Nintendo’s gamemaking processes can sometimes look a bit like alchemy from afar – they keep quiet for years, then spit out a masterpiece that defies expectations.
It’s a formula that clearly evokes envy around the industry, and Sony’s obviously eyeing Mario and Link’s mascot status with green eyes. Hence the return of Sackboy, whose creative outings in the LittleBigPlanet series didn’t set the world alight, but who has got some of that celebrity sparkle to him.
A Big Adventure is another of Sony’s hybrid launch games for the PS5, very much playable on the PS4 without missing out on much, but realised in high resolution and with some controller whizzbangs on the newer system. It’s a pure platformer, structured around contained levels that run through themed worlds, clearly copying from Mario’s long-public notes.
Sackboy’s even got a fairly obviously inspired moveset that apes the one from Super Mario Odyssey to a degree – you can roll around, jump and dive in mid-air for extra distance and more. The game does a good job of allowing you to learn these systems without foisting their more complex interactions on you much, unless you’re in the business of finding all the optional collectibles.
More widely, though, it’s surprising just how the difficulty ramps up in A Big Adventure – the first few levels are strolls in the park, but by halfway through there are platforming moments that demand actual precision, and certain sequences toe the borderline of frustration due to depth perception shenanigans. On the one hand, this is a welcome way of escalating your experience and demanding that you actually learn the mechanics of the game.
On the other, though, it’s a sign of slightly suspect design choices, and the absence of such issues marks the likes of Odyssey out as being superior. You can finish Nintendo’s masterpiece regardless of whether you know how to execute super jumps, but Sackboy doesn’t quite nail the same universality. Still, there’s something to be said for a sense of accomplishment.
The game’s simple story is, well, simply told, and the surprising appearance of dual talents Dawn French and, more implausibly, Richard E Grant, push through some rather ho-hum lines with class – fair play to them for that. Still, it’s nothing memorable, for all Grant’s scenery chewing.
On PS5, A Big Adventure does look simply great – it’s running in 4K and the hand-made quality of the world lends itself to details like seams, crinkles in paper and cloth-like textures nicely. That said, there’s a strangely washed-out look to some of the world that seems an intentional lighting quirk, and it might have benefitted from some more cartoonishly bold colours.
All in all, it might not be revolutionary but A Big Adventure is a fun day out, letting you get your gentle platforming fix and offering late-game challenges that will genuinely push more dedicated players closer to their ability limits. Mario it ain’t, but Sackboy might be on his way.