While Lucky’s first true adventure missed the spotlight for it being tied to the nicheness of virtual reality gaming, Super Lucky’s Tale was able to not only ride an endorsement from Microsoft, but it also benefitted from 3D collectathon platformers coming back into vogue. It’s still certainly no high profile release, but for people looking to find a game that hearkens back to platformers like Crash Bandicoot or Banjo-Kazooie, they were much more likely to find the fox this go round and experience a game presented in a more traditional manner.
Super Lucky’s Tale is about a heroic young fox named… Lyra. Lyra is part of a group known as the Guardians who specialize in adventuring and heroic feats, and one of her adventures leads to her finding the Book of Ages, a special tome filled with real worlds inhabited by entire races of creatures. An evil cat named Jinx and his children, known collectively as the Kitty Litter, are trying to take it from her though, and while Lyra is trying to flee from them, she returns home to her brother Lucky. During the confrontation between Lyra and Jinx’s forces, the Book of Ages swings open and begins sucking everyone in, but Lucky acts quick to protect his sister, pushing her aside and getting sucked in with the villainous felines. Inexperienced but driven, Lucky takes off into the worlds of the Book of Ages where the members of The Kitty Litter have already begun conquering it, Lucky hoping to set things right, stop Jinx, and escape the book in the process.
The worlds inside the Book of Ages are all colorful and packed with little details like little critters idly living their lives, but some platforms that are there to enhance the visuals can seem like secret areas until you end up stranded out on them after learning they were were just there for color. Strangely enough, there are only four worlds in the base game to explore, with a fifth added by way of paid DLC, but they do have plenty of levels and a few nice touches to still make them feel like the selection of worlds is used quite well. Each world has a native population who can speak with or help Lucky at times, such unusual civilizations as hillbilly worms and desert-living yetis serving as the local populace the Kitty Litter wants under their thumb, each world having you face one of four of Jinx’s children before taking him on. The Kitty Litter are actually rather active, appearing to talk to Lucky before levels to explain their plans or goals, and some even end up a bit sympathetic like the inventor who believes her work is more efficient than the local famers and a cat who is more concerned about honing his martial arts skills than his work conquering the golem people. They don’t always seem to be really trying to be evil with their action, but either trying to stay in line with their clan or believing they are beneficial drives them to behave the way they do. It’s nothing extremely deep, but it does make things rather charming and friendly to match the bright worlds well, this being a fun adventure more than one with heavy stakes or evil foes, only Jinx really seeming to be all in on being totally nefarious in his intentions.
Most of the levels in Super Lucky’s Tale are small 3D spaces Lucky can run around in, able to jump, dig into the ground and burrow, and swipe his tail at foes or objects. While a level may give him a unique way to interact with things and he can buy new clothes to wear, his moves remain pretty constant throughout, nothing fundamentally changing how he controls over the course of the game and thus making the trickier moments challenging but still easy enough to figure out. Most of the game focuses on slightly open yet linear level design, this partially relating to Lucky’s goals in a level. Each stage in the game has four clovers to collect, Lucky needing at least 80 of the 99 available to beat the game, but the clover’s goals are usually pretty consistent across all the levels. Every level will give you one clover for reaching the end, another clover will be given to you if you collect enough of the floating golden coins, and a third clover is available if you can find all the hidden letters needed to spell LUCKY. The fourth and final clover is where the game lets itself be a bit more creative, the game often setting these behind a level specific objective or putting it in a secret area. This special clover can involve timed collection challenges, battles, tricky platforming, and more, but it is a shame that there’s only one per level, more of the focus being on completion and the less involved act of collecting coins and letters as you go. Super Lucky’s Tale does make sure that its areas are open enough that exploration is required to find all the letters and coins at least, but maybe an extra clover or two per level to allow for more unique goals could have made each level have a stronger identity and make them last longer.
