Sackboy: A Big Adventure sells itself as a family-friendly platformer, and for the most part, that’s true. Yes, the difficulty ramps up as you near the end of the story, but a generous approach to checkpoints and easily replenishable extra lives mean you can usually breeze through every level on your first attempt, even if you haven’t mastered every platforming mechanic in the game.
But there’s one enormous caveat to that rule: The Ripsnorter. This challenge might just be the most intense, sadistic experience I’ve ever had in a modern platform game, let alone one that’s geared towards kids. Though I’ve conquered it after hours of attempts, the pride I feel for doing so is eclipsed by the nagging questions bouncing around my head. Are the developers at Sumo Sheffield just straight-up evil? Do they want to make the children of the world suffer?
Before I get into exactly what The Ripsnorter is and why it’s such an absurd challenge, just a quick warning: This article will spoil the nature of the level, and it does include a video of me completing it. If you’d like to go in completely fresh, you might want to come back later.
To unlock The Ripsnorter, you’ll first need to earn a medal in all 15 of the game’s Knitted Knight Trials—essentially time trials of specially designed levels that you unlock by finding collectibles in some of the main levels of the game. Each trial focuses on a particular type of enemy or obstacle, and while it can be tough to get a gold time on each one, it’s not too difficult that you won’t prevail with a little perseverance.
As you play through, the game reminds you that there’s a 16th trial waiting once you’ve mastered the others, though it doesn’t reveal anything about what it is.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I booted it up to discover that The Ripsnorter is, in fact, all 15 of the preceding Knitted Knight Trials linked together into one continuous level without a single checkpoint. To earn gold (and unlock the game’s hardest PlayStation Trophy) you’ll need to finish with less than 10 minutes on the clock. In practice, you’re likely to play it for a bit longer than that, since you can find collectibles that knock a couple seconds off your timer here and there as you progress. In practice, it took me just under 11 minutes on my successful attempt. That means more than 10 minutes of platforming, sometimes precision platforming, without falling. You do have a small bit of leeway, in that Sackboy does functionally have two hit points. If you’re damaged by an enemy or trap, you have one more chance to make it through the rest of the challenge, but there’s no way to replenish that hit point.
No individual section is too challenging, but stringing them together into a lengthy marathon amplifies each potential pitfall considerably. You’ll essentially need to memorize the best route through the entire level if you want to succeed, since it’s far too risky to improvise the whole way through.
Here’s a video of my successful run:
You’ll notice it’s far from a perfect run. There’s plenty of room for me to optimize (not that I will). I nearly fall at least a couple times, and I take a hit—that single freebie—about three-quarters of the way through. I even pause the attempt about 36 seconds in because I thought I’d already lost. (Also, regrettably, I’m wearing a dumb-looking jester costume. I’d have put on a different outfit if I knew this was going to be my successful attempt.)
By far one of the most sadistic things about the level, though, is that it’s actually a little easier than you’re led to believe. The final area of The Ripsnorter is actually not much of a challenge at all. When you encounter this section as a standalone trial, it kicks off with the game adding 2 minutes onto your clock. Then you need to race to collect as many time bonuses as possible to lower the ticker, getting it all the way down to 70 seconds if you want to get gold. But when you reach that point in The Ripsnorter, no time is artificially added onto the clock, and you’re not trying to outrun anything. Instead, it’s a fairly leisurely trip littered with abundant time bonuses, allowing you to shave a decent amount of time off your total. Judging by the splits alone and taking the time reductions into account, this portion of The Ripsnorter actually took me around negative 30 seconds to complete.
But since it’s the last section of the challenge, you have absolutely no way of knowing this until you’ve, practically speaking, already won. I’d assumed I had very little room for error in all of the preceding trials. Simple math meant I’d need to complete each of the 15 sections in an average of 45 seconds to get the gold time overall. On some sections, that’s a pretty tight pace. What’s more, I assumed I’d need to make even better time, since I anticipated the final section would tack on an extra 2 minutes and force me to claw my way back.
So as I worked my way through each section, I made a strenuous effort—what I thought was a necessary effort—to find the most optimal routes through earlier sections, only slowing down on some of the trickier middle portions, where I knew I was more likely to die if I rushed. In actuality, I could have played at a much more casual pace, since I could’ve wasted 90 seconds and still nabbed the gold.
Looking back, the finale comes off like the punchline to a joke being had at your expense—or maybe the final twist of the knife. Don’t you feel silly for struggling so much, so needlessly? And that, I think, is what makes it such a fitting end. It’s the punctuation that elevates The Ripsnorter from a seemingly impossible challenge to a truly memorable, devilish feat of platform game design.