Luckier with VR
Most people didn’t get a chance to play Lucky’s Tale because it was relegated to a VR-only platform. Hell, I did play it, enjoyed it even, and I wasn’t aware that a full-blown sequel was coming out on Xbox One until recently.
Even after this second iteration arrives I doubt the world will know of Lucky as well as say, Mario, but he’s carved out a nice little niche for himself with two games under his belt.
Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One [reviewed on an Xbox One X])
Developer: Playful Corp.
Released: November 7, 2017
Kicking off with 30 seconds of stills that attempt to draw the player into its world, Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t very compelling. In summation: Lucky is a cute fox, there’s a magic book another character dubs “dangerous,” and viola, everyone is sucked in — cue the “prologue” achievement for watching a quick video clip.
No, Lucky isn’t going to win anyone over with its story, but neither is any given Mario game. The big difference with Super is that it feels like a fully-fledged evolution, as there’s several hub worlds now that break things up, with boss fights and traditional collectibles that gate your progress between them. Now you’ll need to gather Clovers (3D Mario Stars, basically), by way of level completions, and a handful of static challenges (secret areas, coins, letters that spell L-U-C-K-Y). It’s a familiar yet welcome loop, backed by a clever use of shifting the hubs around so that going back to an old world will produce extra little power-ups and bonuses.
What I really like about Super is how well it plays in spite of the conventional setup. Even though the titular hero only has a double-jump and a dig command at his disposal they flow so well together, and I can’t overstate how good it feels. It’s just a clean, responsive platformer, and the ability to keep double-jumping off enemy heads then effortlessly dig into the ground, pop out, and repeat the process is an achievement given how sloppy some mechanics are in recent mascot platformers. Add in that some minibosses aren’t just “jump on their heads” affairs and are more like micro-puzzles, and you have enough variety to justify your quest for 99 Clovers.
Where Super kind of falters is its inability to forge a unique identity. Seeing the VR rendition the first time around was a little more excusable as the virtual space was a lot of what made up the game’s heart, but this time a ninja cat saying he’s mastered the “Mew-Shu” arts is a little less of a draw. Several cute puns like a level called the “Soggy Boggy Boys” and oddball trucker hat worms are a nice attempt, but for the most part, “bright” is this game’s brand. As our inaugural Xbox One X review, I must disclose that this was indeed tested on Microsoft’s latest hardware. It’s encouraged, actually, that you play on an X, as Super Lucky’s Tale pushes 4K60FPS. In my experience that target is consistently hit, and even though the designs of a lot of the critters aren’t particularly impressive, the visuals are. This is how I hope all platformers play in the future.
I can deal with goofy characters — my main issue is that after about an hour of play, the reward loop can be very underwhelming. You’ll spend five minutes finishing up some miniature optional puzzle, and it’ll only reward you with a marginal amount of coins — whereas any other similar platformer would give you a Star (Clover). There’s also sadly no easy “at a glance” menu where you can tell how many Clovers you need to still collect from a given area, leading to some frustration in where it is exactly you need to hunt. Instead of showing how many you have out of the total of 99 across the entire game, the main menu should display the max for an individual realm.
This is even a problem inside of levels themselves, since Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t tell you what letters you need for the L-U-C-K-Y collectible Clover until you actually gather one. And while we’re on the topic on returning to a locale, cutting out cutscenes after you’ve already cleared a level would be great. Having to fully beat a stage over again after you’ve grabbed an additional objective can also lead to some fatigue if you’re going for a 100% clear. These are all just little nitpicks that are typically fixed in games by studios who have been doing platformers for ages, but they add up.
Despite all of the minor gameplay upgrades in Super Lucky’s Tale, I actually had a better time playing as Lucky in VR last year. It was really cool to be able to “peek” around things and control the camera yourself, and despite all of the claims that “platformers don’t benefit from VR” I couldn’t disagree more. If stripping that is what Playful Corp needs to do to reach a bigger audience so be it, but a version with optional VR would have been ideal.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]