Game: Super Lucky’s Tale
Developer: Playful Corp.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed: PC (Controller recommended)
Not too long ago, sceptics feared the demise of the 3D platformer was nigh. Dated, overrated and antiquated, choruses of critique echoed across the blogosphere, but rather than the predicted obsolescence, we witnessed a rebirth; A Hat in Time launched a nostalgic arrow into our hearts, Yooka-Laylee‘s humour charmed the paigies off us, and the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane trilogy sealed the deal. The tides of fortune have favoured mascot platformers. So when a game entitled Super Lucky’s Tale is passed the baton, it’s incredibly difficult to not have high hopes.
As luck would have it, Playful Corp’s sequel to Oculus Rift exclusive Lucky’s Tale is charming in all the right places. A cute, playful vibe sweeps across its eye-catching worlds, resplendent in both colour and personality. Super Lucky’s Tale looks absolutely gorgeous, from its glittering constellations of coins, rotund trees, and soft-edged platforms, right down to the titular protagonist himself, whose bloodline indisputably shares common ancestry with Tails from the Sonic franchise (currently unconfirmed by SEGA). Lucky is an adorable, bushy-tailed fox on a mission to retrieve the magical Book of Ages, and ultimately, stop feline villain extraordinaire Jinx from abusing its power. Despite the cheesy, generic sounding plot, Super Lucky’s Tale thrives on cogent level design and a joyous mishmash of puzzles and platforming.
Lucky dashes through compact, neatly organised environments that mimic the linearity of Banjo-Kazooie, chats with endearing, gibberish speaking NPCs who capture the innocence on display in The Last Tinker: City of Colors, and tests your reflexes with a slew of Kirby Triple Deluxe style platforming that catapults you to the background for miniature-sized action. In contrast to A Hat in Time, its pure, lighthearted entertainment targets a younger audience and is extremely hand-held. Considering Super Lucky’s Tale demographic, this isn’t a bad thing, but it is overly done, especially the repetition of (and inability to skip) cutscenes in previously completed levels. There’s a total of five themed hub levels (Sky Castle, Veggie Village, Holiday Canyon and Spookington) which break down into sub-levels with various tasks to complete. Tasks are cute to a fault; Lucky helps Yetis wrap presents, activates switches to enable a country band to perform, and reunite robot heads with their bodies, and most importantly, it’s loads of fun.
Super Lucky’s Tale rests on a mild collectathon framework that tasks you with collecting coins and clovers, the latter functioning as currency for unlocking new levels. That’s it. No myriad of eggs, feathers or bananas. But Playful Corp cleverly conceals them inside secret areas represented by paw and question mark icons so it feels like you’re achieving something great. Let’s not forget the not-so-subtle throwback to Donkey Kong Country which has you spelling out the letters of ‘Lucky’ for an extra clover either. Combine all that with the smooth, symphonic melodies that shift from happy-go-lucky to sombre to flamenco, and the package is almost complete. From a mechanical perspective, Lucky’s moveset is basic, but is also implemented very well: the standard jump is springy with good reach, smashing into enemies with tailspin feels satisfying, but the highlight is burrow, a fabulous ability that lets Lucky insta-dig the ground for coins. Once again, Playful Corp demonstrates that how you use features is more important than what they are; a limited range of skills that have deliberate purpose outweigh a larger repertoire that don’t. Unfortunately, Super Lucky’s Tale‘s luck runs out there.
Rather than being innovative, the two-step camera feels restrictive, inconvenient and frustrating; I found myself repeatedly craving a 360 field of vision so I could complete 3D platforming sections more accurately. Even in 2D sections like Present Danger, there were inconsistencies with gripping onto edges and enemy detection. Combat in general would similarly benefit, particularly with refinements to stomping and jumping onto airborne foes. And while Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t as difficult as Yooka-Laylee, the health system can make it unexpectedly brutal. Instead of gaining hearts from enemies, they’re randomly scattered, and you begin with just three. This keeps Super Lucky’s Tale from becoming too easy, but it also keeps you on guard. Curiously, the boss fights are very forgiving, dealing out surplus hearts, which convinces me that Super Lucky’s Tale is more about having a fun, laid back experience and not a button-mashing hell of a roller-coaster ride with Canary Mary. So while it doesn’t reach the spectacular heights of Super Mario 64, there is a solid, immersive adventure that promises around 10 hours of gameplay. Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it will tempt your completionist side and bring lots of joy to fans of 3D collectathon games looking to expand their collection.
You can purchase Super Lucky’s Tale from the Microsoft store for $29.99 USD. It’s well worth it. Super Lucky’s Tale is an Xbox Play Anywhere title and runs on both PC and Xbox One/Xbox One X.
Full Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for purposes of this review.