Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review

KindaBigPlanet

Sackboy’s latest adventure will probably sound familiar to you. The happy-go-lucky home of Sackboy and all his chums has been torn asunder, and they’re off to save the day, guided as ever by a charmingly voiced cast of supported characters.

The big difference is that this isn’t LittleBigPlanet, it’s Sackboy: A Big Adventure, taking MediaMolecule’s beloved franchise and morphing it into a 3D platformer. There’s no creation here – though you can still style it up with collectable costumes – with the focus instead on co-op play that you can see through all the levels.

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The big bad this time around is the Vex. Sorry, not the Vex of Destiny milky robot fame, but Vex, the maniacal Jester that seems to have watched the Sideshow Bob episodes of The Simpsons on a loop for the last decade. He scoops up all the sack-people of Craftworld and starts putting them to work, with only Sackboy able to escape, snatching his plans and heading off in a rocket to try and put an end to them. Right away, Scarlet, an old adventuring Sackgirl, steps in to guide and mentor your journey.

You have to dive into level after level across five worlds from the Imagisphere, and not just make it through to the end, but find all the secrets and cubby holes where Dreamer Orbs have been tucked away. It’s these that unlock the boss battles at the end of each world and let you fly on to the next.

It’s all nicely put together. The game looks fantastic on PlayStation 5, taking the style of the LittleBigPlanet series and fleshing it out to feature 3D platforming. With four player co-op in mind, theres similarities and parallels that can be drawn here to Super Mario 3D World. There’s multiple paths to take through many areas, arena-like spaces where you’ll do battle with cutesy Uproar monsters, and also plenty of opportunity to slap anyone you happen to be playing with.

The problem is… it’s just a bit dull for a long stretch at the beginning. That’s certainly accentuated by playing solo, but even grabbing a partner to play with you feels bland. Better, but bland. The story takes a very hands off approach as Scarlet and other characters only rarely interject, so there’s barely any drama to keep you engaged. Again, it’s pretty, but there’s not quite enough to keep you hooked through the first few worlds.

Some of that, I think, comes from the music. Sumo break out a contemporary The Go! Team track for an early level, but the level as a whole is quiet, muted, like a ray traced reflection of the iconic Get It Together track from the original game. The first level I truly enjoyed saw the game really embrace a licensed track, having the whole level bouncing and bopping along to the tempo and refrains of Uptown Funk in a joyous fashion, but that contrasts to all the levels which aren’t as vibrant and are backed by Muzak soundalikes of popular tunes – it goes so far as to have a not-quite-Futurama tune for a sci-fi level. The game pulls that same trick a few more times – David Bowie’s Let’s Dance was another highlight – but even that starts to wear a little thin as you realise the level is constantly waiting for the music before it can progress.

The wider level design that’s intended to accommodate four players means that difficulty starts low and only very gradually picks up. It’s also quite forgiving – getting hit once by an enemy won’t send you back to a checkpoint, but a second hit will. There is a turning point as levels start to use more and more power-ups after the second world – around a third or half the way through the campaign.

The first sign of this comes with orange gloop that lets you run up walls, later getting your hands on Iron Man-style hover boots and pew-pew hands and the LittleBigPlanet 2 grappling hook. It’s here that the game makes the most sense, when it’s pulling the same kind of side-scrolling platforming tricks as classic LittleBigPlanet 2 with bounce pads and grapple points combining for some high-intensity sections and lightning fields and spikes to avoid, but then throwing in moments where 3D can come to the fore. By the end, the difficulty has been ramped up pretty high, evoking the kind of challenge that the original LittleBigPlanet games managed, and further challenge awaits after beating Vex for the final time, with more levels to tackle and a drive to collect more and more of the Dreamer Orbs to unlock them.

An extra disappointment is that you are Sackboy and only ever Sackboy, despite Scarlet being a Sackgirl. Of course you can play dress up through the game, with some of the earliest costumes to unlock or buy being for Red Riding Hood and a punk rocker girl in a tartan skirt. We’re at a point now where girls, women and non-binary people should be able to choose to be referred to as Sackgirl, Sackling, Sackthing or a handful of other options in the cutscene dialogue, but there’s no option, and it leaves Sackboy: A Big Adventure feeling a bit behind the times.

Update: We have locked the comments section of this review due to some overly toxic and inflammatory comments. These comments will also be moderated over the next 24 hours.

