What I'm Playing - No. 187
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS5)
Imagine you are Sackboy. You’re rolling around, living your best life, when all of a sudden this evil jester guy Vex shows up, kidnaps all your friends, and sets his world domination plan in motion. What do you do? You go on a Big Adventure to stop him, obviously! And there’s one sound reverberating through your mind the entire time. That’s right, it’s Britney Spears’ 2003 hit single, “Toxic.”
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a 2020 3D platformer released for PS4, PS5, and PC. It’s a very cute 3D platformer spinoff of the LittleBigPlanet series, but one of the things I’m going to remember most about it are its licensed music levels. There are only a couple of these in the game, so they’re more the exception than the norm, but you don’t play through a platformer level set to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and forget about it. These levels basically take the New Super Mario Bros. “enemies-dance-to-the-beat” concept and crank it up to 11. The entire level bops along to the beat, and the cannon flowers that shoot you to the next area even wait for the beat so that everything’s still synced to the music. These levels feel like a weird fever dream sometimes. Like I mentioned in the intro, there is a level set to Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” that’s real. The concept might sound gimmicky, but these were actually really fun, you can’t help but get a little hyped during these and it almost feels a bit like a rhythm game. The only downside of all these songs being in the game is that it’ll probably be a nightmare for games preservation someday. I can easily see it not being available digitally at some point due to licensing agreements expiring, unless Sony Music has pulled some strings or something and that’s the magical loophole that protects Sackboy from the licensed music curse that’s affected many games in the past (RIP original Alan Wake release).
Alongside the memorable music levels, there’s a very solid and enjoyable 3D platformer here. It’s a lot like Astro’s Playroom, but it also reminds me of Super Mario 3D World in a lot of ways, like how there are a few optional levels that can only be played in co-op. On that note, it also has full 4-player co-op, including local co-op, which is increasingly rare these days. It’s not too difficult, this isn’t Super Meat Boy or any other hyper-difficult platformer, but the platforming mechanics are fun. Sackboy has a flutter jump you can use in mid-air to stay airborne a little longer to get a bit more lateral distance. He also has a dodge that becomes a roll if you keep pressing the button, and you can pick things up to carry and throw them, including other players if you’re playing in co-op. You can also grab onto certain sponge-like surfaces, usually rotating or moving ones that you’ll have to jump off of with the right timing.
Side note: whenever I saw Vex or heard anyone say his name in the cutscenes, all I could think of is the early 2000’s 3D platformer “Vexx,” with two X’s. I still remember playing a bit of that game on GameCube back in the day and collecting some corrupted hearts, or whatever its primary collectible was. Shoutout to all the people who knew about Vexx before Matt McMuscles covered it on “What Happened?”
There are plenty of collectibles and secrets in the levels, and some of them are quite well hidden so you really have to keep your eyes peeled to spot them. The costume pieces and emotes are all optional, although I would recommend collecting at least a few so you have more things to mess around with in character customization, but you are required to collect at least some of Dreamer Orbs in the levels because you need them to unlock the gates before the boss of each world. You can’t get past them unless you’ve collected at least a certain number of Dreamer Orbs. I thought these limits for these were very reasonable, there was never a gate I reached where I hadn’t collected enough Orbs yet. It’s balanced well enough that as long as you’re making some effort to find and collect a few pearls in each level, you shouldn’t get stopped by any of these gates along the way. But you don’t need to worry about finding all of them in every level if you don’t want to, especially since some can be very well hidden. Was there a level that I completed without finding any of the Dreamer Orbs, despite trying to find some? Yes, yes there was.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is fairly short, with only five worlds in its main story and a sixth post-game world that unlocks after the credits roll. But within those five worlds, you have a fun variety of levels to play through, with a mix of basic platforming levels, auto-scrolling chase levels, and more, and the variety combined with the short runtime keeps any of it from feeling stale before you reach the end. My final time was about 7 hours to beat the main story. I didn’t try to do any of the post-game world because I saw immediately that I wouldn’t have enough Dreamer Orbs to get very far, but I imagine that could easily add a few more hours onto the experience.