I had high expectations for New Super Lucky’s Tale after I named it my favorite game I played at E3 2019 earlier this year. The developers expressed themselves as a passionate team wanting a second chance to make Super Lucky’s Tale, which originally released on Xbox One in autumn 2017, the most refined 3D platformer it could be.
Did the second chance pay off with New Super Lucky’s Tale on Nintendo Switch, or should Lucky burrow into hiding? Make the jump and dive into the Book of Ages to read more!
New Super Lucky’s Tale
Developed by Playful Studios
Published by Playful Studios
Released: 8th November 2019
Review copy provided by Playful Studios
In the past couple years, the 3D platformer genre has seen a resurgence. From good to great, games like Super Mario Odyssey, Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time have put this style of games back on the map in a big way. Amidst the shuffle of those high-profile releases in 2017, another platformer squeaked by on Xbox One.
That game was Super Lucky’s Tale, and it featured an energetic young fox named Lucky on his journey to collect lost pages and find his family. The game reviewed adequately, but in the midst of a season bursting at the seams with other games like it, it went mostly under the radar.
Given Nintendo’s history of developing and publishing a large majority of some of the best platformers out there, it feels fitting that Lucky gets another chance on Nintendo Switch. With far more development time at their disposal, the team at Playful Studios was able to completely rework the original game; redesigned levels, higher visual fidelity, newly scripted story sequences and more precise controls and camerawork all mark this “New” version and boost the quality by a wide margin.
I haven’t been this charmed by a 3D indie game in a while, so let’s talk about what exactly makes Lucky so special.
A World for All the Fox Cubs Out There
I think New Super Lucky’s Tale’s most defining characteristic is its accessibility. Playing through Lucky’s adventure brought me back to the days when the ESRB rating “Kids & Adults” was stamped on Super Mario 64 cartridges decades ago. This game really is for everyone, but I can particularly imagine this title being a perfect fit for families and children getting their hands on one of their first games.
Unlike many indie platformers of recent memory, New Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t concerned with pummeling the player into a pulp. Instead, the satisfying controls and level design speak for themselves.
The five main game worlds (with an additional post-game world) are wonderfully inviting, with each sporting a new cast of lovable and hilarious characters against a colorful backdrop of watermelon factories, ghoulish amusement parks and a techno-rave tropical island to name a few.
Not only is New Super Lucky’s Tale a joy to look at, but it’s a pleasant listen as well. Some of the game’s tracks reminded me of the light and acoustic feel games like Yooka-Laylee and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze have pulled off so well.
Each new challenge lives in a world populated with thoughtful aesthetic design and creative use of humor and character that I think will appeal to both kids and adults alike.
100% Completion Is Satisfying Again
Not to beat around the bush, I’m a completionist plain and simple. Even if I end up deciding to not pursue completion and deem that play style a waste of time for a certain title, I’ll still feel at least a little compelled to pick up every collectible and find every morsel a game has to offer.
The developers at Playful Studios know this so well, and their consideration for the player shows at every single turn during the four to 10-hour runtime of New Super Lucky’s Tale. The range of play time already shows a thoughtful consideration for the player; requirements to unlock boss doors, which result in battles that finish each game world, are very low, meaning that speedrunners and Kindergarten gamers alike can breeze through the adventure and choose the levels they like best.
On the other paw — and this is more my style — you can reasonably 100% the adventure. Collecting everything is satisfying but never daunting. Each level consists of four clover pages that can be obtained. As long as the player beats the level, they’ll get one no matter what. The other three pages are earned for obtaining all five L-U-C-K-Y letters (much like Donkey Kong Country before it), grabbing at least 300 coins and finding a hidden page that’s usually locked away by a minigame.
During my initial run of the game, I’m proud to say I was able to just about 100% every level on my first try. The only levels I had to replay were brief automatic runner stages, which were honestly a blast to keep trying and improve my reaction time.