Levels are focused more on being interesting single experiences rather than hubs for multiple activities though, which isn’t a bad thing at all. That design angle is perhaps best exemplified by the levels where your action will be completely restricted to a 2D plane. Lucky can still jump, attack, and burrow just as easily as ever, but besides some areas where there might be a background layer you jump into briefly, these put Lucky into a different yet similar gameplay type. There are quite a few near the start of the game, perhaps frontloading things a bit with these simpler stages, but the bulk of the game is the more involved 3D levels, meaning that having the two different types of levels makes for an easy change in play that keeps things fresh. Levels can mix up their platforming arrangement in interesting ways to ensure variety without needing to drastically change the platforming style, but there are a few extra clovers outside the levels that change things up even further. On the world map you can sometimes get to play small challenges, things like needing to arrange pieces properly in puzzles or roll a marble around a maze to collect all the coins safely, and these really show how Super Lucky’s Tale had the potential for more interesting clover goals, they just sectioned them off rather than trying to implement them in the levels. The variety may be sectioned off more than one would hope, but it does mean that Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t really grow old, especially since levels can be completed fairly quickly and with all their clovers to boot.
Failure in Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t too bad, although it has some odd issues. Usually when you die, you get set back to a checkpoint, losing anything you collected since you hit it. Lucky has a few hearts to weather damage from regular enemies or dangers in the environment, but falling in a pit or dangerous liquid like tar and lava are instant kills. If you lose all your lives it only forces a full level reset, but the checkpoint resets can lead to problems with clover collection, mainly the coin goal. Sometimes the coins don’t come back properly or your access to them is messed up by respawning, meaning you’d need to replay the level to try for the coins again. The speed of the levels do make this easy to do, but the levels have a design that favors the one-and-done explorative run through, meaning a run through it a second time feels a little empty. Super Lucky’s Tale is definitely more about finding out what’s ahead and what you’ll be doing there, only a few stages really putting up much of a fight difficulty wise if you’re not aiming to get all the clovers there. The bosses are small letdowns as well unfortunately. Despite encountering the Kitty Litter members over the courses of their worlds, their fights are somewhat plain, focused more on dodging a few lightly shifting patterns repeatedly that don’t ask much of your movement or awareness. It’s a bit of shame to see something like a giant mechanical locust appear only for it to sit in the background most of the fight as you slowly walk between energy blasts fired by something else. The fights probably would have been better off not being positioned as the climaxes of their world and the interaction you had with the Kitty Litter, since they’re okay fights, just not ones that match the build up or visual presence they have.
THE VERDICT: Super Lucky’s Tale takes place in a bright and friendly world of collectathon goodness, its short levels still giving you quite a bit to engage with thanks to their four clover system. The game is at its most interesting when its trying something different though, as seen with the special side challenges and the clovers in the main levels that can have goals different than just completion and collection, but the world design in Super Lucky’s Tale still manages to look nice and feel open enough to mix together the platforming and exploration, even in the 2D levels that have less room to do so than the 3D level majority. Super Lucky’s Tale settles into the safety of similar goals and boss designs though, meaning that while it is a fun an quick 3D collectathon, it’s not quite on the same level as its clear inspirations.
And so, I give Super Lucky’s Tale for Xbox One…
A GOOD rating. Super Lucky’s Tale plays it safe in quite a lot of ways, and that does have some payoff. Keeping things consistent allows them to all pull from a strong base, and the general feel of the game is both inviting for its visual style and accessible because of the simplicity of Lucky’s limited moves. Things complement each other well, levels being quick to complete but still allowing for a little deviation from the path to complete the secondary clover goals. When Super Lucky’s Tale does show some of its more interesting ideas in the unique clover objectives though, it does reveal there was much more room for something more imaginative to take place. Having a coin collection clover for each level isn’t a problem, but the individual level themes and designs could shine much brighter if the clovers greater emphasized the idea of that level. There are some good examples of this happening already, like a stage where you need to help set up a concert for the hillbilly worms, but even the special clover is sometimes just an area separate from the stage with a platforming or timed challenge. Super Lucky’s Tale has the worlds and characters it needs to be charming, it would just benefit by embracing those with its gameplay more often.
Super Lucky’s Tale is still a fun time despite traveling the safer roads with its design choices. When a game starts bringing in new elements though, it can leave a greater impression and lay out new challenges for the player to overcome, something it doesn’t need to stray too far from the central mechanics to achieve. Super Lucky’s Tale should have been more daring, but it does still do a good job of constructing its levels and visual style to make the experience a breezy bit of fun.