Microsoft has taken another stab at the 3D platformer genre after many attempts on previous generations, being out-shone by third-party titles and the giants of Nintendo all the way. They enter the ring with Super Lucky’s Tale, with cute visuals and a tale of a young fox well on his way to becoming the super hero he’s always dreamed of being. From first impressions, it seems like you might be in for an adventure and dive deep into a whole new world. Well, there’s diving, but prepare for a challenging adventure, in a good and bad way.
Hey-ho, down the foxhole we go! (not Dave’s foxhole)
Super Lucky’s Tale has you taking control of Lucky, the little orange fox with the eternal look of optimism. This adorable little critter is on a quest to assist your sister in rescuing The Book of Ages from Jinx, the antagonist with the basic villainous premise of transforming the world to his liking. Why does he want to do it? Nobody knows, but, did game villains ever need a reason? In your arsenal like with many other platformers, you can jump, double jump, spin, burrow and do a swan dive into softer ground to evade or fight enemies.
As with any book filled with fantasy, The Book of Ages houses entire worlds and cutesie creatures thwarted by Jinx’s litter who you’ll have to defeat one by one. You eventually go toe-to-toe with Jinx after having collected 80 gold clovers throughout your escapades through the other worlds, completing puzzles and hidden challenges, collecting the letters to Lucky’s name, and collecting a full complement of 300 coins within adventures you’ll find in the various worlds. The game has a healthy helping of boss battles even though some are fairly easy, it garners some reward after having battled the elements and squashing plant, animal and insect type enemies along the way.
Each child of Jinx presents a different type of challenge, with the likes of General Buttons and Colonel Fluffy being all about brute force and obstacle courses.
Each child of Jinx presents a different type of challenge, with the likes of General Buttons and Colonel Fluffy being all about brute force and obstacle courses riddled with perilous mechanics of doom. You also get the chance to test your puzzle solving ability both in the form of a mini-boss battle and hidden puzzle rooms stashed in foxholes (again, not Dave’s foxhole) scattered throughout the worlds. The foxhole puzzles where you shift stone statues of yourself and Jinx around to land on specified spots start off pretty simple, with a slight increase in difficulty as you progress. These puzzles afford you a gold clover on completion.
Some worlds, however, have more of these than adventures placed in the game, so you’re forced to complete all the puzzles to get the complement of clovers required to progress. On some occasions, this will see you going back into previous adventures to try and collect all the clovers from them by completing the four challenges as mentioned earlier (coins, Lucky’s name, hidden puzzle rooms and stage completion). You can also get caught out when you walk up to the big door that allows you to progress only to find that you’re missing a few clovers. Not a strange mechanic for the genre, but it kind of feels like you’re stuck doing certain stages over and over to get the full collection of clovers. You can always complete the stage and try again later to collect said clovers as you feel.
Squishy, slimy and furry friends and foes with a dash of playful, but you can’t see them all at once
The art style is like Crash Bandicoot went on a date and had one night stands with Adventure Pop characters and now have a cute, lovable litter of light-hearted creatures and subsequently created a world matching their appearance. The animation sets for Lucky are a hit and miss in some instances where you’d see yourself sliding off of high peaks simply because he doesn’t just turn around to change direction, he does a weird 180 leap motion that makes you lose footing quite easily. The animation doesn’t match the movement in many cases which puts a major damper on your playthrough in cases where it requires pinpoint accuracy and split-second timing to pull off certain stunts. This is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg of all the issues.
If you’ve played any other 3D platformer before, you are probably accustomed to the ability to rotate your camera in order to get a lay of the land. This isn’t the case in Lucky’s world as your control of the camera is very limited. Want to see where you came from? Nope. Not gonna happen. This becomes particularly prevalent when you want to redo some sections in a world, but you’ll have to draw from memory in order to navigate your way back. I’m not entirely sure why they decided to do it this way, but, it doesn’t do the game any justice in my opinion.
I said double jump, damnit!
The issue of sure-footing is amplified by the lack of view as you’ll see yourself missing jumps simply because it’s on a decline and you couldn’t judge the jump. On top of it all, control of Lucky isn’t as straight-forward as you’d expect from a platformer. The controls feel a tad sluggish and the response is a few milliseconds off. You’ll find it frustrating at times when your double jump doesn’t elevate you quite as much perhaps because Lucky’s reaction time isn’t as quick as yours.
The control lag coupled with the marred camera makes taking on enemies especially cumbersome. But, that’s not the only thing as it seems the hitboxes for the environment and enemies are unpolished where you’ll see yourself hitting some enemies square on the head and you still take a hit, or where you graze their toes and watch them go up in a puff of smoke.
Although not a AAA game, it feels like Super Lucky’s Tale was rushed through QC and these niggling issues crept through which can spoil some of the experiences in the game. Other notable issues I’ve encountered are audio cutouts and and frame rate drops either due to many enemies in view or effects the environment produces when you interact with them. Let’s not confuse this with the slow-mo action that’s engaged when you collect a letter of Lucky’s name as that’s normal. It can even happen when jumping on a crate to break it. You also stand the chance of losing all audio when you press the guide button, and the only thing that will fix it is to restart the game. Another curious issue is sometimes you end up losing a life even though you have enough life to go on, as I draw your attention to exhibit A below, there’s clearly evidence of a single heart at my disposal, but I died. It has happened only twice in my playthrough, but you can imagine the frustration.
The in-game dialogue isn’t Oscar winning material, and I think it would mess with the overall light-hearted feel of the game. It’s clear in the voice used in the narration and interaction with characters that this game is essentially meant for all ages. That said, this isn’t an easy game to master by any means. It produces a real challenge in various parts with a sampling of reward for your efforts. It will test your reflexes and platforming prowess, but the overhanging issues will add another level of teeth clinching annoyance that can either prove fun or be discouraging, based on how you look at it.
Super Lucky’s Tale had the potential of becoming that Microsoft platformer to stamp in the book of need to play games on the Xbox console.
Take a leaf from another platformer’s book
Super Lucky’s Tale had the potential of becoming that Microsoft platformer to stamp in the book of need to play games on the Xbox console (Xbox One and Xbox One X), but it feels like luck was not on their side as the hindrance of laggy controls and limited camera view has tarred the path of the adventure a bit, getting Lucky’s sneakers stuck or slipping in some places. Although the dialogue and story could do with a bit more work, the immersion in Lucky’s world is still enjoyable and the weird, wacky and punny characters can entertain you if that’s your thing. Super Lucky’s Tale will take you on a bit of an adventure, but the game’s issues have Lucky by the tail.