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Sackboy: A Big Adventure: The Kotaku Review

<i>Sackboy: A Big Adventure</i>: The <i>Kotaku</i> Review
Screenshot: Sony
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Ever since the launch of the original LittleBigPlanet back in 2009, I’ve wanted a full, proper game starring Media Molecule’s stitched-together mascot, without any of the building tools that are the main focus of the series. Now I have that in PS5 launch title Sackboy: A Big Adventure, a mostly non-threatening platformer with great music.

While each of the three LittleBigPlanet games includes some sort of story campaign, none of them are particularly good from a gameplay standpoint. They each look marvelous, all stitches and cloth textures and crafted obstacles. They sound great as well, filled with an eclectic mix of music, from tribal tunes to indie rock to bubbly pop. They just don’t play well. That’s because the LittleBigPlanet campaigns are meant to inspire players to make and share their own creations. They are glorified demos, littered with stickers and costume pieces for players to collect and use. Sackboy’s controls in those games are sloppy and imprecise.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure, out now for both the shiny new PS5 and those dirty old PS4s, takes the craftwork style, excellent tunes, and adorable protagonist of LittleBigPlanet and places them all in a proper platform game. Sackboy travels across five different pieced-together worlds in order to rescue his friends from the villainous Vex, an evil jester who dreams of sowing chaos throughout the universe. Each world is made up of a series of levels, which Sackboy must complete in order to face each world’s boss before moving on to the next.

This sure is a platformer’s overworld map.
This sure is a platformer’s overworld map.
Screenshot: Sony / Kotaku

A couple of my coworkers started Sackboy: A Big Adventure at the same time I did, all of us supplied with code as part of the PS5 review program. They almost immediately dismissed the game as dull. I continued to play through the game to the end, a process that I’d say took me around 10 hours. Now that my adventure is complete, I can say with some authority that it’s very pretty, occasionally brilliant, but yes, a bit dull.

If you like LittleBigPlanet’s exploded craft store aesthetic, you’ll love the look of Sackboy. The levels are all zippers and felt, burlap and cotton balls. There’s a handcrafted feel to the entire game that was once unique but now is getting a bit tired. As much as I admire the work that goes into it, the whole two-dimensional pop-up characters that look like stage dressing thing is wearing thin.

Unrelated screenshot of Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Unrelated screenshot of Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Screenshot: Nintendo

The gameplay is as soft and cozy as all of those lovely cloth textures. Sackboy is not a difficult platformer. While there are some levels in the game with mildly tense auto-scrolling, forcing players to keep up with the action on-screen or die, most of the game consists of relatively relaxed 3D platforming. Levels aren’t timed, giving players freedom to explore and hunt down collectibles. When I lose a life, the game is generally pretty quick about giving it back, as if it’s saying, “Don’t worry, I got you.” I’ve not felt particularly threatened at any point while playing through A Big Adventure.

To some, that’s dull. For me, it’s a pleasant enough Sunday afternoon. It keeps my heart rate nice and low, so I can get into the groove of collecting blue orbs, unlocking costumes, and listening to some excellent music. Seriously, the soundtrack on this game is wonderful. There’s a lot of lovely instrumental stuff, ranging from relaxing lobby tunes to dramatic and suspenseful music during levels that aren’t nearly as dramatic and suspenseful as the music would indicate. There are some wonderfully odd instrumental covers of pop hits. And then there are pop hits themselves: There’s a series of levels built around hit music tracks, including David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Brittany Spears’ “Toxic,” “Jungle Boogie” from Kool & the Gang, and of course, the ever-present “Uptown Funk.”

Sackboy's Uptown Funk

That right there is as exciting as Sackboy: A Big Adventure gets. The game’s got its fair share of cool platforming mechanics. In some levels you can use the R2 trigger to grab onto spinning rollers, sending Sackboy flying. I love the strange orblike creatures who make platforms and other level elements appear when Sackboy hits them. Mechanics like these make the game more interesting if only a little.

There are cooperative levels for up to four players, but I am but a single player, and online multiplayer support has been delayed. There are optional levels on the game map that require cooperation to complete, and those uncompleted map icons are going to drive me batty until online is patched in or I cave and put a pristine white Dualsense controller in the mitts of one of my grubby children.

Look at heem. Heem is dragon Sackboy.
Look at heem. Heem is dragon Sackboy.
Screenshot: Sony / Kotaku

For those with cleaner children than mine, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is exactly the sort of non-threatening video game that’s perfect for family game night. It’s charming, with a kid-friendly story and forgiving gameplay that won’t result in ugly tears. It might even inspire someone to one day work at a Michael’s or Joanne’s.

I am a Michael, one who has wished for a game like this for 11 years, since Sackboy first opened his big black beady eyes in LittleBigPlanet the first. Now I have it. Hooray.