New Super Lucky’s Tale is a colorful platformer that brings out the best of the genre with a happy-go-lucky character and fun to play, well-designed levels, each with its own set of clever mechanics.
Lucky the fox has certainly come a long way. From the initial release of Lucky’s Tale as a game that was bundled for free with the Oculus Rift, players have quickly fallen in love with the cartoon fox. The VR-only gameplay allowed players to lean into Lucky’s colorful world and view the action from any angle, making the virtual reality aspect of the 3D platformer feel almost like a dollhouse or diorama that you could peer into. Lucky’s Tale was a relatively short game, running at about an hour or so — more if you found all the secrets and goodies — but showcased well what a Mario game could feel like in VR. From there, many thought that Lucky wouldn’t escape the confines of virtual reality and would forever be remembered as a small character in a niche VR game, but fate had other plans for our vulpine friend.
One of the launch titles for the Xbox One X console was actually Super Lucky’s Tale, a 3D — but otherwise flat — no ‘virtual goggles required’ platformer with the same main character and basic gameplay features. A sequel to the original game, the story followed Lucky as he dived into the Book of Ages in order to save his sister from being attacked by the evil villain Jinx and his gang of formidable felines, the Kitty Litter. Tasked with collecting pages called ‘clovers’ to take back control of the Book of Ages from Jinx, Lucky explores multiple lands filled with puzzles, enemies, and bosses. While a decent premise, Lucky’s new game was plagued with many issues ranging from repetitive music to boring level design.
After its release, Lucky’s fate seemed sealed: Super Lucky’s Tale fell flat with relatively mediocre reception from critics and general distaste from most players. I personally tried the game at PAX West in 2017 and found the limited camera controls and overall lack of spirit disheartening as what otherwise appears to be a jovial 3D platformer with a couple new tricks up its sleeve. It was disappointing, to say the least, but Lucky would eventually get a second chance to redeem himself in a completely unexpected remake of the original game, but with many changes to set itself apart from its former shell.
New Super Lucky’s Tale successfully rejuvenates the original formula with a bevy of improvements that make the game feel whole. From new graphics to new camera controls, Lucky’s adventure is at its finest. One of the things that hasn’t changed from the original sequel, however, is Lucky’s fluid movement and abilities.
A fast and nimble fox, Lucky can double-jump to reach higher ledges, swipe his tail to hit switches and stun enemies, and burrow underground with a dash downwards into the dirt. These moves can combine together in succession, allowing you to quickly traverse under and over the ground, bashing enemies, collecting coins and zipping around obstacles. With the addition of free camera controls, you can aim jumps and dives better, giving you free motion to control Lucky even better than before. My favorite ability of his is when he dives underground, which can help you uncover secrets and dig under fences. It’s certainly like nothing I’ve ever seen in a 3D platformer before and it works really, really well.
The story and handling of the opening tutorials that teach you your basic arsenal of moves and controls are upgraded, taking the hands-off approach of the original and replacing the whole concept with a wise-cracking golem that serves as both comic relief and a critical role in your adventure. The characters, whether villains or friends alike, now all have vocalized parts — similar to how the animals in Animal Crossing talk — and provide you with additional story dialogue. Villagers or other key friendly characters are always quick to drop a pun or crazy line that will have you laughing along, too.
Levels in this new version are mostly the same, but there are some levels that are fully redesigned, taking simple tasks like flipping switches to power the stage for a worm concert and turning them into full quests to find characters in three distinct areas. Other parts of the original levels now have fully realized, open areas where there was just open air before, changing both how the levels feel and play. It’s one thing to say you are making a game over again, but this attention to detail shows how much love they have for the initial vision and wanted to take this unique chance to do-over Lucky’s adventure with the dignity it deserves.
Another one of the features that has been greatly improved in this new take is the wardrobe shop. You can purchase new threads for Lucky with your hard-earned coins and spend them for interchangeable tops and bottom costume pieces, whether it’s simple accessories such as sunglasses or a full, futuristic astronaut suit. It’s fun to play around with your favorite style, and although they don’t add anything to the gameplay, it’s certainly fun to dress Lucky up in funny outfits. Secrets abound within the game world, but it’s up to you to find them all and really build up your wardrobe with all manners of absurdity. New outfits are available in each new area, so you’ll gain more items to unlock as you progress through the game.
If while playing New Super Lucky’s Tale, you put down the controller and think to yourself that you’ve “definitely played this before”, it’s likely because of the nods to various iconic 3D platformers found within each level’s design. There are levels that play like Super Mario 64, and of course, the hub world itself is very reminiscent of the paintings found within the castle that allow you to visit the individual levels. Each of the side-scrolling levels brings to mind the iconic gameplay found in Donkey Kong Country and Crash Bandicoot, while the auto-running side-scrolling levels are very similar to some of the later Rayman games. Every once in a while, there will even be a large, open level that exemplifies the antics of Banjo and his bird-pal, Kazooie. These dedications to the games that inspired the feel of Lucky’s fluid movements and cleverly designed levels are a beautiful homage to mascot-based platforming titles over the years.
While New Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t wholly original, it is ultimately a cleverly fun title that will surprise and delight with the many, many quality of life improvements. From mediocrity, there rises a new platformer like a phoenix from the ashes that deserves to be weighed up there with the great mascot games of the nineties and beyond. Lucky’s tale has been stretched out over many years, but it’s nice to see him on a Nintendo console, ready to entertain a new generation of kids with the joy and delight that his permanently affixed smile and adorable design brings.
New Super Lucky’s Tale is available now on the Nintendo Switch.