Two years after the release of the PlayStation 3, a small studio by the name of Media Molecule made their debut. They crafted a title that would go on to become a franchise spanning three generations of PlayStation consoles, accrue countless fans around the world, and fundamentally change what people expect from platforming games. Little Big Planet was revolutionary, and continues to be one of the strongest franchises on the PlayStation platform (now developed by Sumo Digital, from the third instalment onwards). The original title also introduced the world to Sackboy; a loveable and fully customisable hand-crafted protagonist. With the debut of the PlayStation 5, this iconic and ‘unofficial’ PlayStation mascot has finally received his very own game, and it is up to both you and Sackboy to save Craftverse!
Unlike any of the previous Little Big Planet games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a title that forgoes the franchise’s crafting elements for a far more traditional platforming experience. In this sense, Sackboy is the sole protagonist who must save Craftverse from the devilish Vex – a Tim Burton-esque jester puppet who has nefariously vacuumed away everyone so they can be put to use toward creating his ‘Topsy Turver’! As the adventure begins, Sackboy is joined by Scarlet – an impressive, if somewhat silly, mentor who guides players through the evolving narrative. Although Steven Fry’s usual presence as the ineffable narrator in Little Big Planet titles will be missed, the performances by Dawn French (Scarlet) and Richard E. Grant (Vex) more than make up for his absence. With that said, the narrative in Sackboy: A Big Adventure will leave players wanting. Despite the game being a somewhat solo adventure (up to three friends can join), the story element acts as a rather loose and thin thread with which to push gamers forward toward the inevitable conclusion; versus being a narratively thick weave to get lost into. In many respects, it is par the course for platforming titles of this nature; even though a more engaging narrative would have been appreciated for Sackboy’s first solo adventure.
An additional change to Sackboy: A Big Adventure over previous entries in the franchise, is the move from a 2.5D viewpoint to full 3D. In this way, the title is more akin to games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Super Mario. The change has allowed for some interesting level designs too, showcasing just how much of a jumper, and thus platformer, Sackboy can be. On the whole, levels are very well designed and often require more strategic thought than one might originally give them – especially if obtaining all of the collectibles and secrets is a core tenet of your gameplay. Needless to say, gamers will not be disappointed by the multitude of locations on offer – even if the gameplay eventually becomes somewhat repetitive (as is often the case for platforming titles). Despite the welcome changes in viewpoint and level design, the fundamental heart of Little Big Planet remains through a static and unmoving camera, Sackboy’s move-set and some familiar visuals.
In terms of gameplay, Sackboy can jump, punch, roll, and more, whilst also being able to grab on sponges, pick up items, and bounce on pads. He also has a voice this time around, although it is more prevalent for anguished screams when falling off the world map or grunts and groans when batting enemies. Overall, it is a wonderful mix of the familiar, for anyone who has played as Sackboy before; and the modern, for anyone use to platforming titles. Better still, there are also power-ups he can find and use. What makes these even more impressive, however, is how the level design will often reflect the need for the power-ups to be used. A neat means of ensuring gamers explore Sackboy’s full move-set; especially when it comes to finding all of the hidden collectibles and secrets.
Visually, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Although the visual aesthetic keeps the same hand-crafted look of the original titles in the franchise – often resembling a child’s craft room replete with cardboard cutouts, stickers, bits of material, buttons and so on – the levels and items Sackboy can interact with have all been given a superb next-generation make-over. Stages all have a stellar depth-of-field effect to further pronounce the aesthetic design, whilst textures all have a super high fidelity to them resulting in materials that often look photo realistic. Sackboy is an excellent example of this, where his midnight eyes reflect the world around him and his tartan skin has real depth; not to mention strands and fibres jotting out here and there as they would with real material. Craftverse is further visually embellished with some truly eye watering ray tracing. It appears to be used everywhere, bringing to life basically every single reflective surface in the game. From polished wood and foil paper, through to crab armour and shiny orbs; every single surface or material that should be reflective has a reflection, and the effect is truly noteworthy. The same visual accoutrements are applicable to Sackboy’s many outfits and accessories; all of which are rendered to near Pixar levels of fidelity.
Perhaps one of the most interesting inclusions in Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a musical score that features both licensed and original music. However, there is more to the audio than first meets the ear. Craftverse will often come alive to the beat and rhythm of the music being played. Whether that is a dynamic and remixed version of Britney Spears’ toxic (a personal favourite) or something a little more quaint, the reality is how the beat and cadence of the musical score all have a direct impact on the world Sackboy must navigate. It certainly made dodging shiny spiked rollers from sewer dwellers as Britney lavished my headphones with “You’re toxic, I’m slipping under”, a rather unforgettable and “please, more of this” experience.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure serves as a wonderful solo debut title for this iconic PlayStation mascot. Although the narrative leaves a lot to be desired, despite a loveable mentor and interesting villain, and only offering fairly standard gameplay mechanics for a platformer; the game does shine in its own way. The truly gorgeous visuals paired together with the ever changing level design and wonderful use of music; seek to bring everything together to creatively craft a bespoke game experience that is well worth the price of entry.
|Time Played||> 10 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review code courtesy of Sony PlayStation|