A lot is asked of modern 3D platformers, largely because the giants of the genre have perfected so many of the mechanics of these terrific adventure games. Bright and welcoming visuals and audio, intuitive and clever level design, likeable characters, tight and responsive controls, and a 3D camera that’s quick and easy to manoeuvre yourself but dynamic enough to follow you and twist and turn at the right moments. Super Lucky’s Tale only really gets some of these elements right, but despite the odd blunder with those it struggles with, it’s still an excellent 3D platformer.
You take control of an adorable fox, on a quest to defeat a family of fiendish felines as they mean to take control of an all-powerful book and take over the world. It provides enough of a narrative drive to push the experience forwards but it certainly lacks the chops to enthral you. Fortunately, it can take a back seat, offering the occasional opportunity for a gag from one of the cats or a tip from your sister in regards to mechanics. It’s the joy of platforming and collecting that truly keeps you coming back.
However, the joy of the platforming is frequently threatened by the aforementioned blunders with the mechanics. It can occasionally feel a little sluggish moving Lucky around, particularly when jumping. Additionally, the camera isn’t free moving and turns in fixed degrees. This can make some areas a little tricky to see and manoeuvre within. Fortunately, the areas you’re exploring are on the small side. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale provides themed hub worlds, with doors leading to small self-contained levels. It’s a smart design that helps mark your progress and makes the camera control less frustrating. Moreover, levels take on one of two forms: a 3D environment to explore or a 2D level to scroll through. There’s also variety beyond that, with levels offering different mini-quests, some triggered by denizens of each level and some automatic, such as fetching objects for characters or auto scrolling levels forcing you to react accordingly. It’s pleasantly varied.
We also encountered some performance issues when running on an Xbox One S. Switching to the Xbox One X, however, cleared that issue up completely and granted jaw droopingly crisp visuals to boot. This, however, did introduce a more novel problem: a sense of overwhelming. Super Lucky’s Tale is utterly crammed full of objects, flora and fauna, all beautifully animated and sporting vibrant colours. It makes each frame remarkably busy, offering such a huge array of things you can interact with it can be a bit too much to comprehend. Largely, these are in fact just decoration or destroyable objects hiding trinkets, the rest is superfluous but gorgeous, and a plausible reason for the frame rate issues on the older Xbox hardware. You do eventually get used to it, and despite it being initially overwhelming it’s a marvellous reaction to have to a game’s visual design.
At the core of the experience is collecting four-leafed clovers from each level, unlocking boss fights and defeating the gang of cats. Each level challenges you to find four clovers, each requiring different criteria to be completed. It’s a little on the obtuse side, initially, offering little clue as to how precisely to unlock each clover, but some trial and error soon fixes that. Even the controls are a bit of a mystery at first, with some of Lucky’s moves not explained at all. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale fails to fully explain its mechanics and world to you and it can be a little frustrating as you figure it all out on your own, but once it does all click, there’s no denying how much fun the experience is.
The collectathon compulsion is strong here, and completionists will find each missed clover tormenting. Moreover, the boss fights are locked behind collecting a certain number of clovers, pretty high amounts in fact, providing plenty of encouragement to replay levels and conquer their challenges. It makes what is essentially quite a short adventure a much longer one, but it doesn’t fall into the trap of padding so much as it feels like an experience designed around thorough, systematic level completion. It’s a design that forces a more linear progression than what’s typically found in the genre, which helps greatly with your quest to indeed complete the adventure one hundred percent. It’s a design quirk that won’t work for everyone, but for those looking for a 3D platformer with a stricter structure, it’s ideal.
Thanks to Xbox and Playful for supporting TiX