A great adventure for the new generation of consoles
In 2008, the Playstation unconsciously paved the way for a new mascot to join the shoe the size of a bandicoot left at a wake. Media Molecule did a great job bending Little Big Planet with intuitive design tools, unique aesthetics and some advanced loading platforms. While Little Big Planet 2 expanded the idea by adding more levels and settings, Little Big Planet 3 seemed like a step backwards for many fans.
When Media Molecule started working on Dreams, Sumo Digital took the rights in the form of a bag and created a much broader name with lots of new characters, but did nothing else to expand what we had seen before.
With the new generation of consoles in front of us, Sumo Digital returns to a much more streamlined experience by eliminating the old-fashioned creative modes and producing the good old-fashioned platform – the sackboy style. Level design has always been one of the strengths of this series and of Sackboy: A great adventure is no exception to the rule. It is an excellent platformer that transforms everything we have seen so far into a coherent, complex and entertaining title.
The story is quite simple and revolves around a puppet with a megalomaniac named Vex. Sackboy decides to take over Craftverse with his super-powered weapon known as the Tospy Turver. He must get the Dreamer’s Orb back and stop Vex before it’s too late.
This simple story ultimately forms the basis for the formation of platform levels. During your 6-8 hour adventure, the main levels of the story are presented on a simple map that appears to be torn from Mario. At the edge of each world are flat gates that prevent you from reaching distant worlds until you have collected a certain number of Dreamer’s orbs (more on this later).
Visually, the game clings to the same jokes and ideas we’ve seen before in this franchise. In the world of crafts there is a certain aesthetics of decorative and applied arts, which puts cardboard animals and monsters in the background, many engravings and other small artistic decorations that can feed the feeling that all this is happening in the world of crafts.
It’s strange that the game sometimes seems a bit boring, especially in the levels that are played indoors. In most of these dark and gloomy areas the same type of color appears and is highly dependent on neon traces.
Given the abundance of materials in the world of crafts, it sometimes seems as if few different means have been used to put everything together, which is a bit embarrassing.
Fortunately, the basic levels of the story are funny enough to take a look at the past, before mentioning a lot of secondary content. The multiplayer levels here are a real gem, even though they depend heavily on teamwork. There is a great sense of camaraderie, and with the ability to have up to 4 players at once, there are great puzzles that keep everyone together despite some mid-game jokes that inevitably break out.
You also have your standard race, called remix levels, with a race against the clock and a handy time calculation to try and win the illusory gold on each of these levels around the world. These ideas also extend to the Knitted Knights events, which work in the same way as the Arcade levels when you go outside, removing all aesthetic details and relying heavily on speed and accuracy to beat the clock.
Fans of the franchise will feel comfortable with the controls, but for those who don’t, Sackboy will quickly make your job easier by letting you work with different mechanics. They have an X for jumping, an R2 for grabbing, a square for piercing and several combinations for special moves, including a head on the ground (X followed by a triangle) and a spin attack (O followed by a square).
It is a fairly simple structure, but it expands intelligently when the game is enriched with various bonuses.
They come in three different versions, with a jetpack that lets you float for a long time, a boomerang that lets you eliminate your enemies and shoot forcibly at obstacles, and a grappling hook that lets you reach distant places. These bonuses are based on level and are well distributed throughout the adventure.
Another variety of procedures is a multitude of minibots, chase sequences and specific obstacles in a particular world. They range from shoals of fish and crabs to fire pits and signal bridges.
But the most striking level comes from the musical and thematic segments. In fact, the soundtrack itself is one of the strongest this year in the games with a number of pop artists giving their music for the adventure.
From Toxic Britney Spear to Jungle Boogie to Uptown Funk, everyone works with the obstacles on the flat. Everything pulsates and moves to the rhythm of the music, with collector’s tables, monsters and even flames jumping and dancing to the music. It’s a great joy and it’s great to break into the action with some of the most intense presenters – especially at the end of the night.
In fact, when it comes to platforms, Sackboy really excels. There are several very ingenious and challenging levels, which include everything from portals and blown trains to deliciously deceptive nuns to finish the game.
Where Sackboy slips a little higher, even though it is in pattern series that are rather monotonous and largely based on the same ideas that are told over and over again. So Vex has three different boss sequences that use the same mechanics; he jumps over neon peaks and waits until he drops the bomb before sending it back. Wash and repeat.
There are a few variations on this mechanism, but when you come across them again – including a little deceptive jump that takes you off balance – they generally seem uninspired. I’m sure you’ll be itching to fight again.
Those who want to collect everything will surely be in their element here. There are many collection cards that must be included at all levels; there are some well-placed secrets that require both patience and perseverance to complete the task.
Levels also include your usual Aced stamp, which you can see in LBP alumni games (complete the level without dying), a bronze, silver or gold trophy for reaching a certain point, and an additional marker indicating whether you have collected all the prize bubbles in that level.
Without the method of creation, these prizes no longer revolve around objects that can be used in creations. On the contrary, collectibles are strictly aesthetic and simply serve to complete your wardrobe with many different costumes.
To be honest, it’s really become secondary, and unlike the old games, capturing these collectibles doesn’t fill you with exactly the same sense of wonder and excitement as before – despite the iconic pop sound effect it brings back.
Payment for these cabinet accessories comes in the form of collector’s bells, a special gold force that you can use on the levels with the usual white balls, although less often than the latter. There are a few small mini-games organized by Zom Zom (your local dealer who looks at several world maps), and when they are finished, you will be put in a bag with 80 to 200 collectible bubbles, depending on your knowledge.
Towards the end of the game things also become a little boring as the door levels require up to 200 dream orbs to unlock the contents of the postman. However, to gain access to Vex in the final round, you must release 160 pounds.
Depending on the length and complexity (and these balls are certainly not easy to catch), there are between 3 and 5 on each level, which can be an exhausting participation for those who have walked to the end to see the end.
Fortunately, the aforementioned derived content and multiplayer missions play a major role in raising these figures, so it should not be too difficult to achieve this goal. Given the amount of content, those who want to reach 100% here will probably have to double their normal working hours from 6 to 8 hours to get it all in.
As an introduction to a new generation of consoles, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a large, daring and colourful platform game that compensates for all visual flaws with an excellent design and a gruelling soundtrack.
While the Ori and Will Of The Wisps and Crash 4 are likely to remain the biggest winners of 2020, Sackboy is a worthy opponent at their side and a great opportunity to celebrate the release of the new console version.
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