The worst thing about Sackboy: A Big Adventure is trying to find a fault with it. Which of these fabulous crafty worlds wasn't absolutely perfect? Did any of the truly magical musical levels make my whole body vibrate with joy a little less than the others? Were any of the ingenious mechanics, the grappling hook, the sticky glue for running up walls, the jet boots, anything other than an utter delight? No, no, and hell no. Sackboy might have changed a little since his start in LittleBigPlanet in 2008, but his first appearance on PS5 proves he's still a PlayStation icon.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a platformer through and through, but one that has managed to hold on to the more imaginative parts of its Media Molecule legacy. On a mission to save his friends and the world as he knows it from the villainous Vex, our sackcloth hero must travel from planet to planet, defeating bosses, finding secrets, and - perhaps most importantly for the fashion-conscious - collecting adorable costumes so he can look extra adorable while doing it. Each planet hides a secret route to some hidden levels, timed Knight Trials that will have you racing access enemy riddled paths to win gold, and a store where you can spend your hard-won bells on new costumes to make Sackboy uniquely yours. I'm an Elvis yak kind of girl, but you might be a witch mountaineer or a tiger in a wig. I'm not here to judge.
As you trundle around exploring levels, you'll meet a cast of characters who have more personality in their brief appearances than some politicians display in a lifetime. It's hard to choose a favorite, but it's probably either the worried mother monkey who needs help finding her offspring, all while shouting at me not to bruise her bananas, or the airport robot who keeps having psychotic breaks, at one point to the tune of Britney Spears' Toxic. They make the levels feel like real worlds, rather than just prettily decorated obstacle courses, and the voice-acting is a delight. You'll hear Richard E. Grant doing his best bad guy, Dawn French as your guide Scarlet, and Simon Greenall (who British fans will instantly recognize as the voice of a famous advertising meerkat) as costume retailer Zom Zom.
The weirdness of this cast of characters is perfectly matched by the ingenuity of each level. Just when you get the hang of traversing one world and it's adorable but deadly enemies, something new is introduced. Sackboy can run through sticky goop to climb walls, use boomerang style device to hit buttons, foes and collect hard to reach items, hover along on jet boots, and use warp pads. That arsenal might sound intimidating at first, but they're only dropped into certain levels so you can be confident your failure is down to skill and bad timing, not because you're grappling when you should have been gooping. They're used sparingly too, so most levels are just down to Sackboy and his standard jumping, rolling, and punching. Boss battles are challenging but never smash your pad impossible, and bring back that nostalgic feeling of watching and learning a pattern of attacks before going in for the kill.
Admiring the scenery
The levels are short and sweet, and you can race through them with a speedrunner's pace if you have the timing, but you'll end up dawdling just to stop and admire the cardboard bananas, or the glittery blue ocean, or the walls covered in doodles. I'm not a person who goes hunting for every achievement or secret in a game, but every corner was such a delight to explore that I became obsessive about seeing every inch of them. Because of that, I found bonus mini-games - feeding fiery chilis to a monster was particularly memorable - and collected extra costume items I would otherwise have missed. Sumo Digital has created a beautiful universe of crafty themed planets, from jungles to an interstellar airport, each one with a handcrafted feel that glows with next-gen visuals.
One set of levels I'm desperate not to spoil but have to shout out are the musical ones. Featuring elite tier songs like David Bowie's Let's Dance, everything in these levels moves to the beat, from enemies to flashing lights and moving platforms. I ran through every single one at a giddy pace, singing along and tapping my feet and just soaking in the pure happiness of it all. The rhythm actually helps you judge when to make that jump or avoid that hazard, and all of the songs are such stone-cold classics that even forced replays due to unfortunate deaths felt like a treat.
Give me the sack
In the rush of next-gen hype, I hadn't expected Sackboy: A Big Adventure to be the game that grabbed my heart (and my strained attention) in a big warm hug and didn't let go, but it's just hours of pure happiness. I don't care if you're nine or ninety, or a ghost who hangs around the living room, you can't help but be won over by it. Even when you're done with the story, there are so many reasons to go back in just to try and ace a level, or beat your time in a Knight trial, or keep adding to your costumes, or to try some offline co-op with a friend. If you're a hardened gamer who is more interested in the brutality of Demon's Souls or the street swinging of Spider-Man: Mile Morales, know that Sackboy can hold his own with both of them and deserves a place in your PS5 must play list.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is out now on PS5 and PS4 in the US, and on November 19 in the UK. Online multiplayer will be added later this year, but offline co-op is available at launch.