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Sackboy isn't the most established mascot in Sony's roster, but when paired with Media Molecule's brilliantly designed worlds he's certainly one of the most fun to fling around. Now, with less than a month before his next big gig in LittleBigPlanet 2, Sony has seen fit to cast Sackboy as the leading doll in his own LittleBigPlanet spin-off, Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves. Unfortunately for his career (and our wallets), his latest appearance feels more like a walk-on cameo than a full performance.
To be clear: Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves is a very capable game; there's just not that much “game” to go around. Originally developed as a tech demo for Sony's PS Move capabilities, Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves features six short levels and a smattering of minigames, all of which add up to a play time of roughly one hour tops – or slightly longer depending on one's interest in collecting shiny bubbles and virtual items of clothing.
For PS+ members that received this game for free, Sackboy's runtime shouldn't be an issue. However, for non-members who are required to pay $6 for the same privilege, one has to evaluate whether Media Molecule's ingenuity and Sackboy's charm are enough to justify shelling out lunch money for what could easily be confused for a celebrity-endorsed PS Move marketing tool. Oddly enough, the answer is yes... but just barely.
One of the biggest caveats to downloading Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves is that it is strictly a cooperative experience. Sackboy's controls are tied exclusively to the PS3's wireless controller while the PS Move wand is used to manipulate hotspots in order to lift, carry, toss or otherwise protect Sackboy throughout the levels. In this sense, playing the part of Sackboy's omnipotent hand of salvation is actually quite fun. Media Molecule has outfitted each level with a decent variety of hotspots, each of which is given its own unique functions and controls. Whether it's yanking dinosaur tongues, manipulating ledges, providing refuge against a meteor storm or raining fiery hot death on the game's final boss (spoiler: it's a T-Rex), the player assigned to the PS Move will rarely feel as though they're babysitting Sackboy while he has all the fun.
This emphasis on teamwork also means that those who prefer to play alone or outside of normal waking hours (check and check) are going to be at a severe disadvantage. True, it's technically possible to wield a controller in both hands and go at it like a spastic hermit, but the real enjoyment comes from working in tandem with a partner to move Sackboy from one deadly situation to the next. In short: if you're missing an extra player, it's probably best to spend your money on a single-player game. Or a dating service.
As far as presentation goes, Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves cribs its style, graphics and audio assets directly from the original LittleBigPlanet rather than next year's sequel. As a result, one never shakes the feeling that they're stomping around old territory that's been dusted off and repainted to fit the prehistoric motif. To its credit, Media Molecule does an excellent job of repurposing its old technology, giving players an intriguing (if limited) mix of locales such as the innards of a dinosaur, the depths of a volcano, or the stone-hewn buildings of Cro-Magnon City. It helps that each of these locations is also populated by scores of interactive wildlife, innovative puzzles and breezy platforming elements. All said, building this new game on the back of the first LittleBigPlanet doesn't necessarily take away from the overall quality of the game. Still, considering we're so close to LittleBigPlanet 2's release, it was a bit of a letdown to see Media Molecule take a step sideways instead of forward.
Overall, Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves is a strange beast. It's too good to be a demo, too short to be a game, too outdated to be a preview and imbued with too much care and character to be passed off as a PS Move advergame. Ultimately, then, it's not a matter of if you should play Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves, but how and when you should do so. If you're itching to put your PS Move to good use now, and have $6 bucks to burn, then by all means this can work in a pinch. If, however, you're patient enough to wait for its inclusion in LittleBigPlanet 2 next January, that is definitely the better bet. As for you PS+ elite, you may want to consider inviting one of us non-members over to play sometime. After all, it's all about working together, right?
Dec 23, 2010