“If you work, if you wait, you will find the place where the four-leaf clovers grow.”
“The following is a contributor post by the Wandering Mage.”
The late 90s were a golden era for platformers and collectathons. Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro alone could keep a young gamer busy for weeks, playing and replaying them, trying to find and unlock everything. And then, as suddenly as they’d arrived, the collectathon platformer all but disappeared. Oh sure, the biggest series kept going, but they weren’t exactly the same. Mario tried to keep it up with Sunshine, but the Galaxy series didn’t quite scratch that itch anymore. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts changed the series in a way that turned off a lot of die-hard fans. Donkey Kong eventually went back to being a 2D-but-3D platformer like the DKC series. In the end, fans of collectathon platformers were left with little but the memories of an era that felt long past.
As with fashion, though, there is a cycle built on nostalgia, and finally, twenty years after the golden age of 3D platformer collectathons, the genre has come back with a vengeance. Yooka-Laylee was massively successful on Kickstarter, although the reviews were hit and miss. Whether that game was a success or a failure is debatable, but no one can deny that it successfully brought these types of games back into public consciousness. In 2017, A Hat in Time burst onto the scene, kicking down the door and announcing, “We’re back to stay, baby!” Shortly after, Super Lucky’s Tale by developer Playful Corp politely knocked on the door and asked to be let in.
Super Lucky’s Tale is a sequel to Lucky’s Tale, released for the Oculus Rift, and was a launch title for the Xbox One in Nov 2017. However, the series left the lands of VR and the specific game has left the realm of exclusivity, now available on Steam and coming soon to Switch. I don’t know how good the Oculus Rift game was, but for the sequel, the developers clearly studied what made games like Banjo-Kazooie and DK64 so memorable and successful, and they have replicated it beautifully. If you fancy a trip down 3D platformer memory lane but are looking for something new at the same time, Super Lucky’s Tale just might scratch that itch.
Super Lucky’s Tale hammers home the nostalgia for the bright, cartoony characters and unique worlds of classic N64 platformers. It’s cute. It’s colorful. Each hubworld and individual stage gives you new people and places to see. The friendly characters are strange and unique, ranging from farming worms to sun-baked yetis, and the enemies are equally unique. A problem you can get with these kinds of platformers is portions of the stages looking the same and/or being too big. With this game, the various stages are each visually unique and too small to get lost in, even if you go exploring for goodies. It’s a nostalgic delight while keeping a refreshing new look. The brightness is also well balanced. No stage is too bright or too dark. You can always see what you’re doing. No lens flares or pitch-black caverns to be found here. This game’s not just easy on the eyes, it’s downright pleasurable.
Like Banjo-Kazooie, the worlds here are filled to bursting with bright and colorful characters who chatter at you in squeaky sounds and made-up languages. Unlike Banjo-Kazooie, the chatterboxes have more than just a handful of repeated sounds that eventually begin to grate on the ears. The music is charming and suitable for the individual stages, but it’s nothing that’ll get stuck in your head. Take that as you will. I wouldn’t say anything is memorable, it’s not exactly Grant Kirkhope-quality fare, but it’s not obtrusive and certainly not bad.
Super Lucky’s Tale is about as basic a platformer plot as you can get. The game follows Lucky, a cute orange fox kid with a little blue cape. He’s a bit too young to be out on his own, but he doesn’t get much of a choice when he’s trapped in a magic book his family protected for generations. Unfortunately, he’s also trapped with a mean group of kitties known as the Kitty Litter under the leadership of their powerful cat-dad, Jinx. To get out, Lucky has to explore various worlds within the book, solving puzzles, helping the locals, and beating up the evil kitty crew.
It doesn’t break any storytelling molds, but the vibrancy of the worlds and characters raises it at least to the quality of its predecessors.
As with most of the rest of the elements reviewed so far, the gameplay of Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t really do anything new, but it doesn’t do it badly. It’s an enjoyable familiarity. Each world is a small, themed hubworld connecting various stages that unlock as you progress and a boss door you unlock by getting enough of the main collectible: four-leaf clovers. The stages come with a variety of mechanics, generally involving puzzles and helping people in need. Inside each hubworld, you have mini challenges for more clovers as well as a shopkeeper for new costumes and a statue that upgrades as you use more clovers on it. Traveling between unlocked worlds is as easy as selecting it from the pause menu. (Or is that the PAWS menu? Okay, okay, I’ll stop.)
