Sackboy, the knitted pint-sized hero of the LittleBigPlanet games, is getting his own stand-alone adventure for the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 5. Unlike the LittleBigPlanet games, which gave players the ability to create their own games and share them with the PlayStation community, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a pure, action-focused, 3D platformer, designed with tight, fluid controls to match.
In other words, don’t expect Sackboy to control quite like he did in past LittleBigPlanet games — floatier and less precise — and for it to be much easier to slap your friends around.
“A platformer really lives and dies on its controls. So we we started with a blank slate,” Ned Waterhouse, design director of Sackboy: A Big Adventure, told Polygon in an interview last week. “We wanted a move set that was really easy and accessible for people, but that has some depth to it. And so what we did is we we expanded his move set. He’s obviously going to be able to jump, you can run, and grabbing and pulling stuff is a really important part of Sackboy. But then we added a bunch more moves. So we added a roll move and a flutter [jump] and ... a slap that was much easier to trigger. And when we expanded this move set, we said, ‘We need to be able to chain all of these things together.’ That’s where the depth comes from.
“It’s really easy to pick up and play this game. But you will find as you combine different moves at different times, you gain mastery as this character, the more time you spend with him.”
Those combinations of moves will carry over to the cooperative component of Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Waterhouse said, which supports up to four players. Players will be able to pick each other up and toss teammates around, and there are opportunities for “a little bit of lighthearted grief” in there, Waterhouse said. But he described the game as a collaborative experience.
“There’s lots of mechanics in there that encourage collaboration and teamwork, but we just wanted that little bit of mischief as well,” he said, “and I think that we’ve hopefully landed in a good place with that.”
Sackboy: A Big Adventure was designed to be both welcoming to new players, but also serve hardcore platformer fans, Waterhouse said.
“You can finish the main story using a small subset of Sackboy’s new moves … but you don’t have to master the character,” he explained. “That’s not say it isn’t without challenge, but you don’t have to understand all that nuance. If you want to master every level, set the highest scores, find all the secrets, unlock all of the content, and beat that content, you are going to have to learn how to master this character. It was really important for us to to make a game which had had broad appeal [but] for real, hardcore platform game fans, there’s that challenge.”
In addition to unlockable post-game content, Sackboy: A Big Adventure will feature “more hardcore platforming levels” and optional challenge levels called Knitted Knight Trials. Narratively, those trials are designed to let Sackboy realize his dream of becoming a Knitted Knight, one of the sworn protectors of Craftworld, Waterhouse said. The last remaining knight, Scarlet, reluctantly challenges Sackboy to the game’s most difficult challenges.
“These are a set of hardcore platforming challenges [with] quick-fire, arcade gameplay,” Waterhouse explained. “They’re all optional, but they are really fast assault courses where you get a single life. And that’s where you really see the nuance of this move set come into its own. The final Knitted Knight Trial is the game’s ultimate challenge: It’s a 10-minute level with a single life, which I refer to as my Everest, because much to the game design team’s disappointment, I still haven’t finished it. So some of my professional credibility is called into question there.
“There’s something for everyone in this game. It’s very welcoming and accessible. There’s an optional challenge for those players, for whom that really resonates with.”
Sackboy: A Big Adventure will be released on Nov. 12 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, where it will take advantage of the next-gen console’s faster SSD loading times and DualSense controller’s haptic feedback.