We can’t say we’ve been eagerly awaiting Sony’s first entry in the world of mobile gaming but we’ve been aware of the company’s plans since August last year when it first opened the Sony Studios Mobile Division. Since then, it’s been quiet on the mobile front, until it released Ultimate Sackboy – an auto-running game centred around a character that first turned up on the PlayStation 3.
And what’s stranger, this project hasn’t even come from Sony’s own studio. It partnered with Exient – a studio you may know from (but probably don’t) games like Lemmings and Planet 53. We’re not sure exactly what we were expecting from Sony’s first own IP mobile game, but it wasn’t this. Maybe a The Last of Us strategy game or something – but definitely not a Subway Surfers ripoff with Sackboy at the forefront.
But we can’t judge it too harshly just yet. It’s not even out yet. There is, however, a closed beta limited to a handful of countries, and South Africa is included. The rest of the world will need to wait for the full launch, taking place on 21 February.
Where’s the uninstall button?
We had to give it a try. It’s clearly not aimed at any demographic that hits double-digits, which arguably makes its other behaviour that much scummier. Say what you want about gameplay (it’s bad) but throwing a battlepass into a cheap mobile game and charging R140 for it feels like overkill. Just a smidge. We haven’t played many mobile games lately, so maybe that’s just how things are. Still, it doesn’t feel right.
It took a mere five minutes playing Ultimate Sackboy to know it wasn’t worth our time. We were expecting an endless runner, akin to that of Temple Run or Subway Surfers. No, this is a runner game, split into levels that unlock more skins and wearables for Sackboy than you’d find in Prince’s wardrobe. And if that wasn’t enough, you can earn even more skins by paying for that battlepass we mentioned earlier.
But enough about that. What is the gameplay like? Well, it’s not good. Don’t get us wrong, we weren’t expecting anything better than a standard mobile runner. Somehow though, this still managed to be slower and clunkier than games released more than a decade ago. Levels are exactly what you’d expect them to be – slow, continuous running where your only job is to dodge the obstacles and collect little orbs. We can’t fault them for that one – that’s the premise of the games it’s based on.
What we will say, is that it does a good job of bringing us back to the world of LittleBigPlanet. Just not in the way that we’d hoped. Ultimate Sackboy is at its best in the graphics department – looking decent for a not-too-hardware-focused mobile game. Maybe that’s why the gameplay feels so choppy.
Overall, Sackboy Ultimate could be fun if you fall into the age demographic that Sony and Exient are looking at and if you save your money for other, better things. Fortnite’s battlepass is only R100 and gives you loads more playability than this ever could. If you’re keen to try it out, you can on both Android and iOS. The full launch will take place on 21 February.