Never once did I feel exhausted by the collection of all these items. And even in my favorite 3D platformers, I can feel burnt out by the desire for completion. But New Super Lucky’s Tale is so well-designed to encourage any type of approach and not make you feel bad for it.
Completion is achievable, and the player should do it too. The intrinsic value feels great when the tallies record your 100% at the end of each level, but getting everything in a world unlocks more costumes Lucky can then buy. And let me tell you, dressing up the adorable Lucky in an assortment of get-ups is one of the great joys of this game. He’ll strike a new pose for each one you put on, and this type of cosmetic reward is perfectly tailored for this kind of title.
Smooth Precision Above All Else
The game is accessible, challenging enough but never overzealous in its demands. But the core of what makes New Super Lucky’s Tale so fun is the impeccable control over the fox at play.
Lucky can jump, double jump, tail swipe, burrow, dive and slide his way to victory. Through simple button presses and using a trigger to speed up Lucky’s movement by digging into soft earth or sliding along concrete pathways, Lucky always feels extremely fluid to control.
Add to that one of the most responsive and smooth camera controls I’ve ever felt in a 3D platformer, and you’ve got an experience that will hardly ever frustrate. It never did me. The extra time and effort were put into this game to make it feel as polished as it deserves, and I don’t think that will go unnoticed by fans of the genre.
Interestingly enough, while the game is mostly focused on 3D stages, Lucky also traverses 2D levels that remind me of some of the best 2.5D platformers out there. The responsiveness and concise design translate effortlessly over dimensions. Yooka-Laylee needed two titles to get mileage out of both dimensions, but Lucky isn’t afraid to take on both in the same game. I’m glad to say the variety feels refreshing and never tacked on.
Boss battles are fairly rich experiences too, and they remind me more of early UnderTale fights than anything else. Of course, being in a 3D space allows Lucky to jump over fireballs, lasers and other obstacles, but it’s this kind of mild bullet hell gameplay that makes these major combat encounters feel unique and engaging. The challenge ramps up throughout the game, but there’s never a dramatic spike in difficulty.
Dive into the Book of Ages
Everything about New Super Lucky’s Tale communicates that this gem of an indie adventure was helmed by a team concerned with players of all skill levels. It shows in the open-ended progression, the whimsical and never unfair level design, and the responsiveness each new player will experience.
Some very small critiques I can think of are barely worth mentioning. There are somewhat repetitive sliding block puzzles that completionists will have to contend with, and loading screens from the smaller challenges to the hub worlds and back can be slightly tiring.
Otherwise, New Super Lucky’s Tale had me feeling accomplished while having fun the whole time. It’s a bit on the easy side as far as this genre is concerned, but unless you’re a glutton for punishment, I can see most players finding that refreshing, as did I.
There’s so much room for progress with Lucky and his series. I can easily imagine sequels adding more level gimmicks and moves to an already refined platforming system. And if the player gets to the end of the story, they may see where a potential sequel could go. And I dearly hope Lucky’s franchise continues to thrive, so we can get more platformers like New Super Lucky’s Tale on Nintendo Switch.
Lucky and his adventure had me laughing out loud at the gibberish of nonplayable characters, fist pumping after I would finish a challenge with time to spare, and smiling from ear to ear every time the fox himself beckoned me into the game world with him. For anyone who grew up on 3D platformers or for anyone who wants someone else in their life to grow up on them too, New Super Lucky’s Tale is an absolute must-play.
Final Rating – 5 out of 5
New Super Lucky’s Tale launches on Friday, 8th November 2019 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch family of systems.
I’ve been playing Nintendo games since I was 3 years old, and my earliest memory is watching my dad play Super Mario 64.
Since then, I’ve become as big of a fan as you might imagine: YouTube video projects, fan fiction, owning just about every amiibo — you name it!
I’m also a stalwart defender of underappreciated games like Skyward Sword, Other M, Super Paper Mario, Star Fox Adventures, Star Fox Zero and more. I love to see passion in a gaming product, and my desire on this site is to share a similar passion in what I write.