From my perspective, no console launch is truly complete without an excellent platform game and thankfully, Sony and developer Sumo Digital deliver exactly that for PlayStation 5 with Sackboy: A Big Adventure. It’s a beautiful game, and a fascinating example of how one developer aims to straddle the generational divide – while Sackboy champions the power of PlayStation 5, there’s also support for PS4 and PS4 Pro too. The question is, has Sumo Digital delivered the kind of magic we expect from a platform exclusive next-gen launch title but at the same time still deliver a good experience for owners of existing PlayStation hardware?
First of all, it’s worth stressing that Sackboy: A Big Adventure may well be tapping into the characters and aesthetic of the Little Big Planet titles, but game concept itself is something quite different: think of it as 3D platforming experience more along the lines of Super Mario 3D World – fun, quirky, exciting and attractive. The key point of differentiation compared to the LBP titles is that there’s no creation mode. What you get instead is superb platforming, plain and simple, delivered with visuals that really put the underlying Unreal Engine 4 through its paces.
And that starts with the real-time 60 frames per second cutscenes, which look simply spectacular. As the camera zooms into the world of the Sack people, the sheer amount of detail on display is breathtaking but it’s the carefully crafted lighting and materials work that steals the show. The mix of volumetrics, glowing dynamic lights and ambient shading create something that looks and feels realistic and fantastical. It’s stunning. This is doubly true of the materials authored for the game. The physically-based sack material itself combines with small transparent alpha bits designed to simulate rogue fibres across the surface. Little Big Planet has always centered on real world materials, but Unreal Engine and impressive art design really allows it to shine. An exceptional bokeh depth of field also works in tandem with the dynamic camera work to create something stunning. Basically, the team is using many of Unreal Engine 4’s features in tandem with strong art direction to create something that looks almost like a pre-rendered film at times.