Super Lucky’s Tale – Review

Super Lucky’s Tale is an indie platform game developed by Playful Corp. and published by Microsoft Studios for PC and Xbox One through the excellent Play Anywhere program. Super Lucky’s Tale is a sequel to Lucky’s Tale, a 2016 title from Playful Corp for the Oculus Rift.

After the absolute smash hit that was Cuphead, Microsoft seem keen to offer titles that appeal to our nostalgic side and the concepts of this classic gameplay. The platformers are back in fashion, especially thanks to the arrival of the masterful Super Mario Odyssey, so we are very curious to see how Super Lucky’s Tale stacks up, a game that caught my attention at the Xbox conference last E3 2017. Is this the platformer to rekindle some of the magic of Xbox?

We follow the adventures of Lucky, an optimistic and lovable hero on a quest to find his inner strength and with the help his sister escape the Book of Ages and stop Jinx, a mysterious and treacherous villain who for some reason wants to reshape the world. The story isn’t all that deep or important here, just know that Lucky has to collect clovers, which open up stages and eventually boss fights against all his foes, that will hopefully lead to his escape from the book.

We have four uniquely different worlds to explore, each with a central hub area from which you can access the corresponding levels. Completing each of these worlds rewards you with a four-leafed clover and to access each of the levels, a certain number of clovers are required to progress. Smaller levels such as the endless running and puzzle levels have a single clover while each main level has 4 clovers available: one for completing the level, one for finding the letters of the word ‘Lucky’, one hidden clover, and one for collecting a large amount of coins. There are 99 clovers to be collected in the entirety of the game but only 80 are needed to unlock the final level.

You will advance quite smoothly until the middle of the game where there is a progression wall if you don’t have the required amount of clovers, and from that point on, you will need to retrace your steps to recover those extra clovers that you didn’t pick up in the first levels.

The controls here are pretty simple and intuitive. Lucky has a double jump, a tail whip that can smash boxes and temporarily prevent him from falling, and can burrow underground where he can move around like Bugs Bunny. Enemies must be jumped on to be defeated, but can be stunned with a tail whip, although I didn’t find doing so all that useful. Movement can feel a little clunky at times, but for the most part, it feels okay.

While the controls aren’t really an issue, the game’s camera is. Unlike most 3D platformers, the camera isn’t able to be rotated fully around Lucky and instead is locked into different positions depending on the type of level. Some levels allow the camera to be panned to one of three positions, none of which allow seeing away from the stage for some reason. Other levels have the camera locked as if in a traditional 2D platformer, which works fine.

The biggest problem, however, is when levels combine 2D style platforming with the 3D style camera. In these stages, the camera is positioned in such a way that it makes it nearly impossible to have any depth perception. Most 3D platformers would have the camera angled downward a bit more than Super Lucky’s Tale does in these stages which instead almost has it parallel to the character. That said, I came across depth perception issues in various stages throughout, not just the ones with that annoying camera. Being able to judge where jumping is the core mechanic of any 3D platformer, and somehow Super Lucky’s Tale manages to mess that up, though a minority of its running time.

When the camera isn’t causing issues, Super Lucky’s Tale is decent at best, although quite generic as it doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. The only thing I’d even call original is the variety of stages and how the total number of the main collectable item—clovers—is set to 99 instead of an even 100, but only 80 are needed to unlock the final level.

Graphically speaking, Super Lucky’s Tale is bright and colourful, though nothing all that impressive. Keeping that in mind, I find it odd that the game only manages to run at 1080p 30FPS on the original Xbox One and the Xbox One S versus an advertised 4k 60FPS on the Xbox One X. Nothing here is graphically demanding, and due to the way that camera can’t rotate all the way around the character, there isn’t a lot that needs to be rendered at one time. I played all the way through the game on my Xbox One S before switching over to my gaming PC thanks to this being an Xbox Play Anywhere title, and let me tell you playing at a locked 60FPS just feels so much better; it isn’t just a visual thing.

I was thoroughly disappointed with this game, I almost turned it off as I was bored with going back through the same levels time after time trying to get all the collectables so I could progress. Then the magic happened….my 5-year-old came into the room. His eyes lit up as soon as he saw Lucky and the controller was removed from my hands. He didn’t care about the camera controls. He didn’t care about the poor mechanics. He thought the nonsensical gibberish the NPC were spouting was hilarious. He just sat beside me smiling and laughing until he met a particularly challenging area then we worked through those areas together. He was amazed when he found a ‘Rabbit hole’, one of the ways to access additional levels, and see Lucky nose dive underground and pop up on another part of the map. He loved digging and travelling underground and found it hilarious when Lucky popped out of the ground to stun an enemy. If he saw a coin, he just had to get it. We must’ve sat for about 90 min just playing the game and it was wonderful. If any game can make a 5-year-old child sit still for 90 min then it must be doing something right.

All I hope for is that Microsoft allows this franchise to grow. The game shows so much promise and I feel its let down by how much the developers are pulling on those nostalgic heartstrings we all have for 3d platformers. The developers should take the feedback from the reviews and build something that we haven’t seen before.