Sackboy, it has been too long my happy little friend. LittleBigPlanet 3 was all the way back in 2014, and a lot has happened in the meantime. Now the little hero is back for an adventure in full 3D.
Spinning a yarn
The world is in trouble once more, because a new enemy is on the move, kidnapping sackpeople to build a nefarious machine. This new enemy uses gadgets, trickery and the power of nightmares to infect the world and now it is up to you to fix everything. Unless you play with friends online or in couch co-op, you better get used to going it alone, as almost everyone is corrupted or kidnapped. Well, except for a kindly elder and a weird little shopkeeper, that is.
CraftWorld is gorgeous with stitches, carpets and sequins everywhere.
You have a lot of work ahead of you, as your new enemy has used the force of nightmare, called The Uproar, to unsettle things. At first the effects are pretty subtle, but as you travel from planet to planet to get to try and fix things, the worlds get tougher and weirder. Thankfully they are almost always charming as you collect Dreamer Orbs, new costume parts and try to get a high score on every level.
Same old threads
The joys of Sackboy: A Big Adventure are very similar to those of LittleBigPlanet. Each level feels meticulously crafted, full of joy or clever usage of cardboard to bring about that feeling that you are living in a place made by the inhabitants who have access to a nearby craft store. Levels are dotted with little cardboard people going about their routine while you bounce around on the heads of colourful enemies and hunt down various orbs. Some of them are cleverly hidden off-screen, requiring you to look around for places to jump, bash or reach, while in a few situations you will want to use reflexes to nab a collectable, especially on the levels where the camera constantly moves, forcing you to keep up or get left somewhere off-screen.
Sometimes you will finish a level without collecting many of the various things available, which is fine for now, but might lead to some problems later. There are gates in later world areas that require a certain number of Dreamer Orbs in your bank before you can bypass them. This isn’t new for anyone who has played many platformers before, but the amount required at later levels means you better be on the lookout and ready to play most levels more than once. Most levels are pretty short, meaning a replay for more orbs or a high score won’t take too long and in general, the game offers pretty frequent checkpoints so that you never have to worry too much about accidental deaths when trying to find secret areas in hard to reach areas.
Moving away from 2.5D to 3D has given Sumo Digital a lot more space to work with, and this shows in the various puzzles and set pieces. Whether you are speeding down a river on a boat in the jungle or diving into the ocean to hunt down treasures, there is a whole lot more going on on-screen than before. Besides making for new hiding places, some levels change the camera forcing you to pay attention. Some of these angles made it feel like I lost my depth perception, while sometimes it was just forcing me to focus on the immediate threats, like fireball firing turrets that you need to jump on to get rid of before jumping across onto another platform. Most times it works, but some of the angles I found made it very difficult to judge depth properly, especially if you have one of the busier outfits on your character.
Moving to 3D makes some of the cardboard cutouts look even more ridiculous, but still just as cute as they move around. For the most part, they stick to their plane, but once or twice the game points them out, like a bunch of monkeys with cardboard cutout bananas. CraftWorld is gorgeous, with stitches, carpets and sequins everywhere.
In the years since the last outing, we have seen many big platformers that shaped the conversation, and it feels like Sumo Digital paid attention to some of the good work in the genre of late. One example is a fun-filled take on Rayman’s music levels. While Sackboy’s music levels aren’t about finding a perfect line and running all the way, elements of the stage bob, move and disappear to the beat as you play through several popular songs. Seeing everyone bob to the beat and spike traps firing in precise patterns were quite the sight, as was hearing which songs got the nod for the various fun planets you visit on your journey.
Sackboy doesn’t have weapons, but a few tricks can be found in levels. The game slowly introduces the various gadgets before on later levels, everything gets tossed together for a pretty tough challenge. Between a boomerang that can activate far off switches or teleporters, a grappling hook and more, there are some fun toys for interacting with the world around you. Still, I find the best puzzles are the ones where you just quietly figure out by yourself instead of having a flashy gadget, like planting seeds or carrying a critter around a level to reach one treasure.
Don’t be fooled by the cuteness and the easy start, though. This game ramps up quite a lot as you progress, and just like some other platformers, the real challenge is after the credits, when the game becomes truly demanding. Better get your fingers in shape for this one.
Sackboy doesn’t exactly tread new ground, but it makes the transition from 2.5D to 3D with ease and keeps all of that LBP charm. Grab a friend and have some fun, or try to chase down every Dreamer Orb and outfit piece as you slowly master every level.