It’s been a weird year for platformers. One would have expected the triumphant return of some of gamings legends in the form of Playtonic Games and their debut, Yooka-Laylee to have been something of a home run. Alas, it was not, with me cursing the game and being bored with it from start to finish. Super Lucky’s Tale then has an uphill battle, being a brand new game published by Microsoft and exclusive to Xbox One and PC’s everywhere. So does it manage to because a new original platforming franchise, or was this series doomed from the offset? As is always the case when it comes to these questions, it’s a little bit of both.
The game starts out with a little intro detailing Lucky’s (the main fox protagonist) sister having stolen a magical book which a group of cats, called the litter (look into this), are after. Having crashed near Lucky, the book opens, transporting Lucky and the litter gang into it’s magical world. It’s here the the starts proper – controlling Lucky you make your way through the first overworld, and make your way into the only unlocked stage, world 1-1.
Here you get a feel for what Super Lucky’s Tale will entail – the stage is laid out in a similar way to the rest as you make your way through, and teaches you how to jump, how to interact with items in the environment, and even how to earn all 4 lucky clovers on each stage. These game mechanics will repeat throughout the 5 hour campaign, and whilst they’re simplistic, it’s gratifying all the same.
You see, Lucky’s Tale’s shortness is actually a blessing in disguise. Due to how short and repetitive each stage is, it’s actually quite mind-numbing (in the good way) to play through the campaign. There’s no thinking involved, and the platforming is fairly simplistic for the most part, meaning you can just sit back and relax as you explore and collect trinkets around the world.
There are times when this simplicity falls apart, and I would blame that more on the developers inconsistencies. You see, for say 80% of all stages, a secret clover can be found by going into a secret underground location and completing a mini game. There are some stages though that completely destroy this idea, and instead break the cycle by giving you just some extra coins. These inconsistent games design decisions occasionally caused irritation or anger on my part – when you’re having to repeat a level to find something due to the developers changing up the common design language they themselves have presented, it’s never a good thing.
So, apart from the typical platforming controls and mechanics, what is there to do in Super Lucky’s Tale? First up, collecting Clovers (think of them as Mario’s Stars). Each stage has a maximum of 4 to collect, with each one required a different method to attain. Each stage has one to collect just be finishing it, another can be acquired by collecting 300 coins, another by collecting the individual letters that make up Lucky’s name, and finally, the aforementioned secret area clovers. The overworked also has some mini-games you can complete to collect some, resulting in a total of 99 to find and acquire during your time in Lucky’s world.
Throughout each stage you’ll encounter charming and cute creatures that inhabit each world, and even help them out in some circumstances. These creatures do speak, but most of what they say add nothing to the lore of the world, and, if anything they’re merely window dressing to the platforming of the game itself.
This is fine, as Super Lucky’s Tale manages to be quite a cute and lovely platformer to behold. Graphically it’s not going to win any awards for being an innovative tech platform, but what art assets are there are sharp and lovely to look at, making for a lovely platformer to behold.
The one thing I couldn’t get my head around was the story. It’s cool that the game is made for all ages, so had to be fairly easy for children to understand, but I can’t get over how the main antagonists of the game proceed to help you out and constantly talk to you through each and every level. This inconsistency of enemies actually being friends (one of the cats legitimately calls you a friend at some point), takes away from the “good vs evil” narrative the game peddles all throughout, and makes for a weird hypocritical mess of a motivation for progressing through the campaign.
Another nuisance was the awkward camera controls, which seems to be a given when it comes to any platformer bar Mario. Most levels you’ll encounter are designed in such a way that the designers never intended for you to backtrack to explored areas. As such, each obstacle and platform is perfectly fine to naviagate going forwards, but never going back due to the camera not allowing for it. Pressing left or right on the right analogue stick merely changes the degree of looking (still forwards!) at Lucky – meaning the most you can ever look around Lucky is -45 degrees to +45 degrees. In most circumstances this is fine – you rarely have a reason to jump towards the camera, so the developers didn’t really implement it. But there are times, especially when hunting down many coins or hidden clovers that you’ll need to, and its in these moments that you’ll most likely die a lot.
So all in all Super Lucky’s Tale could have been a triumphant first outing from Playful Corp, but due to inconsistencies in level design and some niggling issues with narrative it ending up being just OK. That doesn’t mean I don’t think you should play Lucky’s – far from it. I can imagine parents enjoying this with their kids, and having a relatively good time in doing so – just don’t expect Lucky’s Tale to be the second coming of a bygone era of great platformers.