatures that really take over an arena and will put some serious hurt on you quickly if you fall behind their patterns. Each one has a clever set of moves and it really takes a lot of effort to whittle their health down to zero. While this is an offset to the typical easy, happy-go-lucky gameplay in most levels, it really brings some excitement and suspense to the apex of each area.
The graphics in LittleBigPlanet have always been at the forefront of the charm and style of the game, and there’s no exception to that here. Each level has a hand-crafted appeal to it, using cardboard, fabric, and plastic to create a diorama filled with plenty of things to do and places to explore. Thanks to the leap in graphical fidelity since the last game in the series, additional texture detail and higher-quality geometry are used in each of the environmental props and enemies, and as such, the levels seem to pop off the screen with a sense of realism, bridging the gap between the world of the digital and real. An even bigger factor that helps blur the line is the addition of feel brought to the game through the Dualsense controller.
Through the magic of the Playstation 5’s new controller, I was able to feel when I pulled a string out of the ground and the subsequent bubbles that spilled out from the effort or each smack of an enemy against Sackboy’s fists within the haptic feedback from the controller’s triggers. Additionally, the patchwork ground textures can be felt through subtle vibrations in the controller’s motors and after a while, it all becomes second nature to experience these one-to-one sensations. I love what this new system is able to do with such simple additions to the way you interact with games, but Sackboy’s adventure is no exception.
I don’t know where the mascot platform revolution came back from, but I hope it’s here to stay. Both Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Astro’s Playroom came seemingly out of nowhere, reinventing the way we play and bringing back the joy of 3D platforming that many of us grew up with. Sackboy has a leg up on Astro in that you can play co-op with up to four players, but there’s a lot of joy to be shared, regardless of whether you’re playing or watching.
Within every level and during every moment of controlling Sackboy, there is precious fun and pure joy, which is what the world needs right now. The smiles and magic that this game brings into the world are worth the playthrough, and it certainly will go down in history as one of the franchises’ greatest successes. While I do somewhat miss the Creative Mode, I think Dreams is doing more than enough to make up for its absence. Pick up Sackboy: A Big Adventure and prepare yourself for a wild ride of fun and silliness you just can’t get elsewhere that will certainly keep you in stitches.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is available now for the Playstation 4 and Playstation 5.