Poor Lucky. Not only does it seem as though the cute little fox has been focus tested in a room full of cheerfully over-protective parents, he’s also been sucked into a magical tome – the suitably mystical Book Of Ages – along with a bunch of nefarious felines criminals known as the Kittie Litter (yes, really), and it’s up to him to stop them across a variety of different worlds hidden within the pages.
Lucky can do most of the things you’d expect of a 3D platform hero, whether that’s jumping on heads or swiping things with his tail. He can also burrow underground too which I suppose is slightly more unique, and it’s this ability that also lets him head down pipes – wait, I mean foxholes – to head into new dingy areas.
So Lucky isn’t exactly the most original platformer. Whether you’re picking up the golden pawprint coins, grabbing the large lucky clover at the end of a level, or finding the hidden letters that spell LUCKY in each area, these are all ideas here that you’ve seen many times before.
It all looks quite lovely mind you, especially in 4K on Xbox One X, and your adorable fox character interacts with an array of equally adorable characters. The first level you come to features a bunch of short, large-eyed stone golems, overseen by a huge golem you have to wake, and it’s all very sweet and charming, or sickeningly saccharine if you’re more scrooge-like in your outlook.
The music is overwhelming pleasant as well, with pleasing little ditties playing along softly in the background throughout your adventure. They can swing between inoffensive and twee fairly often, but you’d be hard pressed to find them remotely off-putting, even if you might hanker for something with a bit more impact at times.
There can be annoyances as well. Besides the odd technical hiccup, including the frame rate dragging its feet when the screen gets a touch too lively in the 2D sctions, my key problem was Lucky’s platforming prowess. He feels just a little too grounded for my liking, with even his double jump barely allowing him to get above flying enemies, while his ability to cling to the edge of ledges and pull himself up can be both a blessing and a curse.
Though you can pivot the camera, it’s not full 3D, meaning there are times where you simply can’t see properly. Things are worsened by the moments that see the action move to a far off plane in the background, and you have to try and guide a tiny Lucky across equally small, often moving, platforms. It’s here that I found the majority of my errors happened, and though plentiful checkpoints should help to keep your controller in your hand and not smashed against a wall, you’ll at the least be groaning and rolling your eyes in exasperation.
With a touch of the old school platforming genre, you begin with five lives, each with three hearts. In each level you might be able to earn extra hearts or lives, but if you repeatedly die you’re packed off to the start of the level again, stripped of any progress whatsoever. It’s a very old school approach for what looks and feels like a children’s game, and it’s deeply annoying to have made your way through all of the challenges and found the hidden pick-ups, only to fall at the final hurdle and have to do it all again.
Each level has four lucky clovers to find, with the main one appearing at the end, while there’s a mystery one, a LUCKY letter one, and one for collecting enough of the golden pawprint coins. On top of that, the hub world has mini challenge levels that appear as you progress, and often introduce new mechanics, whether they’re simple puzzles, or skill tests where Lucky is shrunk down into a marble and you have to make your way around a course.
Despite it’s super family friendly façade, Lucky’s Tale is more than capable of offering up a stiff challenge. From racing after special coins – which is admittedly lifted wholesale from the Mario series – to making your way carefully through hazardous platforming areas, there’s definitely some fun to be had in successfully navigating your way to the end of a level, even if it doesn’t often feel all that surprising. Having said that, there are some very cool boss moments, which may not put up that much of a fight if you’re a serious platform fan, but do plenty to capture your imagination, as well as endless runner levels called Burrow Runs that mix things up a touch.
There are a decent number of levels too, though since Lucky relies on gating its bosses behind doors with a set number of four-leafed clover to unlock, you will find yourself having to return to earlier ones to unlock some that you previously missed. As the levels don’t outstay their welcome it’s not the worst thing to have to return to, and it’s perfect for completionists.
Super Lucky’s Tale is a charming and sweet indie platformer that provides hours of retro platforming joy. It’s probably had far too much weight put upon its shoulders as the Xbox One X’s sole launch title, and is by no means perfect; a fact that’s been amplified by the recent antics of a dungaree-wearing plumber. However, while the genre has undoubtedly moved on, taken on its own merit Super Lucky’s Tale is simple, inescapable fun.
Version Tested: Xbox One S, Xbox One X