Super Lucky’s Tale has a lot to prove. Not only is it a launch title for Microsoft’s new flagship Xbox One X, the ‘world’s most powerful console’, but it’s a 3D platformer releasing hot off the back of what is already being considered one of the best 3D platformers of all time, Super Mario Odyssey. So, diving into this review I was keen to see what new ideas this game brings to the table, and how it takes advantage of the monstrous new hardware that it’s representing. The short answer? Not much.
Super Lucky opens with a wholly unexciting slideshow of still images that set up the story of Lucky the fox, who gets himself trapped in a magic book along with an evil gang of cats named The Kitty Litter. The book has the power of interdimensional travel and so Lucky must traverse four different worlds in order to stop The Kitty Litter from using it for… something? The motivations of the villains in throughout the entire game are never made clear, they just seem to be hanging about in their requisite worlds. The big bad, whose name I don’t even remember (I think it’s either Felix or Norman), doesn’t even make an appearance until the final levels. Suffice it to say that nobody should approach this game with any expectation of an interesting premise. It’s par for the course for a platformer to be relatively light on in plot, but rarely are they this devoid of charm.
Prettier On Fire is also the name of my 2005 screamo band
This lack of imagination and resignation to adequacy in Super Lucky’s Tale continues as soon as control is handed over to the player. Spread out across the four hub worlds in the game are around 20 levels, each with four ‘clovers’ to find – one hidden in the level, one for finding 300 coins, one for finding the five letters of L-U-C-K-Y, and one for completing the level. I’m still not sure what the clovers have to do with anything, other than gating progress by requiring a certain number to enter each world’s ‘boss’ level, and being an on-the-nose reference to the game’s main character. Each level in this 5-6 hour adventure amounts to a short, linear jaunt through an unmemorable location finding coins and hidden collectibles and jumping on the heads of an occasional baddie. Lucky’s moveset consists of a jump, a tail swipe and his ability to burrow into soft ground, the latter of which could have been an interesting mechanic but is rarely used for anything other than digging up coins. The enemies, most of which are the exact same bees and caterpillars across every level, typically can’t be hurt by anything other than a bump on the noggin either, and so nothing ever really comes of any of Lucky’s abilities. Controlling Lucky is also the kind of exercise in stiffness and frustration that I had hoped to leave behind in puberty. In fact, that this game feels so much like a platformer from my teen years is less of a cute homage to old-school sensibilities and more of a testament to how little effort was made in its production.
Um hi, I have 11000 of these coins that do nothing, can I please transfer them to a different game?
I’ll admit, the thing that drew me the most to this game was the cute, Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetic, I’m just a sucker for vibrant and eclectic visuals. Super Lucky’s Tale certainly has the bright and cheery look down, but is again foiled by a severe lack of variety or creativity. Of the four locations in the game, the final world’s spooky carnival theme is about the only one that really stands out, and even then is still far too basic to be interesting. The evil Kitty Litter gang are far from imposing, and their requisite boss encounters all fall completely flat. Worse still are the litany of technical issues that cropped up during my playthrough – Lucky would constantly become stuck in the level geometry, audio cut out completely for one level, and the game crashed on multiple occasions. Super Lucky bears the ‘Xbox One X Enhanced’ badge that signifies that it should be a shining example of what the new hardware is capable of, and certainly a 4K 60fps image is a desirable outcome, but when the game itself is so unimaginative and suffers from so many issues it’s hard to see the point. The fact that there is both a ‘settings’ and an ‘options’ available in the game’s pause menu speaks volumes to the type of care and polish that went into it. The game ends as unceremoniously as it begins – with a series of static images and a voiceover saying almost nothing more than “you did it!”, followed by a completely silent credits roll that truly highlights how little any of this means to anybody.
Super Lucky’s Tale could have aimed for the widespread appeal and inventiveness of a Super Mario, or shot straight for the bottom of the bargain bin and filled the stockings of kids whose parents can’t tell an Xbox One from an Xbox 1, but it does neither. Instead it exists in a weird middle ground where it’s plastered all over Microsoft’s marketing for the One X and clearly gunning to fill the platform’s ‘family entertainment’ spot this Christmas, but is also a terrible candidate for both. If you have kids and an Xbox One, there’s potential for an afternoon’s worth of light enjoyment, but if you’re in the market for a truly great 3D platformer – there are better options right now.
I’m talking about Super Mario Odyssey.
Reviewed on Xbox One S