Whether it’s a game that has platforming elements like Cuphead, or the standard bearer for the genre making a triumphant return like Super Mario Odyssey, we’ve had a great run recently with platformers. Of course, having these stellar examples also allows for easy contrast when we come across one that does not live up to expectations, and unfortunately, Super Lucky’s Tale is a pretty pathetic example of a platformer.
Like most platformers, Super Lucky’s Tale’s story is a simple one. You play as the titular Lucky, a brave little fox whose dream is to one day become guardian of the Book of Ages. The Book is said to contain tremendous power, and so it’s no surprise that a nefarious group of felines known as the Kitty Litter want it for themselves. Lucky’s sister is typically protector of the book, but while she is away, Lucky is the de facto protector-in-training—a perfect time for the Litter to strike. While working in his sister’s stead, Lucky accidentally knocks the book open when the Litter surprise attacks, and soon they are all sucked within its pages. Now, Lucky must navigate the worlds described in the book if he hopes to stop the Litter’s leader, Jinx, and prove himself worthy of being a true protector of the book.
At the very least, Super Lucky’s Tale does put together a series of fun little worlds to explore. Each represents a chapter in the Book of Ages, and is broken down into a series of stages that can be accessed from that respective world’s hub. Both the stages and hub are full of colorful characters that want to help Lucky, ranging from the worms of Veggie Village to the golems of the Sky Castle. Even the enemies Lucky faces off against seem like they popped out of a children’s story book, including rotund little bumble bees that fire their stingers at you or carnivorous flowers with cartoonish jaws that try to chomp on our foxy friend’s fluffy tail. There are also plenty of nooks to explore in each world that can lead to coins (for one-ups) or four-leaf clovers, which are used to unlock each subsequent world in much the same way stars or moons are used in Mario’s 3D adventures.
There isn’t much beyond this going in the fox’s favor, however. While the worlds are fun, there are just too few of them to really constitute much of an adventure. The game only has four to explore, with about 25 four-leaf clovers to be found in each (there are 99 clovers total in the game). This makes Super Lucky’s Tale feel surprisingly short—even for a $30 budget title—as it clocks in at about four hours to finish.
What’s really puzzling, though, is how the game tries to shoehorn in replayability by instituting some ridiculous barriers between worlds. While the first world only requires 10 clovers to advance, the subsequent worlds need 30, 60, and finally 80 total before the final boss—meaning that you need to snag nearly ever clover in the game before you can complete it. The problem is, collecting them can often be boring, running you through the same tasks over and over such as simply finishing the stage, finding tokens that spell L-U-C-K-Y, collecting 300 coins, or finding a particular secret in each stage. It’s natural that many players will pass up getting all of the clovers on their first time through stages, but that means that, once they hit a certain point, there will be no choice but to go back and grind a little. Fortunately, I was able to find 84 of the 99 clovers in the game on my initial playthrough, but if this is indeed a game intended for younger audiences, I don’t expect those players to have nearly as much patience.
Speaking of the final boss, there’s also a sharp spike in difficulty at this particular point in the game. I personally found Super Lucky’s Tale to be a breeze to get through, so actually being slightly challenged by the end boss was a pleasant surprise for me. The problem is, it’s so inconsistent with the rest of the game that if a younger gamer were to be playing this, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found this frustrating because of how unnatural a bump it was.
Where Super Lucky’s Tale really falls apart is with its gameplay. Movement in a platformer is vital to the experience, and Lucky is one of the worst-handling protagonists I’ve ever played as. His jumps feels extremely floaty, while on the ground he’s plodding and tank-like. This leads to an inability to tell when he’s getting enough momentum for a jump or if he’ll fall short, even with his mediocre double jump. One unique element to Lucky is that he can also burrow under the ground, which is great for solving puzzles or collecting coins. However, as he burrows, you feel like you’re fighting the controller, trying to make Lucky go the direction you want him to while the game seems to have other ideas, leading to an inaccurate zig-zag across the landscape. All these things combined makes Super Lucky’s Tale feel more difficult to play that it actually is given its simplistic puzzles and basic moving platforms. When the controller itself feels like your greatest enemy, you know a game has failed as a platformer.
The other aspect where the gameplay doesn’t stand up is in its camera. Most of the game takes place in a 3D world, but you rarely can adjust to camera for better angles to make critical jumps. These kinds of issues feel like something that was remedied 20 years ago, when game developers were still learning how to operate in a 3D space; it’s absolutely inexcusable at this point to not give the player full control of the camera to line up jumps.
At times, at least, Super Lucky’s Tale seems like it did try to make an effort to be entertaining. The game occasionally mixes up its primary 3D stages with 2.5D side-scrolling sections, and there are even some mini games that were a lot of fun—including an endless runner, and some Marble Madness-inspired sections where you have to roll Lucky around in a ball. These sections were probably so enjoyable, however, because Lucky’s movement was boiled down to the bare minimum in each, with little to no jumping involved.
Finally, Super Lucky’s Tale has a surprising amount of glitches. The most prominent one would be audio cutting out after a load screen, requiring me to restart the game. It only happened a couple of times, but even the uninspired soundtrack of this game is better than listening to nothing at all. Lucky is also poorly animated, leading to moments such as when he seems as if he he’s standing still for a couple of seconds while simultaneously sliding across the landscape as I was moving him with the joystick (until he finally broke into his running animation). There’s also your typical problems such as occasionally getting stuck on the environment, or phasing through what should otherwise be solid objects. Issues like these just seemed like the final bit of evidence of a lack of polish that this game desperately needed.
Super Lucky’s Tale is nothing short of a disappointment. It pales in comparison to contemporaries in the genre and feels like it might’ve been a decent effort decades ago from developers who were just starting to experiment in the 3D space. The world and characters are cute and provide a fitting “fun for the whole family” sort of motif that was clearly a goal with this game, but all the style in the world can’t save something with such little substance. Floaty controls, poor camera angles, and repetitive gameplay all spell doom for Lucky, who becomes just the latest in a long line of failed platforming heroes.
Lucky is unrealized potential. There is always space for a new kid-friendly platformer, and Lucky’s cute and colorful world could’ve served as a great entry point for a new franchise. Sadly, poor controls, a terrible camera, and just overall lackluster gameplay leave Super Lucky’s Tale being a subpar effort not worthy of your time.
E - Everyone
|Super Lucky's Tale is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version played was for Xbox One. Code/hardware was provided by Microsoft Studios for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|