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Summary
Sackboy: A Big Adventure starts off slow, feeling like a hollow reflection of the franchise, but eventually grows into its new 3D platforming elements. It's at its best when it blends the new with the old, when there's power-ups, side-scrolling and a meaningful challenge, but it takes a bit too long to get it together.
Good
  • A solid, well put together 3D platformer
  • Later worlds and power-ups are more challenging and more enjoyable
  • Looks gorgeous on PS5
  • Plenty of side-levels and challenges to tackle
Bad
  • Early worlds in particular feel bland and uninteresting
  • Can't be referred to as Sackgirl or be non-gendered
  • Soundtrack is full of Muzak soundalikes
  • No online multiplayer at launch
7
Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

35 Comments

  1. “ Can’t be referred to as Sackgirl or be non-gendered”
    I have read it all now, this has to be a petty statement lol

    • Ridiculous aint it lol

    • Yeah I just can’t get on board with that one bit. He’s a boy, why should it be possible to refer to HIM as a girl?

      • Sackgirl also exists as well, as evidenced by Scarlet in this game. Far as I’m aware, the LBP games have typically referred to the characters in non-specific terms. Sackperson, “my dear”, “little thing”, etc. So why not, when you can still dress up in feminine attire or as female characters like Red Riding Hood, let players pick from two or three terms?

    • I think it’s a fair comment. For a children’s game you would have thought they would have included all intended audiences.

      • Nonsense. Mario, boy, Sonic, boy, countless other kids game characters and nobody ever said anything, because they’re boys and there’s no problem.

  2. “We’re at a point now where girls, women and non-binary people should be able to choose to be referred to as Sackgirl, Sackling, Sackthing or a handful of other options in the cutscene dialogue, but there’s no option, and it leaves Sackboy: A Big Adventure feeling a bit behind the times.”

    What happened to this site 😂🤡 no wonder no one comments on here anymore. Absolutely woke nonsense.

  3. I scrolled past the review to the score first, saw the bad point regarding gender and thought it surely had to be some sort of wind up.

    Honestly can’t believe you’ve listed this as a negative.

    #Sackthingsmatter lol

  4. Interesting that you find so many levels bland – other reviewers find them delightful. I guess I might just have to try it myself to see which side of the fence I land on. Do you think it would be better if you played it co-op?

    Also, I am probably the most liberal and progressive person I know, but I am not on board with your criticism of only being able to play as Sackboy. The game is literally called “Sackboy: A Big Adventure.” Are we upset when a Mario game only lets us play as Mario? Were we annoyed that we could change Aloy’s clothes but not play as Rost? Would the games be better if Laura Croft was non-binary? I really think that video games should feature diverse casts with varying identities but I think the LGBTQ community is secure enough to tolerate a male puppet. Making every protagonist in every game all identities seems more like pandering than genuine inclusion.

    • Visually there’s all lovely, but the pacing of the first half of the game is very slow and unchallenging. I’ve seen that criticism a few other places, but it does get better in the second half.

      I’m not advocating for all games to have gender options, but in this case I believe it’s a valid point. There’s history in the franchise of not having gendered dialogue referring to the player character and you’re playing dress up with a character that is to all intents and purposes a blank slate. Doesn’t matter the marketing on the front of the box, it could be an option.

      • Have you heard yourself 🤡 you’re in your own little progressive (regressive) twitter bubble. The vast majority of people don’t think like this, thankfully.

      • This site used to be my go to for gaming news, but you started pushing this nonsense. And I’ve noticed hardly anyone comments anymore. You nuked your own site, same as IGN.

      • I honesty can’t think of one AAA platforming game which presents the player with the option to play as a male/female/non-gendered character all the way through. That you would critique (and seemingly down-score) this game for not including those options is completely baffling and casts doubt on your objectiveness and credibility as a reviewer.

        I don’t mean to be overly critical I just think you’ve got it very wrong with this review.

      • Well, there’s Tearaway, Coco in Crash 4, Peach in the co-op Marios, Barbara in Rayman Legends (once unlocked), and I’d count LittleBigPlanet as well. It’s rare, but not unheard of.

        Reviews are inherently based on opinions. I can say that the score here would be the same 7/10 with or without a gender option.

      • So in your opinion a seasoned gamer is likely to find the first part of the game pretty boring? Perhaps it’s more the speed of a new gamer?

    • None of those characters are non-gendered though, so it seems like you’re holding this game to a standard which doesn’t exist.

    • I just want to clarify that my objection is to token inclusion rather than genuine inclusion, and for knocking down a score for not doing something that most games don’t do. I personally agree with Tef that it is a missed opportunity to make the puppets a blank slate which can be completely customized. Tef clarified that this dynamic ultimately didn’t affect his score. He is not writing “The Correct” view of the game, he is giving his opinion – which is exactly what a review should be. If this type of stuff affected his enjoyment of the game then so be it.

      I find it very disappointing that in 2020 there are still people mocking inclusion in comments sections such as this one. The world is big enough for everyone and we’re all the better for it.

  5. I don’t really understand why so many people are getting so wound up by the suggestion of having the option to select a gender for the character. In this sort of game it would have been so easy to implement and maybe make a few players just feel that bit more included. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? It wouldn’t be taking anything away from anyone.

