PlayStation's all star is back but it's different this time - in a good way!
Sackboy is but a simple creature — if we can even really call him a creature at all. He is a small, brown, knitted up collection of fabric, stuffed with what I assume is the same kind of shit that you put inside of a stuffed animal, sealed up with a chrome zipper that lines his torso. He made his first appearance in the game LittleBigPlanet when it was released exclusively on the PlayStation 3 on October 27th, 2008. This game, much like it successor LittleBigPlanet 2, which was released in 2011, emphasized an initiative that PlayStation was pushing that went by the tagline of “Play. Create. Share. Other games also used this same marketing technique and creation suite within their games, such as Mod Nation Racers and Joe Danger.
At it’s core, this phrasing simply meant that these games allowed you to do exactly what it says — play the game, create your own levels, tracks, etc. and then share them with the world so that they can be downloaded by other users devoting their time playing the same title that you are. It was supposed to extend the lifespan of these games and allow the players to keep them alive even when the developers may have moved on to future projects. I’d call it a success — because the response was warm, the games that featured this wording on their boxes reviewed very well and millions of creations spawned from it. But I’m sure, like a lot AAA releases, the sales weren’t as high as they were hoping they would be, so it wasn’t something that stuck around into the next generation of consoles.
The LittleBigPlanet universe would eventually expand, but not with its original developers behind the wheel — LittleBigPlanet Karting was released with United Front Games manning the ship and LittleBigPlanet 3 was handed over to Sumo Digital, who added new characters and a different world system that fans didn’t receive as well as the two versions of the game that Media Molecule had created. However, since the release of the third game under the LBP banner in 2014, we had not heard anything new about the franchise and it's long time supporters started to think that maybe this was going to be the end of Sackboy’s adventures.
There was the teased LittleBigPlanet Hub thing which never ceased to be, but we won’t even get into that.
Back in May of this crazy, wild, year, PlayStation shared the new opening animation for PlayStation Studios which you can watch right here:
It’s pretty standard — iconic PlayStation characters being displayed within text much like the Marvel Studios animation — but the most alarming thing to me about this video was the inclusion of Sackboy within it. Why would they showcase a character that has laid dormant for the last six years unless there was intention of bringing him back in some capacity? At this time we knew the reveal of the PlayStation 5 was imminent and that during that reveal they would showcase all of the games that we could expect to play on it and after seeing our beloved Sackboy featured in animation, I was certain that his return was on the horizon. Fast forward about one month and we are all getting a glimpse into the future of PlayStation as their digital event is unfolding and during that reveal we are blessed with the news that Sumo Digital is bringing Sackboy back in a brand new game called Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
Now clearly this is a play on words - including the word “big” within the title is obviously intentional but the reveal of the actual title of this game also showed us that PlayStation may be ditching the “LittleBigPlanet” branding altogether which, in time, I’ve realized may be the best move for the franchise going forward.
Think about your favorite video game mascots — Mario, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, Donkey Kong — each and every one of those is featured in a series of titles that are named specifically after them whereas Sackboy was always a namesake hidden behind the LBP moniker — he wasn’t front and center — some that played the game may not have even remembered his name in conversation because it simply wasn’t in the title. Dropping the old branding on a franchise that’s been absent for so long to start from scratch, reintroduce your mascot to a brand new audience and allow him to truly shine, is the right move and I’m happy that this decision was made for us.
But giving our little sack child the respect he deserves is only half of it — anyone that watched the reveal trailer may have also noticed that during it there wasn’t a single screenshot that gave us the impression that the “create” and “share” aspects of the game were at all going to be featured this time around - LittleBigPlanet 4, this is not. The trailer focused on the platforming, more-so in a 3D world rather than a side scrolling one — it let us know that co-op would be possible, we’d be able to dress our sack person up with different costumes, but not a single peep about level creation.
Which, again, may actually be the correct move for PlayStation and Sumo Digital to make.
To be completely honest, I never made a single level in any of those games and I absolutely adore them — they are legitimately some of my favorite video games ever made but I never wanted to even begin making a level of my own. Sure, I dabbled in the random stages I’d find online but I’d say 95% of the time I was playing the game that Media Molecule or Sumo Digital packed in the day one box or a DLC level that I paid for afterward. And if the majority of people that play the game are anything like me, then maybe it doesn’t exactly make sense for a studio to waste so much of their time on something that wasn’t being appreciated or fully utilized.
So maybe Sackboy: A Big Adventure will be exactly that — just an adventure. Something akin to Super Mario 3D World — actually, pretty much exactly like that. Bombastic levels to explore, tons of fun to be had and the ability to modify your character with the clothing you pick up along the way. And you can still release a plethora of DLC and microtransactions after the fact — new costumes, licensed new levels like we got with Toy Story or the Muppets in the former titles — there’s a lot of things they can do even if they cut out the creating and sharing aspects that made LittleBigPlanet, well, LittleBigPlanet — hence the requirement of the name being retired.
Regardless, I’m just happy to see PlayStation isn’t giving up on that little brown mess of yarn because when it comes to first party titles, they are severely lacking in the family-friendly mascot department and with the launch of a brand new console coming this Fall, there isn’t a better time to correct that oversight and give the people a character they can get behind.