Sackboy A Big Adventure review: Platforming perfection

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(Cybertech) – The next-gen gaming landscape in 2020 has already spoiled us with epic adventures and next-level graphics, but so often games tend to lean towards the violent open-world trope. That’s why Sackboy: A Big adventure – which still excels with its lovingly crafted graphics, almost as if hand-stitched – feels so fresh, fun and inspiring: because it’s unbridled joy in game form.

Co-inciding with the PlayStation 5’s launch, this exclusive-to-Sony platformer (it’s also out on PS4) – which is the spiritual successor to 2014’s LittleBigPlanet 3 – will cross-stitch its way into your heart in no time at all. Here’s why it’s a must-have and one of the best formed 3D platformers that you’ll ever play.

Fine looking threads

Load up Sackboy on the PS5 and its mixture of marvellous voice acting – it’s Dawn French taking the lead this time around, with no sign of Stephen Fry – heartwarming character design, and pin-perfect graphical textures will immediately grab your attention. This game has a big heart, pretty much bleeds with cuteness, while remaining decidedly British with its quips and charm.

The storyline is simple enough: Vex, the knitted bad-guy for this adventure, has kidnapped the Sackfolk from their Craftworld, putting them to task to build his Topsy Turver, with the intention to transform the world into a nightmarish land. Well, as nightmarish as is possible with wool and stitch – it’s all still rather cute and fluffy really. It’s up to Sackboy to prove himself and save the Sackfolk from a life of labour. 

This all takes place across a series of worlds that are lovingly crafted. The level of detail is sublime, thanks to dynamic 4K resolution on PS5, revealing micro details such as stray threads, realistic textures and playful light that gives the colourful worlds real resonance.

Never missing a beat

But most important is that Sackboy is actually fun to play. How often do you read a review of a game that highlights how much of a grind something is to play, or how the oversized skill-tree feels inbalanced? Without the need for zombies or guns or blood’n’guts – Sackboy can pick up weapons, though, but they’re usually nothing more than a flapping fish with which to gleefully face-slap your foe – A Big Adventure focuses on relatively small levels that you can perfect. And always with a smile on your face.

Sumo Digital / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Each level has a variety of rewards: there are a number of orbs to collect, hidden throughout each level, and which you’ll need to amass to open the path forward. These are the most important – but also easy to miss, so repeat play is a much. There are score bubbles, and gold tokens to spend in ZomZom’s shop – not that you need to worry about additional charges or microtransactions here.

At first we found the flow of the game to feel a smidge slow; but having continued to plough through – often repeating levels time and again, just to get those extra points or costumes or rewards – it builds with its complexity and, to a degree, pace. Simple starter levels soon give way to challenging Knitted Knight Trials which will challenge your DualSense controller wielding deftness. By which point it’s downright addictive to play.

It’s easy for platformers to become repetitive, but Sackboy largely avoids this by layering up various tools for specific levels. Once you’ve mastered jumping, rolling, diving and punching, you’ll be grappling, running up walls, rolling around in protective balls, throwing a spinner, among other features that we’ll let you discover for yourself. It’s all a hoot. 

Sumo Digital / Sony Interactive Entertainment

Best of all, however, are the music levels. Never missing a beat, these levels run in-time, sync with the tune, and will just bring a massive smile to your face. The selection of tracks is one of the game’s strengths: from Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and beyond. Other big names feature elsewhere, such as an underwater rework of Madonna’s Material Girl. As tongue-in-cheek as that is, it’s just so apt for this game’s soundtrack.

Co-op perfection

Beyond soldiering through single-player, Sackboy: A Big Adventure also goes big on multiplayer – with up to four consecutive players able to take part (levels only ever require a maximum of two players though). And these levels will have you in stitches – there’s nothing quite like the hilarity of innocently messing up your companion player’s attempts. It’s a genuine reason to buy a second DualSense controller, that’s for sure.

Sumo Digital / Sony Interactive Entertainment

At the time of release, however, the game lacks online multiplayer – a PlayStation blog states that it will be coming before the end of 2020. At least it is coming, because the co-op play is one of the standout factors, so PlayStation Plus fans will be extra keen to gain this part of the experience.

A Big Adventure also lacks the Create mode of LittleBigPlanet 3, so you can’t build your own levels. Really we don’t think this is a major loss. The gameworld here is so thoughfully created, so detailed and refined in its layout, that we’re happy to lap it up as delivered. The only slight caveat to that is when depth perception is somewhat thrown by the moving camera – this is a full 3D world, after all, not 2.5D as per the previous game.

Verdict

Sackboy: A Big Adventure could be so easy to overlook as a PlayStation 5 launch title. But to do so would be to lose a bucketload of potential joy from your life. Because this Sackboy adventure is so heartwarming, so addictive, so lovingly made. It really is close to platforming perfection.

From the voice acting, to the replay factor, the graphical finery, and superb multiplayer (shame that’s not online for launch, only in-person co-op), it’s another title to assert PlayStation’s ongoing success story. So if you want something that bucks the trend, that feels fresh and fun, then this is simply a must-have game. 

Writing by Mike Lowe.



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