Sackboy debuts as the absolute protagonist of a 3D platform in which Sumo Digital wastes imagination to say goodbye to PS4 and welcome PS5.
Platformers have plenty of reasons to jump for joy. We are experiencing a resurgence of the genre in which Mario, Sonic and Crash Bandicoot, among other icons of the jump, have given us great deliveries. It seems like yesterday when these pets dominated the consolation scene and their games decided who would win or lose the generation. The plumber defended Nintendo, the hedgehog for SEGA and the marsupial for Sony. They were good times, but a lot has changed since then. The only one of the three who remains faithful to a single company is good old Mario, while Sonic – whose company no longer produces consoles – and Crash have embraced the multiplatform format. In the shortlist between Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, only the first one boasts a platform mascot that defends its colors. At least, until now.
In the transition to the new generation, Sony has bet on a new idol of the jump: Sackboy. It is true that we already knew the cute rag doll from his adventures in the great Little Big Planet, but never has such an intense effort been made to give him prominence as in Sackboy: A Big Adventure. There is no longer any doubt about its status as a symbol, as a platform star in an imaginary as marked by action, the open world and hyper-realism as Sony’s. Not surprisingly, the great adventure of Sackboy is one of the main arguments of PS5 facing its launch. A declaration of intentions and love for the platform that invites optimism to fans of the genre: PS5 will fight. With the chest split by a zipper worthy of the best Nomura, Sony finally gives the alternative to this mountebank toy and gives it the responsibility of giving the biggest jackpot of all: the jump to the next-gen.
A world tailored to Sackboy
Sackboy’s prominence goes beyond grabbing the cover and naming the game. Everything from the level design to the overall aesthetics of the work orbits around it. Sumo Digital has conceived a world tailored to the weight, rhythm and clumsiness of his movements, more similar to those of Yoshi, who loses life with each jump, than to Mario’s surgical precision. The opposite is true of, say, Kirby’s Dreamland. Sakurai prioritized the design of scenarios and enemies before that of the protagonist to guarantee the accessibility of the game, while Sackboy’s role in her great adventure is a pillar on which to build everything.
Starting the analysis with this reflection is important because it was not always like this. Throughout his lovable life, Sackboy has served more as promotional material than as a proper video game character. It happened in Little Big Planet, where the priority of Media Molecule – and Sumo Digital by a certain carryover effect – was always the creation and dissemination of levels among users. Sackboy was the visible face, the protagonist of a story with tutorial delusions. Lovely and much more elaborate than any twenty minute explanation at the beginning of a title, but a tutorial nonetheless. A means to an end, but never the end itself. In Sackboy: A Big Adventure, that has changed. Freed from his status as an ad-doll, the PlayStation mascot just has to focus on enjoying — and making us enjoy — his first great adventure.