By Josh Speer / November 20th, 2019
|Title||New Super Lucky’s Tale|
|Release Date||November 8th, 2019|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Mild Cartoon Violence|
I’ve been looking forward to delving into New Super Lucky’s Tale since it was just called Super Lucky’s Tale and was an Xbox console exclusive. As a gamer that really loves platformers of every stripe, I pride myself on being able to immediately identify when a platformer has the right stuff. And even though I demoed both versions of the game a few years apart, one thing immediately stuck out to me – New Super Lucky’s Tale is a platformer made for platformer fans. It has precise mechanics, colorful graphics and is simply a joy to play. But even with all of those boxes checked, the question remains – does this game do enough to differentiate itself from the huge field of other retro styled platformers? Or does Lucky the fox disappoint?
New Super Lucky’s Tale starts with a dramatic introduction that set the tone of the game respectably. The Guardian Order was created to protect many far flung worlds from chaos when the unthinkable suddenly happens. One of their members, Jinx the sorcerer, apparently goes mad, and wages war on his fellow Guardians. His goal is possession of the Book of Ages. With it, Jinx will have the power to rewrite reality and essentially be unstoppable. A war follows, and the Guardians are defeated and banished from their home, the Sky Castle. Jinx has his minions the Kitty Litter hound them, and eventually the Guardians are found. Just when it seems all is lost, the Book of Ages reacts to the sorcerer’s fell magic, and it erupts in a supernatural explosion. Many pages of the book are scattered to the winds, and fly to various worlds. In the chaos, a portal opens and drags into it the young and impressionable brother of the head of the Guardian Order, Lyta’s little brother Lucky. You will play this young and untested fox as he sets out to right the wrongs caused by Jinx’ madness.
Pretty great start, right? I admit I loved the comic cutscenes and the scope of the introduction. Unfortunately, the drama and tension are lost rather quickly once the game actually starts. One reason is that you never get to meet with the far flung Guardian Order as you play the main story. At best you see them huddled around a campfire during load screens. Another reason is that once Lucky takes charge, the story is decidedly childish. I don’t mean that in a mean way, since this game is obviously meant to appeal to gamers of various ages, but the fact remains there’s a distinct change in tone. Thankfully, none of this stops the game from being fun, and I can say with confidence New Super Lucky’s Tale is a very entertaining adventure.
Lucky’s goal is to find the missing pages from the Book of Ages. Finding enough in each world will unlock the gate to that world’s boss fight. While there’s only 5 main worlds in the game, each one is totally distinct thematically and serves as a HUB to the stages. You start out at the lofty Sky Castle, then tackle an agricultural world full of hillbilly worm creatures, or take my favorite, a theme park full of ghosts and goblins. Each world is delightfully strange and animated, and none of them was a bore. There’s a handful of stages in each, including both 3D and 2.5D levels, as well as optional challenge stages. Challenges can range from statue ice puzzles to rolling around in a giant pinball machine. My only complaint with regard to this structure was that I assumed each world would get progressively larger, but in truth almost every world has the same amount of stages. The key difference is that in general it will cost a bit more pages to unlock each subsequent boss fight, but even then it’s a small difference. I only complain about these details because I was so enjoying myself in the game, and wanted an excuse to spend more time there.
But just because I want more game doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the gameplay in New Super Lucky’s Tale. I haven’t played a platformer this precise and fun in a long time. It’s both simple and finely tuned. You can jump with B or double jump with a second press, attack with a tail swipe using Y, burrow into the dirt with ZR (or slide on hard surfaces), move with the left stick and control the camera with the right stick. That’s it, and that’s all the game needs. I never had any issues getting the controls to work, and found the camera to be very intuitive and easy to use. I also really enjoyed the burrowing mechanic, not least since it helped differentiate Lucky from other platformer protagonists. Once you start, you’ll keep burrowing until you release ZR, but other than that you have complete freedom to move around and collect hidden coins. It’s also fun watching Lucky burst out of the dirt like some landlocked dolphin when you stop burrowing. Most enemies in the game aren’t much of a threat, consisting of angry insects, cranky crustaceans, bothersome bats and other assorted nuisances. Instead, most of the danger comes from stage hazards, such as fireballs, dangerous spikes, or simply falling to your death. Luckily, the game is pretty generous with hearts that restore your health.
