New Super Lucky's Tale
Is it just me, or is the humble 3D platformer somewhat back in vogue? In recent years we’ve seen new releases in long-running franchises such as smash hit Super Mario Odyssey, new additions to the genre as with Yooka-Laylee, plus a smattering of returns from classic series including both Crash and Spyro.
Well, the Switch now sees another platformer added into the mix, by way of New Super Lucky’s Tale. This fresh addition to the Switch’s library introduces Nintendo players to the titular ‘Lucky’ — a curious fox who is out to collect missing pages from a magical book.
If any of this sounds familiar then you’re not mistaken. Lucky first appeared on the Oculus, before a debut alongside the Xbox One X back in 2017’s Super Lucky’s Tale. This updated Switch version gains a ‘New’ prefix, and for good reason, as this isn’t just a simple port — the developers claim to have rebuilt the game from the ground up, introducing several key improvements over the original.
These enhancements include tweaks to level design, artistic alterations, and an upgraded move set for Lucky. But the biggest improvement over the original seems to be the camera. In this IGN review of the 2017 Xbox One version, reviewer Ryan McCaffrey lamented the camera as ‘crappy’ and ‘maddening’. Thankfully, this couldn’t be further from the truth in this updated experience on offer today. The camera didn’t cause me any concerns whatsoever and was something I didn’t even have to think about due to how instinctive it all was. So, if you played this the first time around and that put you off, then you can safely disregard that as a concern.
So, putting refinements aside for a moment, what’s really on offer here? Simply put, it’s a traditional 3D platformer, with plenty of variety, an approachable design (Yes, it harkens back to the cutesy alternative universe in which Conker didn’t go for that drink) and enough content to keep most happy. If you’ve got love for the Banjo’s and Mario’s of this world, you’ll be comfortable here.
The game opens with an intro video akin to a Saturday morning kids TV show. This brief and vivid prelude does a great job of introducing you to the world, and your task ahead.
That task is to take on the ‘Kitty Litter’ baddies, find the lost pages of the ‘Book of Ages’ and ultimately restore order. As you’re collecting these all-important book pages you’ll travel through a variety of locales, including castles, seaside areas, and even a haunted amusement park. As you visit each location you’ll need to find a certain number of book pages before you can progress to the next.
These pages are collected across a generous number of levels. Each stage has one momentous level-ending page to grab, but you can also gain extra sheets from completing side quests, such as finding a hidden area, collecting a certain number of coins or gathering concealed letters (which spell out L U C K Y — something of a throwback to Donkey Kong Country’s K O N G collectables).
The levels on offer are a mix of 3D open environments and occasional side-scrolling capers. The side-on levels offer a more traditional ‘2D’ style of platforming, whereas the 3D affairs are a successful homage to the classic trappings of former 3D greats. The platforming has all the moves you’d expect, including a standard jump, the double jump, an attack move (by way of a tail swipe) and even a nifty burrowing action that sees Lucky dig underground to stay out of trouble.
Interestingly, this blend of 2D and 3D levels is also accompanied by several scattered 3D puzzle challenges, where you’re invited to complete a sequential movement problem. These offer up a real change in pace, providing a moment to slow down and deliberate, versus the faster-paced jumping found in the typical level medley.
The aforementioned cast of bad cats pops up throughout the adventure, interrupting the casual platforming action with the occasional boss fight and challenge. Despite being the baddies, they make up part of an altogether great cast of characters. Usually, the standard 3D adventure game has its fair share of irritating sidekicks or personas, but here I found the entire ensemble had plenty of personality and eccentricity that even the glummest of players would indulge.
All of this (level variety, puzzle challenges, and the periodic boss fights) combines to make for an overall nice variety in gameplay, keeping things fresh throughout and moving at a good clip. In fact, I found little to fault in the entire package — it looks good, has a fitting soundtrack and plays great.
Those amongst you who cut your teeth on the 3D platformer heyday of the late 90s will have no problems here when it comes to difficulty. If you’re used to what the typical platformer throws at you you’ll find little in the way of an immobilising challenge. That said, this is no knock on the overall experience — yes, for the most part, the gameplay is uncomplicated, and all the usual genre staples are present, but it’s delivered in such an entertaining, and agreeable manner that even the most seasoned of players will find delight here.
For those not so experienced, New Super Lucky’s Tale has a gentle learning curve that most will become comfortable with very quickly. The platforming on offer isn’t overly challenging, but is one that ultimately feels rewarding, with plenty of fun distractions along the way.
New Super Lucky’s Tale doesn’t do anything particularly new, but that’s ok, as despite leaning on typical platforming traits, it does so successfully with enough whimsy and colour to hold any players' interest. There’s plenty to like here — it’s a solid platforming adventure, and it seems the Switch version (which runs great whether docked or handheld) brings enough quality of life improvements to make this an easy recommendation.
If you’re seeking a platformer of a similar pedigree to the likes of Crash, Banjo and Spyro - then you could do worse than check out Lucky.