Saturday, April 15, 2017

Run Sackboy! Run! (iOS, Android, Vita) Review

This weekend seems to be taking a mobile direction. I have no qualms with that! The next game to get the review treatment is Run Sackboy! Run!, a mobile spin-off of one of my favorite PlayStation franchises, LittleBigPlanet. As a fan, do I like this game? More importantly, if I wasn't a fan, would I like this game? Let's find out with the SuperPhillip Central review!

Is saying Run Sackboy! Run! is fun a pure fabric-cation?

The gaming world loves Mario, and many publishers have tried to come up with a character that even becomes half as successful as Nintendo's biggest star. There have been many contenders in the past with SEGA's Sonic the Hedgehog and Sony's own Crash Bandicoot, but both have fallen to wayside in popularity. Since then, Sony's PlayStation brand hasn't really focused on making a rival to Mario, at least until Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet came around starring the ever-customizable Sackboy. He's made big strides with his series built off of creation and curation, and he's even starred in his own kart racer. It seems he checks all the boxes of what a platforming mascot should be.

In 2014 on iOS and Android devices and then 2015 on the PlayStation Vita, Sackboy entered the mobile domain. Sackboy's adventure took the form of an endless runner, a genre that was in no shortage on mobile devices then and is in no shortage on mobile devices now. It takes a lot to distinguish oneself from the myriad other endless runners on the market, so does the LittleBigPlanet-themed Run Sackboy! Run! do enough to do so?

Well, not really. Sure, as I stated, Run Sackboy! Run! has the entire LittleBigPlanet dressing to it. It features the second game's antagonist the Negativatron chasing Sackboy as he runs along randomly pieced together sections of level, trying to avoid spikes, enemies, and other hazards. The levels themselves are generated in a way that makes every run different. Yes, you'll recognize beginnings and ends of level parts, but the way everything else is connected will vary. The game has multiple pathways, some leading to greater rewards but with higher risks, and environmental hints like arrows in the background and lines of bubbles reveal ways to smartly run and jump through the levels to survive.

The way bubbles are positioned in runs helps in determining when to jump.
The original LittleBigPlanet saw a multitude of unique areas, so it's a "little" disappointing that only three areas from that game appear in Run Sackboy! Run! You begin in the forested Gardens, then move to the science fiction haven of Avalonia, and then rush through the cactus-covered Canyons before starting the process over again only with altered visuals, closer together hazards, and a brisker running speed for Sackboy.

A run goes on until Sackboy takes damage from a spike or enemy (or other type of hazard) or gets caught in pink goo for too long and the Negativatron catches up to him and swallows him whole. If players have them, they can use a heart to revive Sackboy and continue the run from the point of death, but otherwise the run ends and the point total is tallied, added to a leaderboard. The goal is to reach the top of the leaderboard, devised up of character e close to the top of the leaderboard in the early going of the game.

When players begin Run Sackboy! Run!, they start off with no point multiplier at all, but as special goals are completed (like performing so many dashes in one section of the game or hitting a specific number of jump pads in one run), they gain Sackboy medals. When five are gained, a multiplier is added. Also, bubbles collected in various runs can be used to buy new costumes for Sackboy, also increasing the player's multiplier with each new costume purchased. These continued goals being laid out to the player is essentially the game's "carrot on a stick" that intends to keep them playing more and more.

You get three goals to attempt at one time with the option of skipping
particularly challenging goals by spending in-game currency.
And being able to play more and more isn't gated behind some lame stamina gauge or other gate that requires you to wait a specific amount of time before you can play again or have to pay money to do so. The only purchases available come in the form of bubbles, hearts used for continues, and permanent boosts like double bubbles. These are merely ways to get to the top of the leaderboards (either the in-game character one or Facebook-only one) more quickly. Purely inessential to the overall enjoyment of the game.

What Run Sackboy! Run! suffers from, however, is a twofold problem. For one, it doesn't take too terribly long for repetition to set in. Doing the same types of runs, grinding for bubbles, slowly getting enough to buy upgrades and new costumes, and so on and so forth-- it becomes stale after awhile. The second, and most disappointing, is how the developer of Run Sackboy! Run! merely made an endless runner with a LittleBigPlanet coating instead of a game that exudes and celebrates the many elements of the series. Whether it's being able to customize your Sackboy with different costume parts instead of just a handful of different costumes or even being able to create and share your own runner levels with friends and online-- I feel a ball has been dropped severely with how far the devs could have run with the LittleBigPlanet license.

As if the sharp barbs of the cacti weren't enough in the Canyons, there are these missiles to contend with!
That said, runs do offer some variety, as there are different power-ups that can be collected. These come in the form of bubble-attracting magnets, jetpacks that transform levels into pure flight sections where the goal is to hover along strings of bubbles, and a hang glider which is used to soar across distances. These power-ups offer temporary uses, but by spending bubbles, you can extend how long these last.

Propel Sackboy into these strings of bubbles for an excellent means to add to his wallet (and point total).
Another positive about Run Sackboy! Run! is the ease of the controls, regardless of if you're playing on a smartphone, tablet, or PlayStation Vita. Just tap to make Sackboy jump (a quick tap will do a short jump while a lengthier tap will do a higher jump), slide your finger to the right to have Sackboy perform a quick dash forward, and when enough bubbles have been collected and you desire to use it, tap the bottom left corner to initiate a protective shield around Sackboy which will block all damage from hazards and enemies (even allowing him to reach otherwise deadly alternate paths) for a short period of time.

As it stands, Run Sackboy! Run! is just a good endless runner that doesn't do enough to feel unique on platforms with so many better, more creative, and more distinctive endless runners on them. If you have no attachment to the LittleBigPlanet series, then you're probably not going to find too much to enjoy about this game. Fans of Sackboy and Media Molecule's franchise will have some fun here, much like I did, but it won't be too long before you feel like you're going through the motions and feeling strung along.

[SPC Says: C]

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