    No one is suggesting Mario should be renamed to Maria or any such like. Stop overreacting and getting upset over things that don’t actually affect you.

    • Some people seem to work on the theory that having 2 options somehow magically takes away their preferred option. And that their preferred option is the only right one, and anyone who disagrees is some sort of whatever term they think is an insult this week.

      They also seem to take any suggestion of completely harmless options that wouldn’t affect them in any way as some sort of attack on them.

      And probably think Trump won his election last week.

      I’ll accept that it should only be Sackboy if proof of his gender can be provided. Good luck finding proof of his little knitted penis. (And if the internet has already done that, then can someone please just push the entire planet straight into the sun. The universe would be better off without us)

      • It’s shocking how triggered people are getting over this review. It’s a harmless suggestion and it’s only a good thing that video games are becoming more inclusive. It’s providing more options, not taking any away.

      • Do you have TDS? 🤡People like you are the reason many have left this site. Others have said you’re a reason for it. Constantly morally grandstanding, thinking you’re morally superior to everyone… You’re not, you’re a bigot.

    • For me it’s just hard to articulate a nuanced opinion on the internet where everyone’s biases influence their interpretation of comments. My main point was that it seems unfair to knock a game points when other games aren’t held to the same standard (there was no mention in the Mario Odyssey review that you couldn’t play as Peach – we just accept the protagonist as-is). But at the end of the day Tef can do whatever he wants on his website, and fair enough.

      Sadly others in this comment section have an objection to diversity generally, which is a shame.

  6. Not beingable to be sackgirl..
    Well, you have idea how to review a game.
    I thought thesixthaxis wasnt on board with the femino-woke movement.
    Consider me disappointed

  7. Nice review as always Tef.

    I notice a few trolls came out of the woodwork, but you’re right, these games always did carry that option, quite deliberately. Think it was more of an oversight than a conscience decision though… Sackboy is the name, but yeah, they deliberately left it non-binary after that.

    It’s not a negative that affects me, but may disappoint some. So definitely the right decision to mention it, I doubt it affected your overall score for the game much anyway.

    Back to the game… Little Big Planet for me always shined with the user created levels, whether it was me creating some diabolical challenge so I could laugh as my family tried to complete it, or just exploring genuinely wonderful creations others had uploaded. The platforming was never the draw for me. One I’ll keep my eye on, to pick up during a future sale I think.

    • Critisms= trolls to you?

      There’s a reason your site isn’t a popular as it used to be. Imagine dismissing criticisms as trolling. You’re the troll.

      • You are making this comment section worse by demeaning the site and it’s visitors. People writing these articles and comments are actual human beings and it’s unpleasant to see comments like yours. If you are so disillusioned with this website then feel free to visit websites where they welcome insults.

      • Yes, only these people are human beings lmao. If you don’t like seeing my comment then scroll past.

        And I do go to other websites more mow, and I wasn’t the one who started her insults, the original comment called is trolls, I said he’s the troll instead, but I’m the one being insulting? 🤡 Funny how you only take issue when I say it. It’s almost as if insults don’t bother you, but only the people who use them. You’re transparent.

      • Calling everyone a clown or a bigot for having a different opinion is not a criticism – that’s just insulting.

        The staff members at TSA do a fantastic job, giving up their free time to provide up to date news and reviews for the benefit of readers. They don’t deserve to be insulted for having a different opinion.

      • Urr…. Colmshan called people trolls first for criticising, so I called him a bigot, which was correct.

        But its OK when someone you agree with throws insults, I guess? 😂 Hypocrite.

  8. I used to love TSA but it’s died in the last couple of years and the garbage they’ve written on this review here today is the last straw. I won’t be back as of now.

    Bye then, no one cares etc etc…yep, I know. Last straw with this garbage in reviews that I used to trust and respect though.

    • Same. I won’t give any other articles the clicks, I’ve kept this page open to see the vast majority of comments criticise this dumb article, and see if anyone replies to me. But that’s it, this site is dead.

      Go woke, go broke.

  9. Perfectly valid point you’re making in your review, and it sounds like for you it’s just one minor issue. For those trolls, however, it’s big and they flock in and cause a lot of useless discussions and bash the website and the people on here at a personal level. They’re probably just frustrated the troll of all trolls got fired last week. Please keep doing what you’re doing and never give in to trolls.
    I never liked LBP, to be honest, I always found these games overrated, but it’s still a shame they failed this opportunity to make it something better.

  10. Not sure why everyone is so upset about StefanL’s comments. If people are that upset by a suggestion that Sackboy could have been marketed as not having a specific gender (allowing inlcusion and imagination to be widneded when it comes to people playing the game), and want to leave the site because of it….then good riddance.

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