Since the enemies in the game aren’t much of a threat, that means most of the gameplay instead revolves around platforming your way through stages. The 3D stages have goals you’ll need to achieve to escape, such as awakening a giant Golem or wrangling lost animals, while the 2.5D stages are split between basic ones and endless runners. I tended to prefer the purity of the 2.5D stages, though the scale of the 3D stages was nice, but thankfully their large size is ameliorated by lots of checkpoints. I made great use of the camera in those large areas. Each stage, regardless of format, is full of optional goodies that will reward you with an additional page from the Book of Ages. You can acquire one by collecting 300 or more coins, finding all the hidden LUCKY letters and finding a well-hidden page, which is usually gated behind a timed gauntlet. So the maximum number of pages in each stage is 4, and nabbing all of them results in a perfect score. Not to gloat, but I found it incredibly easy to get perfect scores in most stages, though to be fair, there were a handful that required a second or third playthrough. One good example was in Veggie Village, in a stage where I had to find lost Wormal musicians to put on a concert. Two of the letters in that stage were so well-hidden I almost looked online for FAQs to guide me in the right direction. Thankfully, that sort of confusion was far form the norm, and I raced through New Super Lucky’s Tale at a brisk clip, usually spending less than an hour per world.
For my fellow platformer completionists, I wish I could affirm there’s some big reward for finding everything, but I have yet to confirm that from the developer. All I know is that by finding more and more pages, you’ll unlock more and more outfits for Lucky at Geovanni’s boutique. There’s a ton of ridiculous outfits, and they all make Lucky look even more silly. Most of the game really comes down to how much you like playing New Super Lucky’s Tale, and if you’re eager to 100% it without the prestige of some giant reward. That said, I did enjoy it quite a lot, so I will probably slowly chip away at those hidden challenge stages and try to fully beat every main stage. If nothing else, once you beat the game you’ll unlock another world full of super hard levels, just in case the rest of the game was a bit too easy.
I always enjoy a good boss fight, and I enjoyed them in New Super Lucky’s Tale. Each fight is against a member of the Kitty Litter, and they’re a ragtag bunch of deranged kittens. The first one you meet is ninja master Mittens, or there’s Tess the cantankerous mechanic. Then you have the sultry Lady Meowmalade and the dynamic duo of Buttons and Fluffy. And of course, the final boss fight is against Jinx, who to my surprise is also supposed to be a cat. Each and every boss has a lot of personality, and while they all fight somewhat differently, most of the boss battles are a bit too samey. They always involve Lucky evading attacks on the field of battle, then flinging something at the distant boss to hurt them, rinse and repeat. Some battles get really hectic, and a couple even go full bullet hell, but most of them left me wanting more. The primary exception to this format was the fight against Lady Meowmalade, which was both incredibly creative and utterly silly. Anytime I get to fight on a dance floor and avoid disco lasers, I’ll have a big smile plastered on my face. And the fight against Jinx was sufficiently difficult that I wasn’t able to beat him the first attempt. Ultimately, the boss fights weren’t bad, I just hoped for more of the same creativity in them that’s everywhere else in the game.
Visually, New Super Lucky’s Tale is exploding at the seams with inventive ideas. Some great examples are country Wormals, wrestling Yetis, mechanical horrors, mind control speakers, ghostly freedom fighters and so much more. The whole game is tied together with colorful art and lots of cartoony enthusiasm. It’s bright, funny and very silly, and I love that. It’s also full of characters with lots of personality, from Greg the somewhat stalkery Mailgolem to the aforementioned Kitty Litter. Musically, the game is pretty different depending on the world. None of the tracks were particularly memorable, but they also didn’t hurt the pace of the game.
I don’t have many substantive complaints to make about New Super Lucky’s Tale, more a collection of minor irritations. Though I can’t hold this against the game, it was a bit too easy for more than half of my playthrough. I would usually unlock the boss fight after playing two stages, and had to weigh whether to check out the other stages or just race to the next world. The plot, while interesting initially, quickly peters out. Worse yet, in loading screens Greg the Mailgolem seems to hint that there’s some mystery behind Jinx turning evil, but nothing like that is ever explained or delved into during the main game. And while I did enjoy every minute playing the game, I can’t help but wish there was a lot more game to get lost in. I suppose my best hope is that the folks at Playful are working on a sequel to address many of these issues, but in the meantime these issues kept New Super Lucky’s Tale from getting a perfect score.
Ultimately, as a fan of platformers, I really enjoyed New Super Lucky’s Tale. But since I enjoyed the game so much, I was also hoping for more longevity and more challenge. That said, this is a game that’s easy to recommend for pretty much everyone, even if they don’t think they’re good at platformers. For $39.99, there’s a very enjoyable experience here, albeit a brief one, taking me about 6-7 hours. I think New Super Lucky’s Tale is worth every penny, though if you want more content for your money, you might want to wait for a small sale. That said, I still am very glad I got to play this love letter to the platformer genre, and hope to see more in the future from Playful.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
New Super Lucky's Talenintendo switchoprainfallPCplatformerPlayfulXbox One