STAFF REVIEW of Super Lucky's Tale (Xbox One)

Friday, November 10, 2017.
by Kirby Yablonski

Super Lucky's Tale Box art A good 3D platformer is hard to come by, and when one is released it’s always compared to the champion of this genre, any of the Mario games. In many ways I almost find this unfair, as the bar is so high given Mario’s success. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that any platforming games should be given a ‘pass’ just because, as that would be silly to think. Microsoft has recently released a 3D platform game of their own onto the Xbox One family of consoles, and that game is Super Lucky’s Tales. After playing through the game prior to its release, I have to say that it’s a title that really had me thinking about what makes a good 3D platform game and who the intended audiences can be. With this in mind, I think that Super Lucky’s Tale deserves a close look by Xbox One owners, as long as they keep their expectations in check.

Lucky, a young fox, is the brother of a great adventurer named Lyra. Her latest search was for the “Book of Ages”; however, she was not the only one looking for it, as the dastardly gang known at Kitty Litter, was also after the book. They confront Lyra on her return home, and in the melee that follows, young Lucky sacrifices himself to save his sister as he is sucked into the book, along with the Kitty Litter gang. In the book Lucky is tasked with returning each world back to its inhabitants, and of course defeating the Kitty Litter gang while doing so. It’s a simple narrative, and one that continues to play out through the course of the game. Sure, it’s not an award winning story, but it does keep you a bit vested in why you do what you do.

Lucky has a set of skills that will help him in his adventure. This includes jumping (with a double jump nonetheless), whipping his tail to stun enemies, and burrowing under the ground to get past obstacles or avoid enemies. You’ll find the controls very responsive and easy to master. If there is one area that you may struggle though, it is with the 3D camera. Developer Playful has limited the adjustments that allow you to move it from center to the left or to the right, and not fully either, as it’s almost like the camera is on a 45-degree plane or so. You may find yourself misjudging your leaps and jumps because of this as it can be hard to land on that one platform. I found that attacking enemies was also a hit and miss affair at times (the first set of enemy ghosts when saving a child ghost in Spookington infuriated me because I couldn’t get the right feel or angle for dispensing them for quite a few tries). These things are worth noting because it can make the game a bit frustrating at times.

There are a total of four worlds for Lucky to explore: Sky Castle, Veggie Village, Holiday Canyon and Spookington. Each world has their own inhabitants, such as wormals in Veggie Village and the ghosts in Spookington. The villagers from each world have been affected by the influx of the Kitty Litter gang, and they need your help to liberate themselves from them. Each world is filled with multiple stages that require your platforming prowess to finish. There is a classic platforming mechanic in Lucky’s Tale; in order to open the various stages, as well as the boss stage, which essentially helps you move to the next level, you will have to collect a specific number of four-leaf clovers to do so.

The game’s stages are a nice mix of 3D plaforming mixed in with 2D platforming stages making an appearance too (actually, I consider them more 2.5D). They are well designed, and each fit in with the theme of the world you are in. If there is one thing that is worth pointing out here, is that you never know what you are going to get until you enter the next stage. Each one is crafted with care and Lucky has many areas to explore within. You’ll even find one stage set in a maze where you must find ways to get from A to B while activating moving walls, avoiding numerous enemies and trying to collect all the collectibles. Getting to the end of the levels is always rewarding, but not too hard, and you are treated with a clover to add to your collection. Oh, and you should know that finishing the stage is not the only way to collect the clovers.

Throughout the game you will find a lot of other ways to collect the precious clovers than just finishing the stage. The most obvious is by searching for and collecting the letters that spell LUCKY. Finding these letters can range from very easy to challenging, but the need for extra clovers is there so you should be searching for the letters. You are also awarded a clover for collecting 300 or more coins in each of the worlds levels. Some levels have an abundance of coins, well others will only have a few extra to spare, so you better collect them all. I remember one level where I finished the level with 303 coins, and I made sure to collect everything, including the coins that drop from disposed enemies. Finally, there is a hidden trapdoor, or one that is hard to get to, in each level that will allow you to enter and complete a task to get another clover.

Each world has a boss stage, which of course requires a certain amount of clovers to open. Boss battles are not too hard, as it’s just a matter of understanding their attacks, their patterns, and how to avoid them. I found that if I died, it was not the fault of the boss level itself, but a lapse in my timing or judgement when avoiding an attack or obstacle. Beat the boss and it’s off to the next world you go, with a small cutscene involving Lyra and her advice.

The central hubs for each world, which themselves are platforming areas full of coins and diamonds (equate to specific number of coins), contain trap doors to be opened. These trap doors take you to extra challenges, such as puzzles where you must figure out how to get fox vases to certain spots on the board. You’ll also come across “Burrow Runs”, which is like an endless runner and you only control Lucky’s jumping and burrowing. There is even a marble mini-game where you control a tabletop board with a marble on it while avoiding the perils that lie in front of you as you make your way to the exit. All these mini-games are fun, but they won’t require a whole lot of brain power, just a bit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Super Lucky’s Tale is a single player affair, which is kind of sad, because a platformer of this nature would be great in a cooperative mode of some sort. You won’t be finishing it in one sitting either, but then again you won’t be spending weeks playing it, unless you do a little at a time. One of the biggest things I noted for this game is the skill level required to play it. The dev-team wanted to make it playable for everyone in the family, and in many ways it is. You don’t have to collect all the clovers, especially in the early world levels, to advance, and younger gamers will be able to handle some, but not all, of the skills required to succeed. Each time you reach a checkpoint your three-heart life meter is replenished (if needed) for the next part of that specific level. For those older gamers out there, collecting everything found in the game will require you to have to think outside the box now and then, as well as have some mean platforming skills. With this in mind, the dev-team’s intentions are realized, but not just perfectly (e.g. damn camera can cause some much headaches at times).

Visually, the game is very bright and vibrant, and the overall look fits the theme of the game , which is of course to be cute and somewhat endearing. I played on the Xbox One X, and I have to say that the 4K resolution is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily push the hardware. Each world is colorful and themed, so you will find one with a focus on wrapping Christmas gifts while another is all about a Halloween like environment. Characters of all shapes and sizes are well designed, and animate quite well, especially Lucky. He runs on all fours, he jumps with a style his own, and of course when he burrows, the cute little cartoonish trail of dirt he creates is kind of charming. I didn’t run into too many, if any problems technically speaking. Sure, the camera could be a hassle more than a few times, but that is not cause of the technical limitations of the game engine but more on game design itself.

Wrapping up the visuals is the sound. There is no voice acting, as each character talks in jibberish and you read the dialogue that is presented. The music can best be described as quirky and something that one would expect in a platforming game, but it doesn’t stand out as anything fabulous. Finally, each world, and the levels found in them, have some great sounds, from waterfalls falling, machinery machining, and black tar pits bubbling. Overall the sound does a fairly good job, it’s just that it’s not something that really stands out.

Super Lucky’s Tale is a 3D platforming game, priced at $39, that is indeed made for the family to enjoy. That being said, it sticks to the tried and true nature, and gameplay style, of what make platform games what they are. If there is one area to complain about, it is the in-game camera, which can cause more than a few untimely deaths at the worst times. Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t do anything to make it stand out, but it is not a bad game and one that does deserve a look if you want to play something different on your Xbox One this year.

Overall: 7.1 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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