Stages come in two primary flavors: 3D exploration-based, which is your typical 3D platformer style, and sidescroller, more like the classic Donkey Kong Country style. Each stage has four clovers to find: one for completing the primary mission, a secret one hidden somewhere in the stage, one for collecting 300 coins, and one for collecting all the letters of your name (much like the KONG in DKC, they appear in order, so if you missed one, you have a general idea of where to look. Backtracking is more than doable.). Some stages have well-hidden secret clovers but plenty of coins, while others have obvious hidden ones but very few coins. Checkpoints are generous but not too frequent. Death is also infrequent and usually caused by carelessness around enemies or a poorly timed jump. Extra lives are generous though, so you have room for error.
There are also several kinds of skill-based puzzles to find on the hubworlds that give you clovers: rolling ball skill puzzles where you tilt a maze to navigate Lucky in a ball around to collect coins, and sliding statue logic puzzles that asks you to get a set of statues from point A to point B. There’s more than enough of both to satisfy fans of either type, and while they grow in difficulty as you progress, they’re never too hard to make you feel the need to ragequit. Whatever your preference for collecting clovers, even the casual gamer shouldn’t have any problems progressing through each hubworld to the boss.
Speaking of bosses, these are the things that can really make or break a game for me. I’ve had my share of games of various genres that have great gameplay, but then get to a boss and grind to a halt while I bang my head against what feels like a brick wall. The Kitty Litter follows a familiar progression for boss battles: a pattern of attacks for you to block or dodge until you get a moment to attack; hit them once, get a new, slightly harder pattern; hit them twice, another upgrade; hit them a third time, and they’re down for the count. Learn the patterns, and you’re golden.
This is not a game that will push your limits or force you to perfect your skills through the main story. It’s a simple game, meant for kids and adults alike. It does get slightly more difficult as you progress, but ultimately, gamers of any age and skill level should be able to play this game to the end.
If you want something a little harder, there is DLC that will push you with challenge missions as Lucky tries to prove himself through a gauntlet meant to prove that a potential guardian of the Book of Ages is ready to assume their role. This time, the hubworld is Lucky’s home, and the stages are meant to test your agility, intelligence, and strength with various trials that will look and feel familiar to those who completed the main story but will have an amped-up difficulty that will definitely put your skills to the test.
For achievement hunters, achievements are a mixed bag of ridiculously easy (“Did you watch the prologue? Have an achievement”) to rather challenging (“Don’t get hit once in a 4-wave combat scenario”). Ultimately, you will be pushed, but it’s not impossible, the way good achievements should be.
This is a game for kids or people who were kids in the 90s. Suffice to say, it is not hard, but it IS undeniably accessible. It’s a game made for kids, and it plays like it. Controls-wise, this is one of the friendliest platformers I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Many are slippery or can be unresponsive at times. I never had any such issues with Lucky. When you want him to stop, he stops. When you want him to jump, he jumps. No wide turns dump you off a platform and no accidental flips send you soaring into an abyss. Lucky just does what you want him to do, and it feels good.
The biggest issue I have with a lot of 3D platformers is the camera. Cameras that yank control from you at inopportune moments because you got a little too close to a wall, cameras that move at will because they’re programmed to be HERE RIGHT NOW and not the angle you want, cameras that don’t move at all. The camera controls can make or break a 3D platformer. Super Lucky’s Tale has no such problems like this. Camera use is set by the stage type: free-roaming 3D has limited control around yourself and cuts through walls so you can see yourself without being forced to zoom in close, while the sidescrollers are stuck as sidescrollers should be. The game achieves a good balance of what you need when you need it without forcefully wrestling control from you because you got too close to a wall.
Like any classic collectathon platformer, the replayability depends on the player’s style. If you’re the kind who likes to run through the game first and then try to 100% on a later run, you’ll be quite happy with the replayability. If you’re the kind to get everything on the first run, then this is likely a game you’ll put down for a few years and come back to later if the urge strikes. It’s certainly a game worth revisiting every so often, but second and third playthroughs won’t add many new details. There’s no new game plus, so what you see is what you get, every time.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
All in all, Super Lucky’s Tale scratches the 90s platformer itch in ways that other games in this generation have come close but not quite reached for me. It studied and learned from the best, and while it doesn’t push any boundaries, it successfully achieves what it set out to do: settle a little fox in comfortably in the club with the heroes who came before him.
This game was received by the author for free courtesy of Playful Corp.
Aggregate score: 7.1
The Wandering Mage, aka Max, spends most of her days buried in her fiction writing, only coming up for air to dive into the escapism of video games, cartoons, or movies. She can usually be found on Twitter as @MaxNChachi or streaming on Twitch with her husband, also as MaxNChachi.
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Categories: Game Review